Use of Hamilton library's digital offerings skyrockets as families fight COVID-19 isolation

People have used the Wi-Fi 10,036 times, even though the buildings aren't open.

Usage of a service that offers animated, talking books for kids has increased nearly 700%

Hamilton Public Library is working out how to offer curbside pickup in June. In the meantime, usage of its digital offerings has skyrocketed. (Shutterstock)

The usage of Hamilton Public Library's digital offerings is skyrocketing during the COVID-19 pandemic — in one case, by nearly 700 per cent.

Hamiltonians are using the digital services to stay connected, help with homework, find things to do and ways to amuse their kids.

And people have used the Wi-Fi 10,036 times, even though the buildings are closed.

That's according to a new report from the Hamilton Public Library, which says access to its digital resources has increased "tremendously."

The most dramatic increase is in the number of people accessing Tumblebooks, which are animated picture-books for kids. Its use has increased "a tremendous" 683 per cent.

The number of people using the library to access the lynda.com training site has increased 300 per cent in the last six weeks, says the report from chief librarian Paul Takala.

Usage of Kanopy, which people use to rent movies, has increased 253 per cent, and the 15,766 checkouts from March 15 to April 25 is 11,300 more than the library saw over that time last year.

 Digital circulation in general has increased 70 per cent, or about 400,000 digital circulations over the six-week period.

Takala said people who are isolated are using the library to stay connected. Students learning at home are using it for school work. More people have lost their jobs and are short on money, and "during difficult economic times, typically we see library usage go up," he said.

Paul Takala, chief librarian for Hamilton Public Library, says people are using the library's Wi-Fi just by standing close to the branch buildings. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

"The library's here to be a part of helping the community get through this."

The numbers back up that claim, even when it comes to using HPL Wi-Fi. The branch buildings are closed, but the library has left Wi-FI enabled, and the signal bleeds out as far as the parking lot. 

During the first six weeks of the pandemic, people accessed the library's Wi-Fi 10,036 times just by standing near the buildings. This was most common at the central branch (2,077 uses), Barton (1,243) and Red Hill (1,131).

The library is also doing online story times, programs with the Hamilton Arts Council, and supportive calls to seniors, Takala said. "We tend to look for gaps and adapt our program."

Someone with overdue fines can still access these services, he said, and the library has suspended all fines during the pandemic anyway.

It's also working on curbside pickup, which it hopes to roll out sometime in June. Takala said HPL is working on the logistics now.

At first, he said, curbside pickup will only be at select branches chosen based on geographic area and proximity to people who can't access the digital offerings. When books and DVDs are returned, they'll be locked away for 72 hours to make sure the virus is gone.

Other libraries are working on that too. Haldimand is finalizing its plans for June curbside pickup. Burlington Public Library said last week that it's favouring in-branch rather than curbside pickup, but will take its cues from the City of Burlington.

Overall, COVID-19 has infected 605 people in Hamilton as of Thursday (598 confirmed, seven probable). Of those, 404 people have recovered and 30 have died. 

That's three more cases than Wednesday, and six more than Tuesday. There are 66 people in hospital (35 at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, 31 at Hamilton Health Sciences), which is four fewer patients than Wednesday. No one has died of COVID-19 since Wednesday.

There are eight institutional outbreaks, the largest being the Rosslyn Retirement Residence near Gage Park, where 64 residents and 20 staff have COVID-19. 

Here are the others:

  • Alexander Place: One resident.
  • Desmond and Peggy Little Retirement Residences: One resident.
  • Macassa Lodge: One staff.
  • Village of Wentworth Heights: One staff.
  • Extendicare Hamilton: One staff.
  • Arbour Creek Care Centre: One staff.
  • Blackadar Continuing Care Centre: One staff, one resident.

Outbreaks ended at four homes on Wednesday: Wentworth Lodge, Grace Villa, Idlewyld Manor and Dundurn Place Care Centre.


In Brant/Brantford, there have been 103 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 93 people have recovered, which means the area has just 10 people confirmed to have the virus right now. Four people are in hospital and three have died. There are no institutional outbreaks.


There are 207 people who have tested positive in Haldimand and Norfolk counties. Of those, 89 people have recovered and 31 have died. The number of COVID-19 cases has been steady for two days. 

Earlier this week, a health and social services employee at the Gilbertson Drive administration location in Simcoe tested positive, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit says. Close contacts have been tested and the administration building cleaned. 

Two residents at Norfolk General Hospital Nursing Home in Simcoe have tested positive but are asymptomatic. There are also outbreaks at Cedar Crossing Retirement Home in Simcoe (one resident) and Parkview Meadows Christian Retirement Village in Townsend (one resident, two staff members).


In Halton, there are 670 COVID-19 cases (575 confirmed, 75 probable), an increase of nine the day before. There are 133 cases in Burlington (117 confirmed, 16 probable), an increase of three over Wednesday, and seven deaths. 

One resident at the Brant Centre long-term care home has COVID-19, and two residents at the Creek Way Village long-term care home.


In Niagara, 623 people are confirmed to have COVID-19, which is three more than Wednesday, and 462 have recovered. There are 103 active cases, and 58 people have died. 

The outbreak in Niagara Health's St. Catharines intensive care unit has ended.

There are still outbreaks at Albright Manor in Lincoln, Kilean Lodge in Grimsby, West Park Health Centre in St. Catharines, Tufford Nursing Home in St. Catharines, Crescent Park Lodge in Fort Erie, Niagara Health's Greater Niagara site, Royal Rose Place in Welland and Lundy Manor in Niagara Falls.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca