Online Degree Programs does it again with an infographic that gives a snapshot every public library should pay attention to. The Internet Access Gap in Education cites Pew Research among other research reports of the impact the lack of Internet access is having on the education of low-income students. What’s even more interesting — and what should ring alarm bells for public libraries —- is that these students head for McDonald’s and Starbucks (and I would add most malls) to free wifi. Combined, not only do McDonald’s and Starbucks have more free-wifi locations than all the public libraries put together, but no library card is required to access the wifi and the location is open after 8:00 p.m. or on a Sunday in the summer. I have left a public library myself to head for a Country Style Coffee Shop or McDonald’s where I could easily access wifi because, as a non-resident of the town I was prevented from doing so at the public library.
Looking at this infographic was a smack in the face to me that those of us who are advocates for public libraries as critical levers for learning in our communities need to reflect on this research and, most importantly, take action.