Library closures hit patrons hard—especially those who relied on them as their main internet source and used them to access online educational resources.

There have been several studies about how the lack of fast home broadband has hurt kids’ access to online learning during school closures. Now, a set of surveys from the think tank New America finds adults’ education is suffering, too, as public libraries closed during the pandemic.

The surveys and accompanying report, “Public Libraries and the Pandemic: Digital Shifts and Disparities to Overcome,” find 15 percent of U.S. adults lost their main source of internet access as libraries started to shut down in March 2020. While people use libraries—and their internet access—for a variety of reasons, the report says for those who rely on the library as their main internet source, 31 percent used it for “academic research or a school assignment.” Educational use was 22 percent for those who didn’t lose their main source of internet access when libraries shut down.

Young adults were most likely to say they lost their main internet access when libraries closed: ages 18-29 (24 percent), followed by ages 30-44 (22 percent), 45-60 (12 percent), and over age 60 (5 percent). Those affected were also much more likely to be adults who were male, lived in an urban area, spoke a language other than English in their home, and were persons of color. “This finding,” the report notes, “is one of very few in the survey to show a meaningful difference between respondents living in urban and non-urban areas.”

Library nerds (guilty) and supporters will find a lot more to explore about libraries, awareness of online resources and patron usage patterns during the pandemic.The rich report is based on a nationally representative survey of 2,620 adults conducted from late September through mid October, plus a smaller December survey of 118 educators and professionals who work for community-based organizations.

Read the full article about adult learners by Frank Catalano at EdSurge.