I was going to meet my daughter for a cup of coffee at Tim Horton’s on on my lunch break. I was late because, unexpectedly, at the last minute, I had to assist a frustrated patron trying to check the Internet with his laptop at our library.
The academic library where I work does not offer wifi access to anyone but the university students and it takes anywhere between 5-10 minutes for a person walking into our library to play with the wires attached to the registration computer before they can scan their ID and get a daily pass that allows them to access the Internet on one of two computer stations that are open to the public. Trying to get the computer pass is always a frustrating experience. After several years of assisting people with using this machine, I still have no clue what is the best way to scan the personal ID, so it would cooperate and issue the pass.
When I was paying for my coffee at the counter at Tim’s, I spotted the sign advertising free Internet access. They partnered with Bell to do it in order to bring in more customers and level with competitors, such as Second Cup, that already offer wifi. I should have sent my patron to Tim Hortons … Yes, they would get the Internet access quickly there and it is a 5 minute walk from my library… They could get a cup of coffee too…. They could search the Internet and drink coffee in a public space… My patron would do better at Tim’s… and they should, and justly so, be called Tim Horton’s patrons, not mine….
Most libraries would not allow people bring Tim Horton’s coffee into the library, nor would they allow a coffee shop inside the library…. At the same time, libraries claim to be the institutions that help to close the digital divide by providing the Internet access to those who cannot afford it. Coffee shops are closing it while we use this argument and develop our collections….