Atlanta’s Downtown Library Takes Computers To The Park During Closure

While the downtown library closes for as long as two years for renovations, the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System has opened an outdoor computer lab in Woodruff Park.

Stephannie Stokes / WABE

In a shady corner of Woodruff Park, Amanda Densmore sets up 10 laptops on colorful little cafe tables.

She explains why she picked the spot next to the park’s huge waterfall-like fountain.

“With the water going, it’s a little calmer,” Densmore said. “I guess we’re still going with the library theme of a quiet place.”

This outdoor computer lab is replacing a library, after all.

Densmore is the community engagement librarian for the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library. This month, the system began renovating the downtown branch, a block away.

That meant closing the library and cutting off access to its resources for as long as two years.

“So we just were trying to figure out ways to think outside the box, literally get outside the library and bring services to where people need them.”

And these days, Densmore said most people aren’t really going to libraries for the books. Instead, many are headed there for the computers and internet.

Tommy Gaither used one of the laptops in the park to check his email and learn about opportunities for housing. He’s been homeless since May. (Stephannie Stokes/WABE)

She said she’s already seen the park laptops fill up with visitors. On this day, Tommy Gaither sits down at one.

He said before the renovations he went to the library all the time to get online.

“So I’m glad they got something here so we can still keep up with our emails,” Gaither said. “And at this moment, I’m transitioning in between homes. So it’s a lifesaver.”

This way, he can keep searching for housing.

The library is partnering with Central Atlanta Progress to provide the laptops. George Chidi, who works on quality of life issues for the downtown group, said the effort recognizes libraries are still crucial for many people, including the homeless.

“It’s this question of what is a library today. A library is a much broader social service than just books,” Chidi said.

That isn’t to get too negative about books, however. Densmore said the library might bring those to the park, too.

“That’s another feature that we’re thinking about. So depending on where this goes, we’re happy to consider all options.”

For now, the laptops will be available at Woodruff Park, Monday through Wednesday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.