There was a fantastic documentary on CNN recently called "Don't Fail Me: Education in America." I became aware of it through an organization that my husband volunteers with called FIRST. The documentary follows three high school students from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds as they participate in building a robot for the 2011 FIRST Robotics Competition. It was also about the huge discrepancies in their public school systems. One student went to a school in Tennessee that didn't offer any AP classes. One went to a school with an enormous drop-out rate where they were more concerned with keeping kids in school and giving them a general education than challenging them with higher math and science options. The third student went to an affluent school with lots of AP classes and after-school activities to choose from. All three participated in their school's FIRST Robotics team.
The sad truth is that there are huge discrepancies between the public educations received in different parts of the country. The No Child Left Behind Act tried to remedy this, but has its own challenges. Libraries are in a similar position. There are some thriving library systems out there, offering awesome, innovative services. Then there are those who are closing their doors because there just isn't enough money to keep the lights on any more. What a tragedy! The communities who need their library the most are often those that have the least money to support them.
Many states have published library standards (Michigan has QSAC, for example). That's nice because it pushes libraries to meet certain criteria and also sets benchmarks. Now, if states would tie library standards certification to state aid, things would get really interesting. (Some bad, some good...for now, I'll stick with "interesting.")
I don't have any genius solutions - just making the connection between inequalities in the public school system and inequalities in the public library system. Savelibraries.org has some really good information about all this, so give it a look!