In casual conversation with family and friends, questions regarding the need for and future of libraries continue to come up. While presenting stats on increased circulation and visits are somewhat of a surprise, what really gets jaws to drop is the fact that almost one-third of Americans do not have high speed internet access at home. Those in the conversation quickly grasp the challenges faced by the “have-nots.” This is always a great tie-in when highlighting the importance of libraries in providing essential services and bridging the digital divide.
Earlier this month the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released: Exploring the Digital Nation: Computer and Internet Use at Home. No surprise that the digital divide still exists between different racial and ethnic groups and between urban and rural areas in the U.S. But the report notes that socio-economic differences, such as income and education, explain much-but not all – of this divide.
The study has so much rich information, with many illuminating graphs, that I’ll forgo listing out highlights and just recommend that you download the study. The study does report that at least 20 percent of individuals without broadband service at home rely on public libraries for access.
Following is the study’s snapshot of home Internet access:
So when libraries come up in the discussion around the holiday table, remember to share the big numbers, including the fact that in 65% of communities, the public library is the sole source for free access to computers and the Internet (73% in rural communities). Trust me, you’ll see those jaws dropping.