All of the information you’ve been sharing has been wonderful. I can see so much potential. The problem? I’m in a rural community without broadband. We have one public access computer with dial-up.’  Sometimes I feel like I’m failing my teen patrons when I can’t do all of these exciting things I see on the YALSA and other blogs. What’s a country librarian to do?

– No Tech in the Country

Dear NTIC:

Thank you for a great question. Location and economics are still barriers to tech access in the United States, and it impacts teens in rural as well as urban areas. According to a recent FCC report, ten percent of US homes have no access to broadband whether they can afford it or not. As the Washington Post reported, only 68% of American homes have access and “low-income and minority groups are less likely to have a broadband Internet connection in their homes.”

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I get frustrated sometimes when talking with librarians that work with teens and they tell me, “We can’t use that (insert the name of a technology) with teens because our computers won’t load it.” Or, they might say, “We can’t use that (insert the name of a technology) with teens because it’s blocked in our school.” Or, they might tell me, “We can’t use that (insert the name of a digital device) with teens because not everyone has those at home.” Or they might say…. I could give you several more excuses, oooops examples, but I won’t.

What makes me so frustrated is that in many instances, what librarians say to me does amount to a load of excuses. I know that they aren’t lying, but, really these reasons shouldn’t be accepted and librarians should be regularly working to change the “can’t'” to “can.” What happens when we just have a load of “can’t” is that teens in those schools and libraries end up being on the “wrong” side of the digital divide. And, from what I hear and see in libraries and with teens, this is a really serious digital divide that we are creating. It’s not a digital divide of have and have nots based on family/home economics. It’s a digital divide of haves and have nots based on how well teens are able to access current technologies in their libraries and learn how to use those technologies with the help of teachers and librarians. Read More →

Yesterday the Pew Internet in American Life project released a report on wireless Internet use. When I first heard about the report I didn’t think very broadly about what the data might have to say about the impact of access for teens (and for libraries for that matter). But, when I read several news reports that highlighted findings that wireless access, particularly on mobile devices, is serving to lessen the digital divide I started thinking about teens. While not everyone has what some might consider traditional internet access at home – a wired or wireless connection that is used with a laptop or desktop – that doesn’t mean that the Internet isn’t available in the home. People are accessing the Internet with laptops and desktops and they are using game consoles and handheld devices for their access.

If outside of the school teens use handheld devices and gaming consoles to access the Internet, we need to look at how our resources are provided to the age group. We need to make sure to provide access to programs and services in ways that work well for someone using an Internet enabled device. For example: Read More →

The title of this post is the result of a Twitter conversation that I had recently with librarians working in high schools and colleges. The conversation was about how teens/students do and don’t have access to technology and started with a Twitter post that linked to an article about the University of Virginia’s plans to phase out public computer labs.

I’ve been thinking about access to technology for a long time and I’ve realized more and more that there is a digital divide that isn’t frequently discussed.
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