Monday, July 28, 2008

Libraries in a digital age

Here's the link to a recent Burlington Free Press article on libraries:

And a quote I pulled out:

Free Internet access is particularly important for low-income people, said Ken Flamm, an economics professor at the University of Texas at Austin who has studied the role of the Internet in public libraries.

Only about a third of households with incomes below $25,000 have Internet access, according to federal data.

“In a world in which Internet access is increasingly important for all sorts of things, from getting a driver’s license to preparing a homework project or looking for a job, this is becoming a vital lifeline for the least advantaged segment of the population,” Flamm said.


Vermont Broadband said...

You correctly cite federal numbers on low income households without Internet access. The evidence that the digital divide will expand rapidly during an economic "downturn" can also be found in a study by the Pew Center. Already, the Broadband adoption rate among low income households is dropping. This is the rate at which individuals sign up for high speed Internet service. If libraries can act as digital hubs, many who are trying to cut household costs in order to afford food and gas money could have Internet access. However these people don't share the same advantages as those who have 24X7 access. Consider students who need to do homework assignemnts. In our community, kids can only stay after school until 3:30 or 4 to work on the computers. After that, they go to the library, which is open until six during the week. Given team schedules, neither of these is an option on game day.

Karyn Vogel said...

Yes, I share the same concern about relying on libraries for access. While I think it is great that libraries provide free access to the internet where possible, they have limited space and resources. If lots of people don't have it at home but need it for homework and job hunting, the libraries would be (and are) quickly overwhelmed.

My town library is open until 9pm 3 nights a week, which is great, but it would still be difficult to have to transport my kids there for homework on a regular basis.

Karyn Vogel said...

Here is an interesting article about libraries as welcoming institutions for new immigrants. Maybe we just need bigger libraries!

And this quote made me think of Front Porch Forum: "...If the old model of the library was the inward-focused 'reading room,' the new one is more like a community 'front porch.'"