By Angela Siefer
Digital Inclusion Program Manager at OCLC’s WebJunction
Libraries are essential providers of digital literacy training and public access. As it continues to evolve in our increasingly digital society, the library’s role as a community anchor institution becomes more and more clear. Our communities need libraries to actively participate in and lead multisector collaborations that increase information technology access and use, resulting in cohesive 21st-century communities. Digital inclusion does not lay only the shoulders of libraries. Our communities need our local government, nonprofits, schools, businesses and libraries to work together.
Even in a community like ours with good broadband infrastructure and access to computers, there exists a great need for training and guidance. By working together with community partners such as family literacy centers, schools, and city/county government, library staff can extend their reach further into the community, meet people where they are, reduce duplication of services, and connect people with resources to make a significant impact on the level of true digital inclusion.
Mary DeWalt, Director at Ada Community Library
For the past year and a half, nine pilot communities have been figuring out how to increase information technology access and use (digital inclusion). The project is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and based on Building Digital Communities: Framework for Action, also funded by IMLS. The framework recommends that community-wide digital inclusion efforts involve a variety of sectors.
The pilot communities have taught us many lessons, including these:
- Many local leaders tend to understand the impact broadband infrastructure can have on a community but not the importance of home broadband access, public broadband access, and digital literacy skills.
- Explaining the impact digital inclusion has on individuals and the community is challenging.
- Local government involvement is essential.
In response to those lessons learned, the lead organization, OCLC WebJunction, worked with partner organizations the International City/County Management Association, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and TechSoup Global to create an infographic. “The Internet Is Important To Everyone” aims to bring attention to the impact broadband has on our lives, our health, our government, our jobs, and our education while considering who among us does not use the Internet and who does not have home broadband access. Most importantly, the infographic suggests solutions.
Cathy Reeves, Director of the Dodge City Public Library states, “If libraries are to succeed in today’s world they need to become active members of their community working in partnership with other community leaders. This is especially important as libraries strive to provide digital resources and training to the residents of the community. The library cannot do it alone. This became very important as Jane, Greta and I (our local leadership team in Dodge City) worked together in our Digital Dodge City project. Each person brought contacts and information to the table to create a truly citywide digital inclusion project that will benefit all residents of the community.”
I have had the pleasure of working with the pilot communities for the past nine months. Interested in the work we are doing? Contact me!
For more information visit the WebJunction Digital Inclusion Blog.
Angela’s MA in Sociology and geeky interest in technology blended nicely into a passion for digital inclusion, which she has been working on for 15 years. Angela’s home base is Columbus, OH, but her frequent flier miles are testament to her efforts to bring national attention to the need for ubiquitous information technology access and use.