Sunday, May 18, 2014

Access is Not Enough - Closing the Digital Divide

If you can't tell, I'm double-dipping here. I've been writing papers and responses for my grad school classes, and I'm just not having enough time to work on the blog as well. So I thought ya'll might like to take a peak at what I've been working on for school...

Current research states that if you want to be able to speak a second langue fluently you need to be exposed to it as a child. We often talk about basic computer skills as a language, describing ourselves as computer literate or illiterate. This suggests that in order to be fluent in the language of computers, we need to be exposed to be exposed to them as children. But now that most school-aged children are being exposed to computers, why aren’t we all equally successful? 
Because the Digital Divide is no longer about the ‘haves’ vs. the ‘have-nots’. Most children have access to a computer at school, but there is a world of difference between a school that can give each of its students a personal laptop and a school that has a lab with maybe 10 old desktops for a student body of 500+. This new Divide runs on socioeconomic lines. 
“Socioeconomic status for many individuals ultimately determines what type of technology (if any) they will have access to and, just as importantly, how often they get to use it” (Morrone, Witt 2013). Being in a classroom with a computer is no longer enough to make our students competitive. They need to not only have the computer, but to know how to use it, and how to use it well. Libraries can make a difference here, but I believe that the real solution to this gap will have to be provided by the schools. 
Speaking from my own experience, I believe that I greatly benefited from having access (both at school and at home) to a personal laptop. The high school that I attended was one of the first in the area to provide its students with access to laptops, able to be checked-out and used for both academic and personal pursuits. These laptops helped me to be more inter-active with my studies, and built the foundations of research skills that served me well in college. I went to a private school, and I know that the public schools in the area (though very good) did not have this program. 
Libraries can do and have done a lot to decrease the gap between the old ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, but often lack the resources to do more than simply provide access to the internet. In his article in the Public Library Quarterly, Bo Kinney tells us that “…provision of Internet access alone is only one part of bridging the divide, which is a function of broader social and technological inequities” (Kinney, 2010). The Divide, like so many in others in our country, can only be closed by education. 
This education has to come from schools, and at an early age. In their research into the Ohio school system, Lawrence Wood and Aimee Howley discovered that students attending schools in poor urban or rural areas had much less access to computers than students from wealthier school districts. Moreover, they also had older software and slower Internet speeds (Wood, Howley 2012). This needs to change. 
We can tell ourselves that we’re doing everything we can for our children, trying to give them a leg-up by providing them with access to a computer. But access alone is no longer enough. Just because you put a set of encyclopedias in your child’s bedroom doesn’t mean that they are able to access the information contained in them. Our children need to be taught how to use the latest technologies to further their educations and succeed in life. 
All students deserve this chance, and the only way to make that happen is to ensure that children from all socioeconomic have access to the same current technology, and are taught the same important skills. We’re working on one of those, let’s work on the other.

Kinney, B. The Internet, Public Libraries, and the Digital Divide. Public Library Quarterly, 29, 104-161. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from
Morrone, M., & Witt, S. Digital Inclusion, Learning, and Access at the Public Library. Urban Library Journal, 19. Retrieved 5-17-14, from
Wood, L., & Howley, A. Dividing at an early age: the hidden digital divide in Ohio elementary schools.    Learning, Media and Technology, 37, 37-41. Retrieved May 12, 2014, from

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Future of Libraries pt. 1

Thomas Frey likes to talk about the future. He asks the question “how will our lives be different in the future?” and looks for answers in many different fields. One of these fields is Library Science, or more specifically, libraries. Frey argues that our relationship with libraries will change. He talks about “four fundamental crossroads of change – literacy, books, education, and work” (Frey). Frey is right. Our relationship with libraries is changing. But it can also be said that change is the only real constant in any of our lives.
In the past we were taught that a literate person was someone who knew how to read and write, and that it was a simple as that. But how many of us have heard the phrase "computer illiterate" in the last decade? Literacy is becoming more than the simple ability to put words on a page. To succeed in this modern era we not only need to be traditionally literate, but computer literate and media literate. Like traditional reading and writing skills, these are things that modern libraries can help with. I have personal experience doing outreach work with a public library teaching senior citizen basic internet skills.
Frey points out that our relationship with print books is also changing. But this is not new. For at least the last decade my teachers have been going on and on about the difference between print sources and electronic sources for scholarly texts. What does this mean? That we've known about this change for a while now, and that digital media is not going away any time soon. With the prevalence of e-readers more and more people (and library patrons) are moving away from books entirely. 
Thomas Frey talks about the availability and over saturation of information in the future. 
In his article “55 Jobs of the Future”,  Frey tells us that in the future there will be people who make their living as ‘Book-to-App Converters’ (Frey, 2011), who would work on making what Frey refers to as a ‘Perpetual Self-Updating Book’ (Frey, 2011). A book-app hybrid would contain all of the information of a 40 volume set of encyclopedias, constantly updating itself. In my opinion, in Frey's world of the future, far from being obsolete librarians will be more needed than ever.
A moderately intelligent adult of 40 years ago was perfectly capable of walking into a library, finding an encyclopedia and looking up the one article it would contain on any given topic, let's say F.D.R.'s presidency. A moderately intelligent adult of today is perfectly capable of googling Franklin Roosevelt, but will be faced with approximately 20.9 million hits (this number can be verified with a quick trip to Librarians are not simply keepers of books, they are information specialists, tasked with helping lay-people sort through the endless amounts of information that we are faced with. How much more so in Frey's future world, when we could all have endless amounts of information on any conceivable topic, constantly self-updating in the palm of our hand?
The field of education has always been changing. Children used to sit in classrooms and memorize books full of facts. Now our children are more engaged in learning, and modern libraries are reflecting that change. Libraries of the future might not be filled with stacks and stacks off books, but that doesn't mean that they will bereft of educational materials. New technology, like 3D Printers is changing the way libraries (and librarians) will be able to engage with children.
The last point that Frey mentions, work, is an interesting topic. Libraries have become not only a place for people to do work (who have us hasn’t spent finals week practically living in the campus library?), but for people to find work. In her TED talk, Pam Sandlian Smith tells the story of a man who came into the library often, working on his resume on publicly available computers, attending resume workshops and ultimately landed a job (TEDx, 2013). Libraries have always been places where communities come together to support one another, and I doubt that that is going to change at any point soon.
While I obviously agree with Frey, I don’t think that libraries are going to change as dramatically or as quickly as he seems to think. Change is a constant. The library of today is very different than the library of 50 years ago, and obviously the library of 2064 will be very different from the library of today. Will we all be working in bookless libraries 20+ years from now? Maybe, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As I’ve been hearing over and over again over the last few weeks, being a librarian is not just about books. We are responsible for connecting people with information, and that is never going to change.

Frey, T. (2011, November 11). 55 Jobs of the Future. FuturistSpeakercom A Study of Future Trends and Predictions by Futurist Thomas Frey. Retrieved May 9, 2014, from

Frey, T. (n.d.). Futurist Speaker Thomas Frey. DaVinci Institute. Retrieved May 9, 2014, from

Frey, T. (2011, September 23). Introducing the Perpetual Self-Updating Book. FuturistSpeakercom A Study of Future Trends and Predictions by Futurist Thomas Frey. Retrieved May 9, 2014, from 

TEDx Talks. (2013, December 16). What to expect from libraries in the 21st century: Pam Sandlian Smith at TEDxMileHigh [Video file]. Retrieved from

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Project Sunday 5-4-14 & An Announcement

Hello there folks, it's that time again! Project Sunday time!

As predicted, we had another busy one this week, and that's just the way I like it! Here we go!

We started off the day in a semi-lazy fashion, sleeping in and watching some Netflix while we had our breakfast. But around 1 o'clock, it was time to pick up a friend and head out to archery!

This was only the second practice of the season, but apparently I haven't completely forgotten what I was doing:

I am the noodle-slayer!

After archery we wandered around Barnes & Noble while we decided on a game-plan for the rest of the day. My husband and I knew that we wanted a chance to work on our kitchen table, but we were hungry and tired and a bit grumpy. So my brilliant husband suggested that we take a break, go out for dinner and then work on the table if we were still up for it.

It was a great idea! Over dinner we took the time to solidify our plans for the table. So far we had purchase a sheet of B/C plywood and had it cut into 32" pieces. So we sat down and planned out exactly where to make our next cuts and tried to decide if we wanted to attach the panels with pocket holes, or dados.

Then after a delicious dinner of burgers and chilli, we were off to my in-law's house to start making those cuts!

I took like, 5 pictures but I'm trying not to post all of them every time we work on the project. I don't want to over-saturate the blog with pictures of one particular project, and besides, I'm planning on doing a big post about it when the table is all finished. I should save my pictures for then, right? Right.

So we actually made a lot of progress in one evening. We have all of our pieces cut out (except for one that didn't come out super-straight due to a warped fence), and we know what the next several steps are. I have a feeling that this table is going to get done a lot sooner than the night-stands! *fingers crossed*

Well, I think that about wraps everything up... oh right, I promised you guys an announcement, didn't I?

If you follow me over on twitter, you've probably heard this one already, but here goes anyway:


Yup, yesterday (5-5) was my first official day as a graduate student. I'm taking two classes this summer and working towards my Master's Degree in Library and Information Science. Yup, I'm gonna be a librarian! Well, someday. I'm very excited and more than a little bit nervous about grad school, so please be patient with me for the next several months while I adjust.
Right now I'm working 2 jobs, I have this blog and another one that I'd like to get back to, and once in a while I attempt to have a social life. Add school back into the mix, and it gets just a little bit overwhelming.

But I don't want to bore you guys with all of the details. Let's just say that while I'm going to try to continue to post regularly, I can't really promise more than a Project Sunday post here and there. But please stay tuned, because you never know, grad school might inspire me to post more than ever!

Until next time folks!

Our Project Sunday sure was productive this week, even if I was busy thinking thoughts of school. What have you guys been up to this week? Do you have any big announcements? Working on any cool projects? I'd love to know about it/them! Leave a comment and tell me all!