How Libraries Help Bridge the Digital Divide in Different Communities

Libraries have always been important community resources, offering free or low-cost access to books, information, and other materials. In recent years, they have become even more essential as places that help bridge the digital divide.

The digital divide refers to the gap between regions and demographics that have reliable access to the internet and internet-enabled devices and those that don’t. Several communities depend on libraries to help bridge the digital divide, including students, older adults, and those experiencing homelessness.

Libraries are network hubs that serve communities in several ways. Let’s look deeper at how library resources bridge the digital divide and benefit different groups.

Support for Older Adults

Some older adults who don’t have a home internet connection rely on the library to pay bills and catch up on emails. Those with internet devices at home may use a library WiFi hotspot lending program. Rather than travel to the library every time they want to get online, they can remain in the comfort of their own home and use a hotspot.

To stay in good health, members of older populations may depend on the library for internet access for telehealth appointments. For example, meeting a health care provider online in a video chat session could be more efficient than driving to the doctor’s office.

Resources for People Experiencing Homelessness

Social exclusion and physical barriers often prevent people experiencing homelessness from accessing the internet and using computers. Did you know that libraries have made it their primary focus to help those experiencing homelessness access resources and strategies that let them participate in society?

Those without permanent shelter are welcome in libraries, where they can apply for government benefits, seek employment, and participate in health and living assistance programs. Libraries also partner with housing facilities and shelters to promote library services that close the digital divide.

Helping Close the Homework Gap for Students

Students who don’t have an internet connection or a smartphone, tablet, or laptop computer at home fall into what’s known as the “homework gap.” This gap relates to the difficulty students experience when trying to complete homework without all the necessary resources. 

Libraries are a powerful tool for bridging the homework gap and helping students get an education. Some students who don’t have reliable internet access at home use their smartphone’s mobile data plan. Data overage fees can rack up quickly depending on usage, further complicating the situation.

Libraries also offer supplementary services for students who don’t have an internet connection at home. For example, if students can’t meet with a tutor online, they can book a study room at the library and meet face to face. Rather than complete group projects online, students can meet in a safe space at the library instead.

Leveling the Field for People With Disabilities

Many Americans with a disability have trouble using the internet. From sites that fail basic accessibility tests to online unemployment resources that fail accessibility guidelines, internet users from different populations are on uneven footing while navigating the online world.

Libraries are on the front lines of closing the digital divide for those with disabilities. For example, libraries provide microphone systems for those with hearing impairments and web accessibility software for people with visual impairments. In addition, library patrons with physical disabilities can use library curbside pickup to check out hotspots and computers to use the internet.

Opportunities for Job Seekers

Those in rural areas with spotty internet access may have trouble looking for and applying for jobs online. Not only do libraries provide a way for the unemployed to search for jobs, but they also offer online skills training.

Another way libraries help job seekers is by helping them control job search costs. Without an internet connection or computer, jobseekers may have no choice but to visit each place they wish to apply to physically. This can lead to substantial transportation costs. 

Libraries play a vital role in ensuring everyone can access the online resources they need to thrive. As an essential part of the community, the importance of public libraries will only continue to grow.

James Morkel

Tech website author with a passion for all things technology. Expert in various tech domains, including software, gadgets, artificial intelligence, and emerging technologies. Dedicated to simplifying complex topics and providing informative and engaging content to readers. Stay updated with the latest tech trends and industry news through their insightful articles.

Related Articles

Back to top button