KOKOMO — The downtown Kokomo-Howard County Public Library is a centralized location where people can meet up in a safe and welcoming environment. At any given hour, you can usually find someone relaxing on a bench or using their phone outside.
In order to keep that safe environment, the library is enforcing a new rule, which limits the hours of Wi-Fi access to the hours the location is actually open. The new policy came after one patron suggested a change — specifically during nighttime hours.
“She had wanted to return items at a time when we were closed and had felt uncomfortable going into the alley where the book return is,” Library Director Faith Brautigam said. “We considered that and thought it was good suggestion that we could try, because we do have Wi-Fi available during closed hours at our other locations.”
At the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library South Branch, there are no alleys and therefore no reason to turn off Wi-Fi access at night, Brautigam continued.
“It’s just a different feel and different layout,” she said. In addition to the reduction of Wi-Fi hours, the library has installed new lights outside to make the area brighter at night.
“When we were assessing the situation we didn’t just look at her comment, we thought ‘What else can we do to make anyone who uses that drop-off feel safer?’” said Lisa Fipps, director of marketing and community engagement at KHCPL.
The new policy came into effect on Sept. 1 and library administrators have heard no complaints.
“We just really appreciated the suggestion because we always try to listen to our patrons and address any concerns they have about anything, whether it’s, ‘I want to see this new book added to your collection’ or anything we can do to make sure we are serving our patrons the best that we can,” Fipps said.
The Kokomo Police Department has not necessarily seen a change in the number of calls for service it receives from the library since the change, Captain Tonda Cockrell said.
From January to August there were 78 calls for service to the library for various reasons, and eight calls in the month of September.
“In the first several months of the year they had various calls that would probably lend to why they were asking for the hours of their Wi-Fi to be changed; by that I mean most of the calls came in the evening hours when our afternoon officers would be responding,” Cockrell said. “I understand they're evaluating their options to see what works best for their customers.”
Library administrators want to make sure their services are available for anyone, no matter their income or when they are able to make it to the facility on Union Street.
“Since we’re downtown and a centrally located, trustworthy place, a lot of people feel more comfortable sitting out there because we keep a welcoming environment on purpose,” Fipps said. “One lady who was sitting out there every morning was using our Wi-Fi because she’s going back to school and couldn’t afford Wi-Fi for her home, so she used it to access her homework and things for school.”
Wireless internet access is also available at several other places across downtown, including the Kokomo Family YMCA and Main Street Café.