Thursday, August 25, 2005

And once again, the breach wins...

Alane, I hate to burst your bubble, but public libraries have been in the business of teaching for a lot of years.

They've helped immigrants learn the materials they need for a citizenship test, or English as a second (or third, fourth, or fifth in some cases...) language. They've provided space, materials, and often tutors for adults who needed to gain or improve literacy skills. And beyond that, they've offered a wealth of continuing education, personal development, and training courses, from discussions of current events, to awareness of health issues, to how to use a microwave oven. (These are just offerings from public libraries I worked in during the 1970s and 1980s. Heaven knows there are many more examples than this since my salad days.)

So if a public library offers a chance for someone who can't afford it to use a PC, or maybe to learn a few new skills to improve their opportunities at work, that's a tight fit with its traditional mission.

What I can't accept is the idea that people must clear a hurdle before they should be allowed to use the library's services. We don't say, these books are only here if you can read them. Neither should we say these computers are only here if you already know how to use them.

1 comment:

Katie K. said...

Since when is the Digital Divide about refusing computer access to people who don't know how to use a computer? There are patrons who come into the library where I work who are only using the machines to play games or check email--without a thought to the other capabilities that computers/ Internet have. Many of them have to ask us for help with our OPAC because they don't grasp the concept of organized searching. But, we give them time on the machines, regardless of their abilities. As I understand the DD, it is not having ANY access to computers with Internet capabilities. It may seem that I'm splitting hairs, but there is a difference between access and ability.