So politics and the presidential campaign is going 2.0. While I am certainly a strong proponent of this, it does raise the question that this is slanted towards the technologically advanced and/or those who have the means and knowledge to use the Web 2.0 technology. This potentially excludes large segments of the population. Many people who were not raised in the era of computers and PCs do not understand even what is available, much yet how to use it. This would seem to greatly lean towards and garner a younger audience then. And those who are older who do know the technology are probably those who work in technology and/or have had access to and knowledge of all the new Web 2.0 technology. Therefore, this would encompass a primarily white-collar, upper-class population and exclude those who have not had the means or did not work with technology.
I think this is one area where our school system and our libraries play a huge role. Our schools need to provide training and funding for every student to learn and be able to apply technology. And our libraries especially, can educate and enable everyone, regardless of age, ability or economic status. I think this is a direction that libraries need to go and I think they need to get the funding to do it. I don’t know that I think the libraries are where the sole responsibility for this lies, nor do I even know if they are necessarily the places that should take this responsibility ultimately. But I do know that if the Public Libraries don’t do it, there will be a large portion of the population that will be left behind.
I cannot think of a public organization / facility that could come anywhere near the ability that libraries have to reach and educate the public and to provide access for all people. I know what a difference it has made to have public computers in the libraries and when I see someone who probably isn’t sure where they will be sleeping that night, come in and sit down at a computer and and be the equal of anyone else, I am proud of what our libraries can give and this is something that I think we all need to encourage and promote and consider when funding is needed for our public libraries.
I find it interesting that of any or all of the public institutions that we have created, I can really only think of libraries as one that has the capacity to serve the entire public in so very many ways, regardless of age, means, ability or any differentiating quality.
And the only problem that someone might run into with using a library is that they have difficulty getting to the nearest branch. So I think it is very important for libraries to keep their small neighborhood branches, including (especially) those in poorer areas since they can serve a population that perhaps can’t easily get farther than they can walk. I do worry that the tendency may be to improve the branches in the richer areas and neglect the ones in the poorer areas, especially since the richer branches may be more used. But the poorer ones may be more valuable. Actually, I remember when the bookmobile used to come down our street. They are no longer running and I think that is a mistake. But this is fuel for another post 🙂
Anyway, along the digital divide lines, here is a post from the PBS.org teachers blog where after a June debate, the political candidates were asked about this. Here is a quote from that post “After the event, I had a chance to speak with four of the candidates about their perceptions about the digital divide and the role schools might play in bridging it. The lesson learned: it’s hard to get more than a sound bite when the candidates are in spin mode.” And here is a link to this very interesting post.