library & info science


Philosophy of Librarianship

I still recall that a part of graduating from the education department at my undergrad institution included writing a strong philosophy of education. After all of the education classes, the analysis of education, the observations, the reflections, and my own student teaching, I still felt as though my educational philosophy was evolving and changing, so I was not completely happy with the outcome. True to life, my thoughts and feelings about education have grown as I’ve learned more and observed the ebb and flow of educational trends.

When I was asked to write a Statement of Professional Philosophy for my MLIS Plan B, I again felt shifting ideas brushing into each other as I considered what I should write. I finally decided to distill the three most important aspects of librarianship that I hope I have continually embodied even before obtaining my MLIS and that I hope to continue to embody as I move forward in my career.

Three values have cropped up over and over in my employment history: ensuring access to education, helping those who need assistance, and making information easy to access and understand. My undergraduate work was in English education with a minor in Spanish, and it was at my alma mater that I met Dr. Patricia Newcomer (AKA Doña Patricia) my first library mentor who also happened to be my advanced Spanish professor. When I graduated, Doña Patricia encouraged me to continue on and to obtain a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I, in my less than infinite wisdom, instead chose to go immediately into the working world.

Doña Patricia passed away shortly after I graduated, so I am sad to say that she will never see her hopes for me come to fruition. However, it is clear that she and the other librarians at my college’s library, where I worked for four straight years, have had a profound effect on my mental view of and development into a librarian. Beyond all of the mundane, technical tasks that were completed in that library, the ideals of education and assistance as well as warmth and kindness were taught to me on a daily basis. Being a librarian and an information professional means being open, inviting, giving, and helpful. Why else would a person go into a professional that prides itself on service to all and includes diversity among its chief values and goals for growth?

In the preface of his forthcoming book, Dr. Michael Stephens (2016) wrote the following words, words that have the ring of authority and the air of truth about them:

For me, the heart of librarianship is learning. It’s a cyclical process of support, engagement, and discovery with deep roots in the concepts of service, access, and freedom to pursue interests of all kinds. No matter what type of institution, someone is gaining knowledge, finding information, or creating something new based on our facilitation. And in my opinion, the role of facilitator and guide is best delivered with humanity and heart.

 

Libraries encourage the heart, which means we should lead from the heart, learn from the heart, and play from the heart. It means we are all-in all the time, not just when it’s convenient. It means bucking the status quo to do the right thing at the right moment. It means owning our actions as professionals. It means creating institutions that expand minds and craft futures. (pp. xiii-xiv)

These words of Dr. Stephens show a spirit of openness that librarians need to remain true to the value of service that our professional prides itself on. I am currently working with Dr. Stephens on a special studies section this semester, and viewing his work and his ethic has helped further solidify my own feelings about several important characteristics that I feel an information professional should have.

Curiosity

How anyone could become a librarian without having an indefatigable sense of curiosity and an overwhelming urge to always be learning is incomprehensible to me. From the time I was a young child, I have been curious about how things work and how to help things work better. I am quite lucky that my parents allowed and cultivated this sense of curiosity by allowing me to take things apart, put things together, and read whatever I could get my hands on. Curiosity is one of the essential traits that all information professionals must have and must continue to cultivate throughout their lives.

We information professionals should be seeking curiosity in its many incarnations. Education never stops, and reading is an important part of this ongoing, adult education. Technology is changing at a rapid pace, and emerging technologies are coming along quickly. Asking ourselves questions and being able to find the answers quickly and efficiently will only allow us to learn more and to help others learn as well. If we aren’t curious and aren’t willing to ask questions and to seek the answers, how can we expect our patrons and users to do so?

When I was a Fall 2014 LIBR 203 Peer Mentor, I wrote a blog post titled “Curiosity and the Information Professional.” I still firmly believe everything I wrote in that post, including the following important points:

Dig in! Don’t be afraid! If you can’t figure something out, ask someone who might know or even Google it. As future information professionals, curiosity is our calling and finding out new and helpful information is our trademark.

 

Remember, curiosity didn’t really kill the cat. And even though what he was curious about just might have (it was probably a venomous snake or something), technology doesn’t have that power and won’t strike, so go ahead and seek more information and gather more data. Curiosity is knowledge-seeking, which isn’t such a bad trait in a librarian. (para. 11-12)

In fact, I would argue that it’s not just a good trait for information professionals: it’s essential.

Inclusivity

Diversity and inclusivity go hand in hand throughout the world, whether you are a library professional or not. That said, librarians are on the front lines of ensuring access to all, no matter a person’s socioeconomic status, race, religion, gender, and so on. Education and information are extremely important to ensure the growth of our profession and to help each person with her/his own personal educational goals.

I am disappointed to live in a country that does not prize learning a second language from childhood, because I feel that this is an important part of helping others feel included. I myself began learning Spanish in high school, minored in it for my undergraduate degree, and took the Advanced Spanish for Librarians course while at SJSU to help refresh my skills and to learn the library-specific language and jargon that I may need in a professional capacity. Although it is not possible to learn every language that we may find ourselves needing, learning even one additional language means that we can reach and help more people. In such a global society, it becomes even more important to open ourselves up to new experiences, different cultures, and differing ideas. F. Scott Fitzgerald (2005) once wrote (oddly enough, in the same essay in which he would also later describe some of his own prejudices) the following:

[L]et me make a general observation – the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. (p. 139)

This seems to be a great description of what librarians should strive to do: maintain as many ideas, opposed or similar, as possible to help all who come seeking assistance without regard to any supposed differences. We are not called to believe all of the ideas or to hold any specific, but we are called to move beyond the mere idea of tolerance to a far greater respect and empathy for our fellow human being—to becoming advocates for the unheard and voiceless in our communities.

Empathy

Empathy requires each of us to gain the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to move beyond our own feelings to hopefully better gauge what someone else is possibly feeling and thinking. Dialogue with others and self-reflection are key first steps on the road to empathy. “It has been shown that empathy plays a clear role in facilitating more effective communication between library staff and users, whether or not English is their first language” (Birdi, Wilson, & Tso, 2009, p. 87).

What do our patrons need and want from us? What are the needs of our surrounding community, and how can we fulfill those needs to the best of our ability? This can and will differ in each community: it will depend greatly on the makeup of your surrounding community and the needs of the people who use our facilities and services. I believe that this is a circle of knowledge that needs to be consistently monitored to ensure that the library is offering services that the community needs in order to fulfill and help plug any holes in community services that can be provided by the library.

Librarians are, without a doubt, ensconced within a helping profession. Altruism and a desire to meet people where they are coming from are essential requirements for a truly empathetic nature, so keeping current with social justice issues along with a knowledge of local community needs and issues is required to ensure our ability to meet those needs and to address those issues in our own communities.

References

Birdi, B., Wilson, K., & Tso, H.M (2009) The nature and role of empathy in public librarianship. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 41(2), pp. 81-89. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0961000609102827

Fitzgerald, F. S. (2005). My lost city: Personal essays, 1920-1940. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship: Attentive, positive, and purposeful change. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.


Community Canaries: The Public Library

Over the past week, I finished my statements and supporting evidence for Competencies A, B, and C for my MLIS Plan B (ePortfolio). In my mind Competencies A and C are inexorably linked, because two of the core tenets of information professionals are the freedom of information and the right of access to all. I cannot imagine how one could be a close-minded information professional any more than I could believe a puny, 50-pound wrestler taking down The Hulk.

I keep thinking about why I am so drawn to information science, and I know part of it is the atmosphere I’ve always felt at libraries. Even though I don’t see myself working in a typical library environment (why, hello there, Competency B!), I still enjoy the open, welcome feeling that permeates most libraries. Libraries should be and often are public centers and community gathering spaces. The health of a library in a given community can be a signal to the outside world, a beacon of the health of the community itself. Duluthians know what I’m talking about: many of us rallied to support our libraries several years ago when hours and services were being cut in the face of city budget issues. We aren’t a complacent city these days, content to let the city run to ruin around us. No, we want vibrancy and growth, so we focus on these factors and keep pushing forward.

People Think Closing the Local Public Library Would Hurt Communities _ Pew Resea

I am a first-generation college graduate, from both sides of my family. I will also be the first on both sides to obtain a master’s degree. Books and libraries have been a major component of learning to make my way in an unfamiliar world. I know I can usually find information on something I don’t understand or a topic I want to know more about if I only research the subject. This Atlantic article about San Bernardino’s library hit home for me, because my research into the digital divide, particularly based on socioeconomic status, reaffirms what it says:

(I also visited the Norman F. Feldheym Central Library in downtown San Bernardino. I have found during our travels that libraries, as public institutions that serve the people, always offer a sense of the needs and wants of a town.
. . .
The library copes by grabbing a strong lifeline braided together by generous funders, creative grant-seeking, and an army of dedicated volunteers.
. . .
I realized that I was in an American city populated by all kinds of people, and that the public library is an American institution that is truly “Open to All,” as the promise engraved above the main door of the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Ohio reads.  (via)

And it’s not about the books, but the services. Libraries offer more than the ability to check out a few books. Where else can you go to freely use computers and obtain broadband access? The conclusion of the study found here shows that libraries are often more important to a community than most people realize:

Public access computers in libraries are frequently used by patrons who rely on them most to search for jobs and to access government services online. This underscores the continued relevance of libraries in the digital age. By providing public access computers, public libraries act as a conduit in strengthening the community by meeting the information needs of their residents such as connecting under-privileged residents to online applications, learning opportunities and potential employment. Our findings indicate that public computing facilities are indeed helping to meet the needs of marginalized citizens and the BTOP-funded improvements of these facilities are likely to help narrow the digital divides among demographic groups in this respect. An examination of psychological barriers to the usage of library computers addresses secondary digital divides related to effective use of public computers once basic access is provided. From the findings, creating opportunities to cultivate a habit of using the public access computers, improving attitudes and developing a stronger sense of self-efficacy will encourage library patrons to put the computers to better use in their lives. Notably, flexibility in scheduling depending on need rather than short, fixed time appointments that assure wide access but may frustrate mastery of important tasks should be considered.
(DeMaagd, K., Chew, H. E., Huang, G., Khan, M. L., Sreenivasan, A., LaRose, R. (2013). The use of public computing facilities by library patrons: demography, motivations, and barriers. Government Information Quarterly, 30, 110-118. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.giq.2012.07.009)

The digital divide has been defined in two major ways over the years: access to technology and knowledge of and ability to use technology. Public libraries and expanding access to broadband services have helped create more access to technology and services; however, we have not yet reached the end of the primary digital divide (access to technology). The secondary digital divide (use of technology) is becoming more disparate as separate entities put policies in place that have overly broad consequences to all users and as users show that there are bigger differences in how various demographics use and access online services. This will only become a more pressing issue as more services move toward online-only or online-preferred access. Health service providers and government offices are two of the most concerning, as the divide will only increase as “one size fits all” policy-making becomes de rigueur instead of allowing for separate policies for more narrowly defined groups (e.g., by location or demographic).

Who can we look to for help to overcome these divides? Librarians and public libraries, of course. Communities need to be willing to fight for their libraries to ensure that all community members have the ability to learn and grow. Libraries can be the canary in the coal mine for a community, so if your library is threatened, it is probably a sign that your community is also in dire need of support and community building.


Cataloging for fun and organization

#603 - Minimalism with an Exception by Angela Melick at Wasted Talent. Check out the full, four-panel comic by clicking on the image. Angela Melick rocks! She is the one who created my avatar.

#603 – Minimalism with an Exception by Angela Melick at Wasted Talent.
Check out the full, four-panel comic by clicking on the image.
Angela Melick rocks! She is the one who created my avatar.

For the past few years, I’ve gone back and forth about what to do with my home library. Neal and I are both addicted to books, so we have rather a lot of books all over our house. A few years ago, I was thinking about cataloging and how to best go about keeping a record of what we have and anything we might want to remember about our library of books. I discovered LibraryThing and was tempted several times over the years, but didn’t take the leap. (We would have to do a membership to catalog all of our books.)

Well, sometimes it’s the little things that make you pull the trigger, and this article jump started my desire to get going on our library again. In the past, I’ve created my own databases for music and books, but I give up part of the way through cataloging, because I have to hand enter everything in. I’ve researched a bunch of scanners in the past, but I kept stopping myself from buying one due to just wanting to save the money. After all, I can hand enter the ISBN for several hundred books, right? How hard could it be?

Okay, so yeah, I read the article and decided enough was enough. I wasn’t going to procrastinate any longer. Well, I wasn’t going to procrastinate on preparing to catalog my books any longer. (I am pretty sure I was procrastinating on finishing up the build on my website for my Plan B, however.) I went to LibraryThing and purchased the CueCat scanner to get started. A few days later, it showed up and I set to work scanning all of the books right in front of me. (For those who don’t know me, that means the books on my end table and on the TV stand, which came to about 50 books. For those that do know me, no, that doesn’t mean I started on the many bookcases in our living room yet.)

So far, so good. Even most of our obscure books have been found, so I think I’ve only hand-keyed two books into the system. (Older books that don’t have ISBN bar codes on them.) I know I will find more as we go along, but it has been fun so far. Child-me was pretty excited to use a scanner again. In fact, I’m pretty sure that using a scanner will never get old: I loved checking out books at the library where I worked in college and I still love using the self-checkout at the library and the grocery store.

This is pretty addictive. I need to keep going on my job and semester work, so I just have to remember that this is a project I can take my time with (even if I want to jump in and catalog my entire library in one day).


Yeah, access isn’t a problem…

Many of you already know about my passion for bridging the so-called digital divide that separates communities of people from access. The areas that I am personally most interested in are low income and rural areas of the United States, which are often the most under-served communities in term of broadband access. A lot of you have heard the stories about how my parents only had access to dial-up until the past few years, but you might be surprised to learn that they still don’t have access to true broadband services. In January 15, the FCC increased the benchmark for what could truly be considered broadband service from 4Mbps/1Mbps (i.e., 4 download/1 upload) to a speed of 25Mbps/3Mbps. “The 4 Mbps/1 Mbps standard set in 2010 is dated and inadequate for evaluating whether advanced broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way, the FCC found.”

The 4 Mbps/1 Mbps standard set in 2010 is dated and inadequate for evaluating whether advanced broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way, the FCC found.

Using this updated service benchmark, the 2015 report finds that 55 million Americans – 17 percent of the population – lack access to advanced broadband. Moreover, a significant digital divide remains between urban and rural America: Over half of all rural Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service.

The divide is still greater on Tribal lands and in U.S. territories, where nearly 2/3 of residents lack access to today’s speeds. And 35 percent of schools across the nation still lack access to fiber networks capable of delivering the advanced broadband required to support today’s digital-learning tools. (source; also attached at bottom of this post)

That’s a huge difference for rural folks, those living in territories or Tribal lands, and schools, people. Yet broadband providers are arguing that the old rules were fast enough, even as internet access needs get faster and faster. (Have you tried to access anything on the internet from dial-up lately? Believe me, it’s worse than you remember it being in the late 90s…)

FCC's Fixed Broadband Deployment Map, showing deployment of the updated standard as of January 2015.

FCC’s Fixed Broadband Deployment Map, showing deployment of the updated standard as of January 2015.

Pick an area you know well and zoom in on that map above. (If you click it, it will go directly to the FCC’s original image, where you can zoom in more.) I chose Illinois, of course.

When you know an area well, you can usually determine why the broadband follows the routes it takes. I can see Quincy, Illinois, on there. (That orange-ish belly button.) Here, I’ll help you a little bit:

Illinois broadband service (zoomed in)

Illinois broadband service (zoomed in)

Illinois roads (via Google Maps)

Illinois roads (via Google Maps)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly the areas with access are the more settled areas: Chicago, greater St. Louis, I-55 (travels from Chicago to St. Louis), Springfield (capital city), Champaign-Urbana metro area (home of the University of Illinois), and so on. While this made more sense 10 years ago, we’re long past the time that broadband services have gone from being a nice way to browse the internet without lag to being an educational necessity.

Today’s news that the FCC’s Connect America Fund will be partnering with broadband providers to expand service is welcome, but it’s not enough. Seven million people in 45 states and 1 territory hardly makes a dent in the 55 million across the United States without access.

Did you know?

  • The FCC provides a yearly broadband report on their findings based on speed tests and other information. Here’s the 2015 Broadband Progress Report site, where you can also find a link to past reports. (I download these every year to keep track of where we are.)
  • If you want to see the state of broadband service in your area, check out the National Broadband Map. Don’t see your provider? Let the FCC know, and they will take it into account for the next cycle.
  • If you’re interested in helping the government learn about speeds offered by different providers and how that stacks up against actual speeds consumers receive, you might want to sign up to participate in SamKnows.
  • The FCC measures both fixed and mobile broadband. Want to know more about their methodology? Check it out here.

Document attachment: doc-331760a1_broadband_speed_reclassification


Curiosity and the Information Professional

I just posted this on my LIBR 203 Peer Mentor blog, but I thought it was important enough for all people (not just those in the information professions) to cross-post to my personal blog.

One of the most important things I was ever told about technology came when I was in eighth grade and my family was getting our first computer: “Don’t be afraid of it, ever.” Don’t be afraid of your computer or technology or what it can do. Never fear it.

I took this to heart, and even about 20 years later, I still rarely see new technology as something to be feared. Instead, I see it as fun, perhaps as a game to figure out. Maybe I’m lucky because I can easily pick up new things and figure them out quickly, but I still think it goes back to that very first real beginning of starting up that computer, seeing the DOS prompt, and going about my business of figuring out how to navigate my new tool.

Because that’s what technology is and should be: a tool for us to accomplish something. Whether that is fun and games, social interaction, or even actual work, it’s still a tool that we need to interact with to figure out how to make it work for us.

One of the first things I do when I start using a new program (or online tool or, really, anything on my computer) is to visit the preferences to figure out how to configure the tool to work best for my personal tastes. I just realized recently that this isn’t common sense or second nature to most people, so this realization was actually the catalyst for this post. How can we make something work best for us? The first step should always be to find out what it can do in order to figure out how to best set it up for our own benefit. Every well-laid-out program will have preferences to help us customize it in some way to our own tastes and requirements.

First things first! Immediately find the preferences section and set about trying to find out what the program can actually do before using it to see if you want to change any settings. If, as you go along, you decide you don’t like something, you will already know if there is a setting that will allow you to change it to something that is more helpful to you.

Another thing I often do is to find new tools just so I can learn more about them. This gives me a broader range of knowledge about certain types of products in general and has the added benefit of giving me more information about several specific programs within that category. For example, there are so many options available for web browsers, so I make sure to install and use several over time. At home, I currently have installed Internet Explorer (which I rarely use due to some severe deficits on its part), Opera Next, Google Chrome, Chrome Canary (beta version that can be installed side-by-side with Chrome), Firefox, and Waterfox (64-bit, open-source browser based on Firefox, but not an official product of Mozilla). At work I have all of the above except IE and Waterfox, but with the addition of Safari (because I use a Mac at work). All of them are used in fairly regular rotation (with the aforementioned exception of IE) — in part to keep my skills sharp, but mostly so I can be sure I’m regularly using the ones that are most helpful to me. Right now, I’m using Chrome (for school) and Firefox (for personal browsing and at work) most often, although I did just switch everything up from Canary or Opera Next for school, Chrome for work, and Waterfox for personal about a month ago.

This is just one example of doing something to widen my range of knowledge, but it shows a bit of what I’m talking about. Sometimes we need to experience something new just for the sake of finding out if it’s worth switching to or if it’s something that just isn’t right for us (right now — it never hurts to go back to it every so often to see if it has more features that you need at a later date). In addition — and perhaps more importantly — looking at a range of items in a particular category widens my own knowledge. Many items will work very similarly, and when I use more of a type of an item, I begin to see those similarities. I will be able to see what features I like in one that another doesn’t have, but I will also be able to compare and contrast more readily. I don’t like to become entrenched in one thing, be it a brand or a company or even a browser. To me that is part of what an information professional’s natural curiosity should be seeking: more information about a wide variety of productions to be able to help others make their own decisions and come to their own conclusions.

This skill is highly transferable to many types of work. In most of my jobs, I have worked with some type of database. No two jobs have had the same database, and some jobs came with needing to learn and use multiple databases regularly. To me, this isn’t a difficult task, because many things about databases are pretty similar and seem intuitive after I became familiar with my first one. I know this isn’t something that everyone picks up immediately, but I can say that the more you jump in and start to play with the new program at your fingertips, the more you will begin to understand it — and what it can do for you.

It all comes back to this: don’t fear your technology, whether it’s new to you or seemingly old and familiar. Always be willing to learn something new about it and never assume you know everything already. I am always updating my browsers, for example, with new extensions or add-ons to help me use them more efficiently. At work, I’m always excited about database updates on all of the ones I use, because I hope it will have new features to allow me to do my job more effectively. (I actually will be able to use a new learning management system very soon at work, and I couldn’t be more excited about that. After digging into both the student and the teacher side of Canvas here at SJSU’s iSchool as a peer mentor, I can’t wait to compare it to the new LMS I’ll be using at work.)

Dig in! Don’t be afraid! If you can’t figure something out, ask someone who might know or even Google it. As future information professionals, curiosity is our calling and finding out new and helpful information is our trademark.

Remember, curiosity didn’t really kill the cat. And even though what he was curious about just might have (it was probably a venomous snake or something), technology doesn’t have that power and won’t strike, so go ahead and seek more information and gather more data. Curiosity is knowledge-seeking, which isn’t such a bad trait in a librarian.


The information age is here! (Are you sure?)

As you might expect of someone who is working toward becoming a “real” librarian (one with an MLIS, that is), I am very interested in information. Librarians are more than people who check out books to you and catalog those books when they first arrive at the library. We’re expected to be, quite literally, masters of information. (The MLIS stands for Masters of Library and Information Science.) My main focus, in fact, is the information science part, as I am largely interested in the digital archive and information architecture part of the job (i.e., more database, less paper). I not only am interested in how information is collected and disseminated, but I am also interested in information in general.

In one of my previous classes, I became particularly interested in the divide of information between groups of people. This could be a class divide (rich/poor) or a racial divide (people of color/Caucasian) or a country divide (United States/South Africa), but I am interested in the disparity between any and all of these divides. (The technical term for this is “digital divide.”) One of the big questions I quickly came up with myself was, “Even if we digitize what we consider everything, how much are we actually marginalizing the part of the world that relies on oral history or oral storytelling? [These still exist, by the way.] How much history and cultural richness are we actually losing by digitizing so much, but ignoring so much a the same time.” And perhaps the most concerning to me was one evening when I turned to my husband and said, “I just realized that when we speak of digitization of information, we are speaking from a mainly West-centric view, which means we are largely ignoring and losing how many cultures and worlds of stories and histories and mythology by our rushing ahead of a world that still has too many areas that are far, far behind our digital egocentrism. What are we losing that we don’t even know we’ve lost? Will future generations think we’re a more homogenized world than we truly are, because our digital focus is so centralized?” Yes, I mourn for the unmourned, I suppose. (I also am viscerally saddened each time I learn of a language dying with a single person who was the last native speaker of that language. We have then lost something we never quite understand and can never retrieve.)

I was greatly interested in this article (preserved via PDF below), then, that I ran into earlier this week: “5 Myths About the ‘Information Age’.” I was most happy to see numbers three and four listed, because they also readily tie into the digital divide. Anyone who has searched for any bit of information online without finding it can attest to the fact that not everything is online. And, as mentioned above, there are vast swaths of information not found online, because those cultures or communities are not engulfed in a race to digitize their beings. In a society where it seems everyone has a computer in his/her pocket, it might be hard to understand or remember that not every country has the riches of technology that we do.

And number four. Oh, number four! My first big paper in my MLIS program was on my new love: the digital divide. Again, it’s hard to understand that not even everyone in the United States has access to broadband services. And I don’t mean solely because they can’t afford it. Oh, no, not at all! I mean, quite literally, because broadband is not even available where they are. Before I moved up to Duluth, broadband wasn’t remotely possible in the area where I lived, which was the largest city in a three- or four-county area. It was still years after I left that town before anything other than dial-up (yep, “simply” DSL or cable even) was available. In fact, in the small village where I lived the longest while growing up, broadband service only recently became available. (Are you interested in the state of broadband in the United States? Well, so is the government. Here’s the latest report from August 2012, which includes a link to a map showing the latest data about areas with and without broadband. Yes, there really are a lot of areas without it. Surprising, eh?) This is a big reason that I signed us up a few years ago to participate in the FCC/SamKnows program that measures broadband service: existing broadband should be at the speeds stated and there needs to be an expansion of broadband available at higher speeds to rural areas in the United States. We are lagging behind the world in this area (and in high-speed public transportation, but that’s another gripe for another time), and it’s sad how little most people think about this problem, which is to the detriment of rural education and literacy.

While many of us think we’re living in the “information age,” we’re actually in a fairly small bubble of people who have access to vast amounts of (but not remotely all) information at our fingertips. We’re a privileged group, and I think more people need to recognize this fact and push for greater digital literacy and equality.

Edited to add: This is an interesting breakdown of the latest Pew survey of home broadband access from the Librarian in Black. The survey includes smartphone use, although if one reads through digital divide literacy, one notices that there also tends to be a divide of people who only have a smartphone. Most especially, this divide has shown that knowing how to appropriately search and find reliable information is more prevalent among people with devices such as a home computer or a laptop and less among people with only smartphones. And as the Swiss Army Librarian mentions and as I ran into regularly into my digital divide research, there is a small subset of users who choose to not have broadband access of any kind, and those users must also be accounted for.