Every kid needs a tablet nowadays. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Visit the Central branch of New York City’s Queens Library at 12:55 pm on a Tuesday, and you’ll see about 100 people outside, waiting for the doors to open. At 1 pm they file in: Some settle in the comfy saucer chairs, while others rest in armchairs facing four TVs and open a newspaper. Splashes of blue and green interrupt white walls, and computer areas are separated by category: job information, adult learning center, and “young adult learning.”
But the reach of the Queens Library extends beyond the walls of its 65 physical branches. Dotting the borough are thousands of New Yorkers logged into their own mini-libraries, using the library’s mobile app to do research for homework, or the WiFi hotspots they checked out to fill in the holes in broadband access at home, or accessing e-books on one of the libraries’ tablets they can take home.
Throughout the country, library initiatives are emerging to keep up with technological advances. And libraries are finding that one population they can serve better than anyone else is low-income Americans.