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“Residents were used to being out and about; they came into the library for programs and read-alouds, they had off-campus jobs, they went to the movies and the pool. […] Unfortunately, once the pandemic came around, they became one of the most isolated groups in our community,” says Jolene Poore, director of Ada Public Library in Ada, Oklahoma.
"Wi-Fi hotspots have been a Godsend for our community,” says Brenda Cervantes, grants and special projects administrator at Yuma County Public Library in Arizona. “With no coffee shops or large shopping centers, there are essentially no spaces in the community that provide free Wi-Fi or internet service outside of the libraries.”
The COVID-19 pandemic uncovered the realities of the digital divide in communities across the United States. As schools and jobs went online, libraries became an increasingly important destination for patrons who needed to connect to the internet. Libraries offered Wi-Fi hotspots and, in some instances, parking lots became offices.
According to the Pew Research Center, “roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults go online at least daily.” However, many are unfamiliar with the basic ways the internet works, including why certain content ends up in our search engine results.