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Public libraries bridge society’s digital divide

One of the primary forces driving the Trump uprising is the perception that the political and economic systems are not working equally for working-class Americans. Equality is a self-evident truth listed in the Declaration of Independence.

Politicians only do the bidding of rich donors. Laws and international trade agreements are exporting high-tech and manufacturing jobs overseas, leaving workers with low-paying, no-security service jobs.

All the expensive technology providing internet and information access means little to a working family living below the poverty line, struggling just to put food on the table.

Income inequality is a major cause for the digital divide, a gap between people who have access to information and communication technologies and those who do not.

These hard-working have-nots wonder where is the equal opportunity to access the digital technologies that are not luxuries but necessities to function in daily society. For some, the only place open to them is the public library.

In 2010, a third of Americans age 14 and older used a public library computer or wireless network to access the internet, with 65 percent of those users seeking information on behalf of a friend or family member, Information Today reported. That percentage demonstrates how library computer access indirectly impacts a large number of uncounted library users who might not physically visit libraries.

According to the American Library Association, many federal, state, and local government agencies now rely on public libraries to facilitate citizens’ access to e-government services, such as applying for the federal prescription drug plans, filing taxes and an ever-increasing number of other transactions.

Not for nothing, but the information from the previous two paragraphs were found in a database accessible not from an internet search engine but a public library.

The Portage Lake District Library bridges the digital divide for its cardholders by offering internet access along with a suite of Microsoft document, spreadsheet and presentation software, as well as printing and copying at more than 15 public computer stations, plus Wi-Fi network access.

More than 800 Chassell residents have PLDL library cards, which they will have to forfeit if an August 2 referendum to disconnect Chassell from the PLDL passes. Vote no.

A Daily Mining Gazette editorial