Ocean State Libraries Receives Grant to Expand Free “Parking Lot” Wi-Fi at Rhode Island Public Libraries

Contact Information:
Ocean State Libraries
Stephen Spohn


Ocean State Libraries Receives Grant to Expand Free “Parking Lot” Wi-Fi at Rhode Island Public Libraries 

Ocean State Libraries (OSL) has been awarded $85,000 to expand external “parking lot” Wi-Fi to public libraries statewide.  The grant comes from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and the Rhode Island Governor’s “Take It Outside” initiative to expand access to outdoor resources and services to Rhode Islanders.  This generous funding, along with equipment donated from the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center, will be used to expand this service to 40 additional library locations.  OSL recognizes its partnership with OSHEAN which will be essential to this exciting project. 

Due to the pandemic, many public library buildings across the country temporarily closed.  For those who normally relied on public libraries for Internet access and the many others who faced job loss, business closings and other economic tragedies, these closures left them without any reliable means to access the Internet.  People were unable to apply for unemployment, apply for relief funding, search and apply for jobs, and more.  External “parking lot” Wi-Fi will allow library customers to take advantage of broadband Internet access regardless of whether libraries are open or closed, and to do so while safely social distancing.  This provides a valuable service for those who have no or limited Internet service at home, are experiencing a residential power outage, or are traveling around Rhode Island.   

 “One of the stark realities of the pandemic is our ever-increasing reliance on the Internet and the imperative we have to close the digital divide,” remarks David Marble, CEO of OSHEAN.  “It is core to OSHEAN’s mission to partner with our membership, especially in initiatives like this, and we applaud OSL and CommerceRI for their leadership in recognizing the opportunity to help our communities with an important piece of the access puzzle.” 

OSL Executive Director Stephen Spohn states, “This award recognizes the valuable contributions that public libraries make to workforce development and the economy through programs that build job skills and knowledge that powers innovation and market research.”   


Libraries, Workforce Development and Economic Impact 

Public libraries are critical partners in workforce development and support for small businesses and entrepreneurs. 

  • Free access to public computers and the Internet.   Access to computers and broadband Internet is not available in every home.  This is an essential service that is especially vital for job seekers and others who seek to improve their economic circumstances.  The pandemic has magnified the need for this library service with many more people out of work and with small businesses facing extraordinary economic pressures. 
  • Workshops to build digital literacy skills in the workforce.  Libraries offer workshops, resources and one-on-one assistance to help Rhode Islanders to learn new technologies and to expand skills that strengthen Rhode Island’s workforce.  In their response to the pandemic, Rhode Island’s public libraries have offered more than 1,600 online programs including workshops to develop digital skills, to support job seekers and to provide a platform to local performers and artisans. 
  • Workshops and resources for job seekers.  As noted above, libraries have shifted programs online to continue to serve this audience.  In addition, libraries emphasized access to public computers and the Internet in their reopening plans to help job seekers to apply for jobs and unemployment.  Libraries have also expanded their investment in digital content including online courses to expand skills for job seekers. 
  • Access to print and digital resources for business and market research.  Entrepreneurs and small businesses can find technical manuals, business directories, legal reference materials and more.  These resources help to power innovation and business in Rhode Island. 
  • Employment and promotion of local performers, artisans, fitness instructors and more.  Libraries connect consumers to local small businesses.  Their move to online programs during the pandemic has continued this support when it is arguably needed most. 


Ocean State Libraries along with its partner OSHEAN has already been at work to expand access to external “parking lot” Wi-Fi at libraries.  So far, external Wi-Fi is available at 15 sites with plans underway for 11 additional sites through the generosity of OSHEAN, The Rhode Island Foundation, and the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center. 

Ocean State Libraries hopes that this expanded service will help all who live, work and learn in Rhode Island.  To stay informed, visit us online at www.oslri.org. 


About Ocean State Libraries 

Ocean State Libraries (OSL) is a consortium of Rhode Island’s 48 public libraries and St. George’s School.  OSL coordinates a statewide catalog of library materials, digital content and future-ready technology services for its member libraries so they may better serve their patrons and communities.  Through their library’s membership in OSL and OSL’s partnership with the Rhode Island Office of Library & Information Services, library patrons have access to over six million books, movies and more, all available at or through their local public library.



Founded in 1999, OSHEAN is a nonprofit coalition of universities, K-12 schools, libraries, hospitals, government agencies, and other non-profit organizations dedicated to providing innovative Internet-based technology solutions for its member institutions and the communities they serve.  OSHEAN is an active member of the local and national technology communities, regularly contributing expertise and resources to a wide range of initiatives, from school enrichment activities to community forums on technology-related issues in the public interest.  OSHEAN regularly pursues opportunities for local, regional and national collaboration and plays a leadership role in professional education for IT professionals and policy development in the information technology arena.   


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