It is difficult for this researcher to imagine life or work without technology. It was very surprising, then, to discover during the first semester in the University of Tennessee School of Information Sciences that a high number of students did not know the basics of using computers. This was an eye opener, as it has motivated the researcher to help people become more comfortable with using technology.
The Digital Divide has been defined in this way by Lester and Koehler: “The ‘have nots’… lack access to any or all of the facilities and abilities held by the haves. It is posited that the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ may be so deep and so wide that the have nots cannot achieve the same degree of competence and therefore access to social and economic goods that the haves control unless there is active intervention by various elements of society” (Lester et al 2007, 357). A great deal of the work performed by this researcher at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library focuses on those people who have had little or no access to computers and have little or no experience using them. Despite the availability of computers in public libraries, patrons frequently have little to no experience using computers, which is quite often frustrating to them.
For the Government Resources course, “Job Searches and the Digital Divide” was chosen as the topic for the final pathfinder project. This topic was selected because the researcher frequently sees people come to the library to apply for jobs online. The pathfinder was created for patrons with limited computer skills. It is set up in a way that is very easy to navigate, with easily read instructions, and an instructional welcome video. The pathfinder is linked below.
Another product is a group presentation in the Information Environment course on the Digital Divide. The topic was chosen so that students could learn more about it. In the process, the students discovered that the digital divide does not only affect people where limited access to technology is available, but also those who are in areas with available technology. The presentation focuses on defining the Digital Divide, who it affects, how it relates to information professionals, and what is being done to rectify the situation. My slides are numbers 3, 4, 8, 12 – 14. I have also included another copy of just my slides, because, due to presentation time, I had to cut some slides.
After working on the previously mentioned projects that encompass the Digital Divide, I believe that the most important thing I have learned is that anyone, anywhere, can be affected by the Digital Divide. I have also learned how important it is for library staff to reach out and assist those affected by it. Before working in a public library setting, I had a faint idea about this issue because I thought that it was only prevalent in developing countries. My experience has proved that my thinking was wrong.
Lester, June, and Wallace C. Koehler, Jr. Fundamentals of Information Studies. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2007.