Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Once More, Into the Breach

Although I think Will Shakespeare was writing about a real divide....

OK, study this. A book by a fellow called Mark Warschauer. Title is Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide. The front flap (according to my Amazon view) says: "Much of the discussion about new technologies and social equality has focused on the oversimplified notion of a 'digital divide' [...] What is most important is not so much the physical availibility of computers and the Internet but rather people's ability to make use of those technologies to engage in meaningful social practices."

Exactly.

Libraries did not teach people how to read and write in the olden days when these skills were less ubiquitous than they are now. They did provide grist for the mill once those skills were acquired. Why now does George think it's the job of libraries to teach another form of literacy? And if he says it's because no one else is doing it and libraries have a social obligation, I'll suggest that there are a lot of hungry, ill-clad, ill-housed, unhealthy people visiting libraries. and that we will need a lot more money in order to become the umbrella social services agency in our communities, and librarians will need a lot more training.

So, what is the social purpose of a library?

3 comments:

Thomas said...

I think this is very close to the centre of the question of the digital divide and the role of the library

Thomas said...

Although I´m not sure that the comparison between print literacy and information literacy is completely valid. When literacy emerged the library was indeed a place for learning and practice and the librarian was a mentor for those who wanted to learn. In those days the people where often rich (I´m talking about 4000 - 200 years ago) and in special positions. We are in the beginning of the digitally literate age and the role of the library is like the role of the school in a flux. Borders are changing, dissolving or merging. Maybe the library has a role in teaching digital literacy just because it is the best place for it? Maybe this will only be a transitory phase and when digital literacy is finally integrated in schools, kindergartens and everyday life, this role will dissapear from the library, but in the mean time I think that information is our core business and that we should work on any issue that stops our users from accessing what they need.

Kate said...

We read that book two years ago in one of my library school classes, I highly recommend it. It's not very long, but packed with great stuff.