Digital Literacy Opportunities for All

By Susan Hildreth
Director, IMLS

Photo of Susan HildrethA few months ago I had the opportunity to visit the public computer center at Coppin State University in Baltimore, MD for the unveiling of www.DigitalLiteracy.gov.  I am delighted that IMLS is a partner for this initiative and we are committed to helping communities and the libraries, museums and other organizations that serve them develop their capacity to foster digital literacy and inclusion.

We live in a global economy where digital literacy skills including basic computer and Internet knowledge are necessary to find work, pursue education and training and to make health decisions. Nearly 77 million people – or one-third of Americans over the age of 14 –used public library computers or wireless networks to go online in 2009.

Libraries are an important source of computer skills training.

“They are really friendly and helpful…like running a computer class. We know nothing about the computer, but they had patience so we ask crazy questions all day and they are happy to help us.” -Leathamae, Baltimore, MD

“Library computers are big valuable resources for my disabled consumers to research current laws, the Americans with Disability Act especially.” -Web Survey Comment, Stockton, CA

It is very encouraging to see how people in the community are already using DigitalLiteracy.gov to find free training on a range of digital literacy topics, at different skill levels, including searching and applying for jobs online.

To learn more about how libraries play a key role in addressing digital-literacy-related topics, I encourage you to read Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries, the first, large-scale study of who uses public computers and Internet access in public libraries. The study was conducted by the University of Washington and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

As part of our strategic focus, IMLS is a collaborative partner in a variety of initiatives to improve public access technology, resources and training.  We look forward to providing more contributions and facilitation to further enhance this effort through accessibility to on-demand resources and tools for responding to the nation’s digital divide.

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