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During Renovations, Atlanta Library Takes Its Computer Lab Outside


The downtown library in Atlanta recently had to shut its doors for some major renovations. So in the meantime, the library is taking one of its most popular services outdoors. Stephannie Stokes from member station WABE has the story.

STEPHANNIE STOKES, BYLINE: Librarian Amanda Densmore pulls a cart full of laptops through downtown Atlanta. She passes by morning traffic...


STOKES: ...The city streetcar...


STOKES: ...And people on benches.

AMANDA DENSMORE: Good morning.

STOKES: She arrives to Atlanta's Woodruff Park, next to a huge waterfall-like fountain.

DENSMORE: With the water going, it's a little calmer. And I don't know. I guess we're still kind of going with the library theme of, like, a quiet place.

STOKES: Densmore is here to set up an outdoor computer lab. She came up with the idea as a stand-in for the downtown library where she works. The branch faces up to two years of construction.

DENSMORE: 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.

STOKES: And which services do people depend on most these days? It's not books. Densmore says it's computers and Internet. She places 10 laptops on colorful cafe tables.

DENSMORE: Good morning.

TOMMY GAITHER: How are you doing?

DENSMORE: Good. How are you?

GAITHER: All right.

DENSMORE: Would you like to use a computer?


DENSMORE: Perfect.

STOKES: Visitors quickly show up.

Could you introduce yourself?

GAITHER: My name is Tommy Gaither.

STOKES: He says he would use the library computers all the time.

GAITHER: So I'm glad they got something here so we can still keep up with our emails. At this moment, I'm transitioning between homes, so it's a lifesaver.

STOKES: This way, he says, he can search for housing. George Chidi's with a downtown business group that partners with the library. He says the outdoor computer lab offers crucial resources for the homeless.

GEORGE CHIDI: It's this question of what is a library today? A library is a much broader social service than just books.

STOKES: That isn't to get too negative about books, though. Densmore says the library might add those to the park, too. For NPR News, I'm Stephannie Stokes in Atlanta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stephannie Stokes is a producer at WABE’s features desk. The title, “producer,” can mean a lot of things, but her focus is on telling stories. On WABE, you might hear her reporting about a lesser known part of Atlanta’s history, while another day you might catch a sound portrait she produced about a person or place in the region.