Libraries: Widening the Digital Divide.

So I don't know if you've noticed, but there seems to be a digital divide. The reason why I ask is because I don't know what the digital divide is supposed to be. I thought the digital divide was about access to digital and electronic resources. But if that's the case, then why are libraries working to make access to information even more difficult for anyone without the technology to access it?

I don't understand how it happened, but libraries are actually, make that ACTUALLY, widening the digital divide.

First, a little simple understanding: I feel, and I feel this is a truth, that the more steps it takes to reach a goal, the farther that goal is from achieving.

So if information is shared from person to person, the steps are small. We should speak the same language and not be insane or not eating food or any other logical thing that normally happens when people communicate. Remove idiotic barriers and we communicate.

If we print out the information, similar rules apply. We don't print the information in the sand inches from the rising tide that begins to wash it away; we don't spell it out with breadcrumbs so that birds eat it; we don't brand symbols into another person's skin with hot iron, unless they've signed a release, and we don't intentionally scribble the text in characters that others can't understand.

So in this world, we print with inks onto sheets of paper and we share those ideas with others who understand the languages we use. And that, I think, is a very short path between having information and sharing it with others.

And this used to be the method that libraries preferred. For years. Libraries made all of these printed pages available to others by collecting, organizing and storing them.

And if there was a technological divide, it was only there because visiting the library might have required a long trip of some distance.

But then libraries began purchasing digitized online products and texts. Or leasing. And by giving money to these products, they encouraged publishers to digitize more products. And these products were only accessible through the use of a computer with online access.

Thus, the digital divide was born. Actually, it was born when the publishers decided to digitize the data, but if the data didn't have a buyer, then would it have been digitized in the first place. It's a chicken and egg thing. Did the product exist before the market demanded it, or vice versa?

And so now libraries continue their complicity in the perpetuation of the divide by supporting every step that separates the user from the information.

Books require few steps between the user and the information.

Online information adds more steps in technology and online connectivity.

Ebooks add another step based on the various file formats and another for registering for DRM and even more if the content requires a specific ereader device.

And now The Cloud adds another step as it requires the user to have ongoing wireless connectivity that could cost $$$ per month in bandwidth fees to access content that could just as easily be downloaded and accessed locally.

Digital content can also be limited to specific applications that only run on specific portable devices such as iPads or Android tablets with the latest OS. And since portable devices are not as easily upgraded as desktop PCs or laptops, whole groups of users can be shut out from accessing information unless they purchase newer and better hardware.

And libraries encourage this. Proudly. Robustly. As if the librarians have forgotten that information should be accessible to everyone. Which, if true, forces me to question why the hell I'm working to keep information free when clearly, these other librarians want there to be some cost.

If these librarians are attempting to bridge the digital divide, then they must be building one longer than the one at Jiaozhou Bay. And God help anyone who breaks down in the middle.

Comments

Libraries are for the educatated

This is a very interesting topic. In most African countries this is true. For instance, many people in most of the african countries are regarded as being illiterate. They can neither read, write nor use a computer. So how does an illiterate person follow instructions on the use of the many databases found in Libraries? For any person to operate a computer he has to be computer literate, but nay even most of the African University students first come face to face with a computer in a University. The fact that most libraries have gone high-tech in the provision of their services suggests that a lot more people are left out in accessing such information. What worsens the situation is that , Libraries are already regarded as being Elitist in nature.

Libraries are not the cause

Libraries are not the cause of the increasing digitization of everything. That's happening whether you want it to or not. Libraries have to choose whether to keep up with the change and remain relevant, or pretend it's not happening and die. And if we can provide access to the digitized material, then at least the people on the other side of the divide have a CHANCE of accessing that information.

I would say it depends

on how many people are asking for the e-versions.
Many people? Or is it just a few, the same few people that jump on anything new you provide.
If you are lucky enough to have a deal as the other commenter does then great but if you have to think about budgets you have to see if it's worth spending money that would eb better spent catering for the majority of people. Depends on what type of books you are talking about as well.

And who are these people. Are they existing users? Are they new users? Could be a great way to show how the library is drawing in new users.

Digital divide

I am a librarian at a small public library. We are not forcing digital formats on our patrons; they are being demanded of us. Our print budget is staying the same or slightly increasing; the free digital copies our patrons have access to are from a consortium collection and the cost does not come out of our materials budget. Librarians are not the force behind constant format changes and equipment upgrades.

Digital books have not made much of a dent in our print circulation as yet, but I expect to see that within two years. We are seeing a massive drop in DVD checkouts which is primarily due to Netflix and other downloadable visual media over which we have no control. We are beginning to see a drop in sales of used books because more people have ereaders, and don't need to purchase cheap materials to read.

So - what do you suggest we do? Pretend other formats do not exist and deal only with print? The people who need print are still coming to us, but I expect the number will dwindle over time. The size of our print collection is static because we have reached the limit our space can hold, but our consortial ebook collection keeps growing.

Should we drop the ebook connection so as not to encourage that digital divide? Only if we want to lose some patrons forever... We are planning to add ereaders to our collection in the near future, which should help patrons who can't afford the equipment to access the wide range of digital books, and that is about the best we can do.

Digital divide

I am a librarian at a small public library. We are not forcing digital formats on our patrons; they are being demanded of us. Our print budget is staying the same or slightly increasing; the free digital copies our patrons have access to are from a consortium collection and the cost does not come out of our materials budget. Librarians are not the force behind constant format changes and equipment upgrades.

Digital books have not made much of a dent in our print circulation as yet, but I expect to see that within two years. We are seeing a massive drop in DVD checkouts which is primarily due to Netflix and other downloadable visual media over which we have no control. We are beginning to see a drop in sales of used books because more people have ereaders, and don't need to purchase cheap materials to read.

So - what do you suggest we do? Pretend other formats do not exist and deal only with print? The people who need print are still coming to us, but I expect the number will dwindle over time. The size of our print collection is static because we have reached the limit our space can hold, but our consortial ebook collection keeps growing.

Should we drop the ebook connection so as not to encourage that digital divide? Only if we want to lose some patrons forever... We are planning to add ereaders to our collection in the near future, which should help patrons who can't afford the equipment to access the wide range of digital books, and that is about the best we can do.

what is your mission?

if your mission is to get information to the people, then, yeah, libraries are going to have to buy ereaders and iPads and every other piece of crap that the people want.
but don't pretend that this will fix anything. the divide will exist and we won't be making anything better. we will just keep playing catch-up with all the schmucks who can afford to buy the newest toys.

so I seem to be hearing that it's okay to leave those people behind, the ones who won't ever be able to use the information because they can't afford the gadgets or because they'll never learn how to use them.

I guess my point is that we need to find the easiest path for our members to get the information. for some, the easiest path is through their tablets and phones, and for others it's print. so don't give up on print. because it's a technology that still works, very well.

Libraries who don't, go broke... sort of

The Internet and digital information happened. Libraries neither created the divide, nor are a big or powerful enough market on their own to widen it. Libraries that don't embrace, and find a way to lead what happens with access to digitized knowledge will go the way of the dinosaur. People, the population, the community the market, whatever you want to call have decided that digital is the future. So what should libraries do? Kick against the pricks?

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