Conquering the Digital Divide

July 20, 2011

“The digital divide gets bridged in public libraries everywhere in America,” said Mary Dempsey, Chicago Public Library commissioner, as she announced the expansion of a popular digital media center for youth in June. Recent books provide insights on how to bridge the divide, explain why we need to, and offer some research to help make decisions.

Jessamyn West is one librarian who works to bridge the digital divide by teaching those who visit rural Vermont libraries for internet access. In Without a Net: Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide, West explains why it is vital for libraries to work at getting people comfortable with accessing information online. Throughout the exceedingly readable guide, she weaves the rationale for undertaking instruction in practical technical education in libraries through practical chapters on planning the instructional program and presenting the content in ways that learners will understand.

Indexed. Libraries Unlimited. 258p. $40. 978-1-59884-453-5.

Digital Native Effects

At the other end of the spectrum of library users are the “digital natives,” younger people who have always known a digital world. Dancing with Digital Natives: Staying in Step with the Generation That’s Transforming the Way Business Is Done, edited by Michelle Manafy and Heidi Gautschi, is a collection of essays exploring the impact this generation will have as they join the workforce, influence the marketplace, go to school, and seek out entertainment. These essays provide background context, along with print and online references, for considering issues such as supporting homework help when much of the homework is online, integrating social media into reference services, or hiring a new librarian who comes with a 2.0 brand.

Indexed. Information Today. 394p. $27.95. 978-0-910965-87-3.

Online Expectations

One of the expectations digital natives might have is that “everything is online.” We know that it isn’t, but do we have solid research about users’ expectations? The 2009 conference documented in Digital Library Futures: User Perspectives and Institutional Strategies, edited by Ingeborg Verheul, Anna Maria Tammaro, and Steve Witt, presents research on the perceptions and expectations of patrons seeking to access the digital resources of libraries, archives, and museums. The projects and initiatives discussed, such as the Library of Congress photostream on Flickr, expand the sense of what constitutes a library, museum, or archive today. The wider availability of source material in turn transforms the institution into a virtual space to be managed with some of the same goals of providing access to the tools for lifelong learning. As we move inexorably toward digital libraries, thoughtful consideration of the ways in which our traditional services are transformed and how functions and organizations will converge is critical.

De Gruyter Saur. 150p. $135. 978-3-11-023218-9. (Also available as an e-book).



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