The Digital Divide, Why It Matters, and What Teen Librarians Should Do

Most people who are privileged enough to have access to technology don’t even think twice about the digital divide. However, imagine living in a world that is completely dominated by technology, and having no access to it. The schoolwork you stress about, the emails you haven’t responded to yet, and more stressful responsibilities all suddenly become a challenge before you even begin, because access is the first obstacle. Sadly, there are people living in this reality. That is why libraries are as important as ever, despite misconceptions that technology has rendered them obsolete. Libraries provide free computers, free access to internet, and many set up programs that teach patrons how to use technology.

Teens are no exception to the need for access. They’re just as dependent on technology as any other demographic, if not more dependent. While we like to picture teens as lazy and glued to mindless games or Facebook news feeds on their phones, many high school classes require internet access. Teens need a space that provides them with this access. Libraries must keep this in mind when creating their website and YA space. This point is emphasized by Hartman, Hughes-Hassell, and Kumasi:

At the most basic level, school and public libraries must provide access to technology for teens—not just desktop computers for 30 minutes, but the kind of technology that more privileged teens have such as laptops, tablets, e-book readers, raspberry pi’s, video and photo editing equipment, still and video cameras, drawing tablets, etc. (p. 11)

For my community profile assignment, I reviewed the Floral Park Public Library. The Young Adult “room” at this library is actually a corner on the second floor, where there are chairs to sit in, book shelves, and framed pictures on the wall. There are computers in the library, but these are open to all patrons. There are no computers reserved exclusively for teens in their space. However, the library has iPads in the teen zone.

The Floral Park Public Library’s website has a special tab for teens, aptly titled “Teens”. This page of the website is clear and easy to navigate, with a menu on the left side that includes links to homework help, a teen events calendar, a list of the newest YA books added to the the library’s collection, and more.

The teen space at the library is small, but the library does its best to utilize the space it does have. The iPads were a smart approach; the library has technology that the teens can call their own, while also making use of the what little space they have. The library website also has resources that teens can take advantage of.

My suggestion is that the library make a point to advertise their technological resources. This includes the iPads, the computers, and the website. I feel that this is very important because not many teens immediately resort to their library when they want homework help. They instead use Google, which isn’t always reliable, or someone at school, but schools aren’t open 24/7. The library’s website, however, is more reliable than Google and always there. I don’t think teens think of the library website an option. I myself didn’t ever think to use my library’s website when I was in high school. It’s important that we make teens aware of these resources, both for their benefit and to guarantee that libraries can continue to be an integral part of their communities.

References

Braun, L., Hartman, M., Hughes-Hassell, S., and Kumasi, K., with Yoke, B. (2014). The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action. 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “The Digital Divide, Why It Matters, and What Teen Librarians Should Do

  1. Good work…something to ponder about: since the physical space is so small, could be complemented with a larger digital presence? Would that suffice or should just be a temporary patch? What would you imagine that larger digital space to entail? Some of these ideas and other might emerge during the twitter chat!

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    1. Digital presence in the library (as in more iPads, or computers reserved specifically for teens) or on the library’s website? If on the website, I would see it as more of a “temporary patch”. I think the physical presence in the library says a lot to the teens. It can let them know that they’re wanted there. For my community profile assignment, I plan to get into that more. The location of the teen space isn’t hidden. They can see much of the library, and I think that the corner is in a sense telling teens that they are wanted there. So, I think a larger digital presence in the library more so than on the website would complement the small space nicely.

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