Monday, January 21, 2008

The Digital Divide

Here is a sample of an article from the LibrarianInBlack blog. It's a reminder that we need to begin addressing the people in our communities who haven't gotten on board with the some of the technologies we're using. As much as I love new technology, we can't leave a big portion of the community in the dark. My solution? Help them get familiar with the tools we're engaging.

Widening of the Digital Divide and our Inattention to It

Every time I write about this I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. But the digital divide is a reality in our communities, and one that we aren’t paying enough attention to. It doesn’t matter what type of library you work for, it’s the same everywhere. All libraries have the technological haves and the have nots (and the people in the middle). There are the people with the Bluetooth headsets, the Tivos, the Netflix, and the broadband access at home. The people who use the library’s electronic resources. The people who prefer RSS to email. And last but not least, the people who know the coolest sites out there for cat photos. But these people are not all of our people, especially in many rural and smaller communities. In the past (think: early days of the internet) we had tunnel visions toward the have nots, and catered out technology services to that group, for better or for worse. It’s imperative for us to realize, now, that we cannot make the opposite mistake this time and focus our services and priorities only/mostly on the haves, ignoring the segments of our communities who still lack the basic technology skills and equipment. That group may be smaller than it has been in the past, but the divide between that group and the tech-savvy population is ever-widening, putting an end to the divide further out of reach with each passing month. I worry that our attention on the haves, stimulated in large part by the influx of Web 2.0 (and now, possibly 3.0) technologies, will result in our continued inattention to the digital divide, much to the detriment of our entire service population.


suzi w. said...

this scares me too. I think, how do we serve these totally opposite needing groups? How do we stay hip while helping those who may be street savvy but without wireless? And how do we serve the "have nots" without making them feel like they are "have nots." At Northland, both groups exist, but guess who comes to the library more? As we look at making SRC an online venture (which I think is great) I know we have to keep in mind that not everyone has a computer at home.

kellypr said...

Kelley, I'm really glad you posted this. I was actually talking with my friends about this last night. We are so focused on new, fun, emerging technology when there are many library users who only have a very basic understanding of how to use computers. People still don't know what the difference between the address bar and the google search box is. This is a big deal!

Yes we need to realize that not everyone has a computer at home. But we also need to realize that not everyone knows how to navigate on the Interweb, or databases, or the library's website...or even think to use the library's website for renewing their books or looking for titles, etc.

What is the solution? How do we get these patrons to a "functional" level? Take the time to teach them? Offer library instruction? I don't know.