Digital Divide



YESTERDAY, FORBES AUTHOR Panos Mourdoukoutas wrote an article dismissing the importance of libraries. He suggested using Amazon, Netflix, and Starbucks instead.

Okay, there’s so much wrong with that. I, along with everyone in my profession, took some serious umbrage. You might have read some tweets about it. 

The thing that got me, though, was that the author failed to note that libraries are no longer only about books. They haven’t been for a long, long time. While books are certainly a library’s main programming, libraries also provide services to enrich the public good. pexels-photo-862732.jpeg

Have you heard of the digital divide? If you’re reading my blog post, you might not have. Simply put, it’s the divide between people who have tech and can access the internet, and those who don’t have tech and can’t access the internet. These people might not be able to afford the tech, their schools may not have the money for it, or their regions may not have reliable service. As tech continues to grow more and more important, people who lack basic competencies can’t compete in the job market.

That’s where we come in. Public libraries are working to bridge the digital gap. They provide basic instruction on Microsoft Office, social media, and online competencies. For example, check out the New York City Public Library’s programming and how it’s helping bridge the gap. or how Pittsburgh’s public libraries reinvented themselves for the digital age.

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Photo by Tamás Mészáros on

We provide these services for the public good. Are we free? No, we’re supported by taxes, endowments, grants, and gifts. Do you have to pay? Not including the taxation, no, you don’t. The author’s outrage notwithstanding, that was the one  good thing that came out of that ridiculous article – people stood up for libraries, to the point that Forbes ended up pulling it from its site. 

Panos should have known better than to take on librarians. We serve the public for no other reason than to serve the public. And we’ve got the stats on our side to prove it. 

For more information on the Digital Divide:

The Digital Divide: A Quarter of the Nation Is Without Broadband

Digital Divide: The Technology Gap Between the Rich and the Poor


7 thoughts on “Digital Divide

  1. I love my local library, it’s way more than ‘just’ a library. When I was little it was the first place I remember that I was allowed to cross big roads go by myself! I’ll miss my local one when I move so finding a new one locally will be pretty high on my priorities 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On behalf of librarians everywhere, I thank you! 🙂 Libraries are the best, and not just because I work in one. The first thing everyone should do when they move to a new community is find the library!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Go get ‘im, Liz! What a f@cking moron! Nashville has an AWESOME public library network. Its motto: “A city with a great library is a great city.” I LOVE the main branch and visit it as often as I’m able, but I’m in one of the 3 local branches nearest my home at least once a week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right? That guy didn’t know what he was talking about. My favorite was when he tweeted buying books from Amazon meant you didn’t pay taxes, but hello, sales tax? I’m still scratching my head about it.

      Back when I was in library school a decade ago, we kept getting told we were irrelevant, but times since as proven that untrue. People like books, in both print and e-format, plus we’ve worked to make our programming the focus of the library experience. You can come to the library for a book, learn how to use excel, posh up your resume in a workshop, get a quick course in ASL, and hop on a public computer to check your Facebook. Plus, we have printing capabilities, so you can print out a tax form or a job application.

      I don’t think anything else in the public sphere gives a better return on the public’s investment.

      *throws down mic, storms off stage.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When I worked with people with disabilities, the library was the ONLY place in all of DC that I could find free ASL classes to help our non-verbal clients communicate with people, as well as had amazing adult literacy programs. The libraries are an important asset for many different communities. When I saw this guy’s comment, I was seething.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was both angry and surprised. Libraries have grown in importance over the past decade because Millennials use them more than other generations. I saw the article, saw he was a boomer, and thought, jeez, dude, pull yourself out of 2003!


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