Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Where Do You Go When the Library is Closed?"

Link to December 12 Broadband & Social Justice article.   (Thanks to Bob Bocher for sharing.)

Excerpt: Not surprisingly, it is the poor who are being shut out when libraries shut their doors. According to a recent study by the National Telecommunications and Information Agency, almost every household with earnings over $100,000 per year has broadband access at home, so those families don’t send their kids to the library to finish a homework assignment. Nor does mom or dad drive down to the library to rip through the latest employment postings in search of a better-paying job. They can do all that at home.

Not so for those of limited incomes. Among families making less than $25,000 a year, two-thirds don’t have a broadband Internet connection. They have to mooch time on a friend’s or neighbor’s computer or find access elsewhere. For them, the library is crucial. For them, every hour a library cuts back its schedule is an hour less of access, achievement, and opportunity.

Libraries are trying hard to strengthen their broadband connections for public use. A number of library systems are using grants from the federal government — part of the economic stimulus — to do so. Others are using local dollars to add computers and capacity.

That’s excellent. That’s good news. But librarians are not miracle workers. When the budget cuts fall, librarians are forced to cut back by firing staff or limiting hours of operation. So while access is being improved on one hand — more computers in the libraries for public use — it is being curtailed on the other — shorter hours of availability, or no library at all

Or fewer staff available to help people navigate their searches.


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