Video Conference Rooms Now Available at Four Locations
Hennepin County Library now offers reservable video conference rooms at Brookdale, Hosmer, Minneapolis Central, and Plymouth libraries. Residents can book semi-private spaces to attend online job interviews, classes, trainings, telemedicine visits, and other video conferencing opportunities.
"The library is committed to offering free access to essential technology and connectivity," said Deputy Director JR Genett. "It’s one of six priorities in our new strategic plan and part of our ongoing efforts to bridge the digital divide."
While public computers and Wi-Fi have been a fundamental library service for decades, library staff reported a growing need for computers with cameras and microphones. "The pandemic contributed to a massive shift in how people are meeting, and if you don’t own your own laptop, there are very few options to overcome that technology gap," said Genett.
Residents can reserve up to 3 sessions each week, with a maximum reservation length of 2 hours each. Video conference rooms are intended for 1-2 participants and are not suitable for large, hybrid meetings. Reservations are made using the Library’s meeting room reservation calendar, LibCal.
The Library’s video conference room pilot began in early 2022 when Minneapolis Central Library outfitted one of its meeting rooms with a desktop computer, complete with a webcam and headset microphone. The first room was operated in partnership with Hennepin County District Court to help provide greater access to virtual court hearings. Library staff documented patron interest for a variety of other meeting purposes, and by late 2022, the pilot had expanded to three rooms.
Hennepin County Library offers thousands of public computers across 41 locations, but due to privacy concerns, webcams are intentionally absent from the public floor. To meet the modern meeting needs of residents, the Library looked to its network of 100+ meeting rooms, evaluating room size, location, frequency of booking, and a range of equity opportunities.
In addition to semi-private virtual meeting space, Library staff are a point of referral for Hennepin County’s Office of Broadband and Digital Inclusion, helping connect residents with permanent solutions to basic technology needs.