Duncan Reynolds, a student at East Jackson Comprehensive High School, has not yet gone back to school in person. Lately, he has been doing the majority of his schoolwork at his local library in Nicholson.
Harold S. Swindle Public Library in Jackson County offers Wi-Fi and a productive environment for students enrolled in distance learning.
“It gives us some kind of sense of environment, something that he’s used to and with the books around it’s a different atmosphere, versus being at home just stuck in the house trying to get his schooling done,” said Vernita Reynolds, Duncan’s mother.
Duncan said that before his mother started taking him to the library to do his homework, he was failing.
I was failing a little bit, slacking, because we had no wi-fi until now,” said Duncan.
Since coming to the library to do his school work, Duncan’s grades have increased dramatically, and he credits that to the library, “ it caught me up.”
The Driving Factor
One of the main reasons Vernita started taking her son to the library was because they do not have internet access at their home.
“There are so many people out there that don’t have computers at home, or Wi-Fi at home, especially in the more rural areas,” said Dustin Landrum from the Georgia Public Library Service.
According to the U.S. Census data from 2014 to 2018, 88.6% of Georgia Households had a computer and only 79% had a broadband internet subscription.
The GPLS has 9,547 public computers providing high speed access to the internet. In 2019, they reported that their computers were used by patrons for over 4.5 million wireless sessions that year.
Parking Lot Parties
When the pandemic came to America, the libraries, like many other local businesses, had to shut their doors to the public. But that did not stop them from sharing their internet services with their communities.
Every library in the state within that first week had expanded their wi-fi coverage to their parking lots, so people could come to sit in the parking lots and still have access to wi-fi,” said Landrum.
Harold S. Swindle was no exception.
Rhonda O’Keeffe, the library manager at Harold S. Swindle said that for the month and a half the library was closed, many patrons came to the parking lot for internet access.
Even now, with the library back open, a few patrons continue to utilize the parking lot access.
“Some people just stay outside in their cars and do their work; we have people come up and they don’t want to come in, and so their kids will sit in the car and do their digital homework for school,” said O’Keeffe.
Moving To The Virtual World
Expanding their Wi-Fi is not the only thing the Georgia Public Libraries have done for their communities. They have continued to push forward with their normal programming, including their work with the schools in their communities.
Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, “they have been amazing, I think they have set the standards for most public libraries in the nation,” said Landrum.
O’Keeffe said she and her team have been working hard to move their programming to Facebook and Zoom so that they may continue to provide for their community.
Kate Hester is a senior majoring in journalism at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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