Most people haven’t heard of the digital divide. But it’s one of those concepts that you explain to someone and right away they’re nodding their heads. It intuitively makes a lot of sense.
So what is it, anyway? In short, it refers to the gap between those in our society who have a computer with internet access and the tech skills necessary to use it, and those who do not — whether it be because they are marginalized, elderly, homeless, or living below the poverty line.
Recently, Statistics Canada found that 97 per cent of high-income households have high-speed internet access at home, compared to only 58 per cent of low-income households.
Public libraries have fought for digital equality for decades. It’s part of our commitment to providing access to information to everyone who seeks it.
We’ve got computers and printing available for anyone to use, as well as Wi-Fi inside (and outside) the building. We also loan out a variety of tech tools and toys for all ages, from robots to music-making rings to GoPros. And prior to the pandemic we offered one-to-one and group training sessions to help teach tech.
For those who don’t have a computer with internet access at home, it can be challenging to work on a resume, fill out a government form online, or write a school essay.
As an attempt to correct this inequality, in the coming weeks we’ll be launching our brand-new Chromebook laptops, which you’ll be able to borrow with your library card. We’ll have 10 of them available. Use them in-library or at-home – it’s up to you!
If you’ve never used a Chromebook before, it’s basically a browser-based laptop. They’re powered by Google’s Chrome OS, and they allow you to log in with your Google account and then access Docs, Drives, and all other web-based Google services. And when you’re done using it, just shut it down and it gets wiped clean.
For more info on our Chromebooks visit: https://nelson.bc.libraries.coop/about-npl/computer-use/chromebooks/
We’ll also be making a series of Learning Laptops available (although those will be for in-library use only). Unlike the Chromebooks these are regular laptops, and they’ll be fully loaded with Adobe Photoshop and more. Once we’re all done with this pandemic, and we can once again gather safely, we’ll be offering group training sessions with these Learning Laptops to provide instruction.
Over the past 16 months, the internet has somehow become even more essential to our daily lives than it already was. It has become a necessity for many of our jobs, schooling, and social connections.
Here at the library, these two sets of laptops are our latest attempt to help bridge the digital divide. Because we know that although everyone is struggling to get through this pandemic, not having adequate access to a computer and the internet makes that struggle all the more challenging.
Avi Silberstein is the Children’s Librarian at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. If you’re interested in learning more about library programs and services, sign up for our monthly newsletter on our website or by giving us a call.