School and public libraries play an integral role in student learning and internet use

libraries-internetOnce again, Christina Morua found herself in the South Dade library longer than she would like on a school night. The 28-year-old single mom sat in the bustling children’s section on a recent Thursday, waiting for her fourth-grader to get on a computer and start some online math homework.

“We don’t have any internet at home,” Morua said as her oldest, 11-year-old Abel, clicked through an assignment on a library laptop while Alina, 9, waited for her turn at a desktop. “We just reserved a computer. We have to wait 70 minutes. He got one of the last laptops.”

With more school materials heading online, parents like Morua here and elsewhere across the country find they can no longer count on home for homework. That leaves libraries as a crucial venue for their youngest patrons, but funding challenges, reduced hours on school nights and aging equipment have made it harder to meet the demand.

“The laptops we do have, the batteries aren’t working,” said Patricia Readon, a librarian working the children’s desk at the South Dade branch in Cutler Bay. “You can check out a laptop, and the next 30 minutes it’s dead. The sad part is, if you don’t have a computer, you can’t do your homework.”

(Next page: How libraries are crucial learning places for students)