The Digital Divide or the Digital Connection
First Monday

The Digital Divide or the Digital Connection: A U.S. Perspective by Beverly P. Lynch


The Digital Divide Defined
The Digital Divide Measured
U.S. Reports: Falling Through the Net
The Internet and U.S. Communication Policy
Public Libraries and the Internet
Public Library Connectivity in the U.S.
Measurement and Evaluation of Libraries



The concept of the digital divide grows more complex as the phrase becomes a shorthand for every conceivable disparity relating to online access. The multi-dimensionality of the concept has been framed by Pippa Norris into three distinct aspects:

  • Global divide - divergence of Internet access between industrialized and developing countries;
  • Social divide - gap between information rich and information poor in each nation; and,
  • Democratic divide - difference between those who do and those who do not use the new technologies to further political participation [1].

This paper emphasizes the digital divide in its social aspects in the U.S. and pays particular attention to the role of the library in furthering equity of access to information. So, international concerns which emphasize the differences between industrialized and developing countries will not be considered. The worry internationally is that a widening digital divide between countries could lead to a widening economic divide. In fact, the economic considerations driving the concerns about the digital divide underlie most of the concerns within a country as well as between countries. As economists have observed, however, we are in such early stages of the communications revolution that evidence on the question of the economic impact of differences in connectivity world wide is very inconclusive [2].



The Digital Divide Defined

To understand the growing body of literature on the digital divide one must pay attention to how the concept is used, how has it been defined, and how is it measured. These are important questions, for in the very short time the metaphor has been used, its definition has changed. How it is measured has changed too.

Early in the 1990s we talked about the "information rich" and the "information poor." The "information superhighway" and connecting to it emerged as a theme; it was used by one president of the American Library Association, Betty J. Turock, 1995-96, as the slogan for her presidential programs. The early approach to a definition was that the digital divide separated those who have access to the Internet from those who do not [3]. More recently the definition has been expanded to mean "the gap between those who have access to and can effectively use information technologies (emphasis added) and those who cannot" [4]. The American Library Association now uses the concept to characterize differences in access to information through the Internet and other information technologies and services in the knowledge, skills, and abilities to use information, due to geography, race, economy status, gender and physical ability [5]. Each of these definitions has policy implications and each leads to program possibilities for libraries and schools.

The digital divide has become a powerful metaphor emerging from now nearly obsolete phrases as "information have and have nots" and "information rich and information poor." And we don't hear much talk about the information superhighway anymore either.



The Digital Divide Measured

Measurement of the digital divide began first with a study of households. The household is the traditional standard by which access is defined in the U.S. and elsewhere. Governments around the world use the household as a unit of measure enabling world-wide comparisons as well as in country comparisons. In the U.S. the government has been tracking the universality of the telephones in households for many years. In the period of deregulation and competition in the telecommunications industry following the breakup of AT&T, the U.S. government needed to know what was going on. The U.S. telecommunications policy, a policy of universal service, was that all Americans should have access to affordable telephone service. This interpretation of universal service, linking universality to household telephone penetration, emerged in the 1970s, although the concept of universal service dates to 1907 when Theodore Vail, President of AT&T, used the phrase to mean the interconnection of local telephone companies into a single nationally interconnected system; the provider, of course, would be AT&T [6]. The question in the 1980s was whether the deregulation of the telephone industry and the competition which emerged would change the amount of telephone penetration. Telephone penetration is measured by the percentage of U.S. households that have a telephone on the premises. Clearly we must have data before we have public policy, thus the government began tracking telephone penetration. Some policies on subsidies for the lower income households emerged, for income level emerged as a key factor, not geographic location, as the major determinant as to who had phones and who didn't. By l994 telephone penetration was 93.8 percent. Telephone penetration, which continues to be measured, has remained stable at about 94 percent. (In the most recent survey a slight decline at the upper income levels was observed, the speculation being that wireless phones were making strong inroads. The impact of cell phones and wireless technologies dominates many of our business pages in the daily newspapers; and commentators point to Europe as being in the forefront here. This issue will be closely watched.)



U.S. Reports: Falling Through the Net

In 1994, as it continued to measure telephone penetration, and as efforts to expand the concept of universal service grew, the government realized that telecommunications policy would be influenced by the growing importance of computer and modem availability in households. Without data there could be no policy. So it supplemented the existing database on telephones with a profile of computers and modems. In 1995 the first report, on "Falling Through the Net: A Survey of the "Have Nots" in Rural and Urban America" was issued [7]. Following its earlier formats of gathering data by household, the survey gathered household data on availability of computers and modems and analyzed data by income, race, age, educational attainment, and geographic region (rural, urban, central city). The report provides interesting benchmark data, against which subsequent studies have been compared showing the phenomenal growth in computing availability and Internet access between 1994 and 2001. The report also said:

"Connectively to all such households will not occur instantaneously; rather, there is a pivotal role to be assumed in the new electronic age by the traditional providers of information access for the general public - the public schools and libraries. These and other "community access centers" can provide, as least during an interim period, a means for electronic access to all those who might otherwise have such access. Policy prescriptions that include public "safety nets" would complement the long-term strategy of hooking up all those households who want to be connected to the NII [National Information Infrastructure]" [8].

The second report on Falling Through the Net was issued in 1997 [9]. It showed that telephone penetration remained the same (just under 94 percent) and computer penetration had grown substantially; to 36.6 percent penetration. Personal computer growth by household was up 51.9 percent; modems up 139.1 percent. The report concluded, though, that the digital divide persisted and that a widening gap continued between upper and lower income levels.

By 1999 and the third "Falling Through the Net" Report, PC ownership was at 42.1 percent: (From the first report in 1994: 24.1 percent, the second in 1997: 36.6 percent, the third in 1999: 42.1 percent). The report, though, continued the government's concern:

"Until every home can afford access to information resources, we will need public policies and private initiatives to expand affordable access to those resources. The Clinton Administration is committed to connecting all Americans to the National Information Infrastructure ... Community Access Centers (CACs) - such as schools, libraries, and other public access points - will play an important role" [10].

The report also stated that telephone penetration had stabilized at 94 percent and that there were no differences among groups.

The policy assumptions that were developing after the first report were that rural areas would have less computer penetration than urban areas. Some policy makers were looking to the Rural Electrification programs of the 1930s that brought electricity to America's farm land as a model to use in the computing area. The REA made significant capital investment to run wires and build the electrical infrastructure to rural American, transforming the lives and the livelihoods of many. Similar proposals were being made to subsidize the bringing of broadband to households, making this an underlying policy objective. Those objecting to such policies pointed to fact that wires already were in place - owned by telephone, cable, electricity providers - to bring computing to the house. While upgrades were needed, the massive investment for new lines was not. And, wireless had just begun [11]. The issues regarding broadband access to the home have not gone away, but they have taken a new twist as the private sector gains control of the Internet, and as the private sector seeks more and more control over content and digital rights protection.

The fourth "Falling through the Net" report, published in 2000, brought a new development to the measuring of computer penetration. It recognized the phenomenal growth in availability of computing and information technology goals, identified as a national goal that of raising the level of digital inclusion, and sought, as a new initiative, to measure computer and online access at the individual level. It was recognized that while the measure by household showed extraordinary penetration, many households include people who do not use the Internet. For each household, the interviewers spoke to a person who was at least 15 years old and was considered knowledgeable about everyone in the household. The respondent provided information for the entire household and answered questions for him or herself and for all other members of the household. The report captured differences in age, gender, labor force status among users and non users of computers and also asked how people use the Internet as well as where they use the Internet. Between the third and fourth reports computer ownership soared. By 1999 (the 2000 report uses 1999 data) more than half of all households reported (51.0 percent) having computers [12].

In the six years since the first report the data show rapid increase in the overall level of U.S. digital inclusion and that the inclusion is occurring among most groups regardless of income, education, race or ethnicity, location, age, or gender. Groups that were earlier described as digital "have nots" now were making dramatic gains.

Use of the Internet in 2000 was dominated by e-mail: 79.9 percent of Internet users reported using e-mail. E-mail use of the Internet has been at about the 75 percent of usage since 1972 when the electronic mail application was first introduced to the Internet. Low-income users, not surprising, were the most likely to report using the Internet to look for jobs. And the August 2000 data show that schools, libraries, and other public access points continued to serve those groups that do not have access at home.

The 2002 report continues to document the dramatic growth in use of computing and the Internet [13]. The title of this report, the first one issued in the Bush Administration, is "A Nation Online: How Americans are Expanding Their Use of the Internet". It reflects the change in thinking from the earlier reports which were titled "Falling Through the Net." While some might say this change in title reflects a Republican administration perspective which generally would support the free market approaches to digital inclusion, and thus would want to put a "good spin" on the data, one also could say that it reflects the continuing, dramatic, expansion of computing and Internet access to all segments of American society. Some of the 2002 results:

  • In the U.S. there are currently two million new Internet users per month;
  • More than half the nation is online - about 54 percent of the population were using the Internet and 66 percent of the population were using computers;
  • Children and teenagers use computers and the Internet more than any other age group;
  • Internet use is increasing for people regardless of income, education, age, races, ethnicity, or gender;
  • Between December 1998 and September 2001, Internet use by individuals in the lowest-income households (those earning less than $15,000 per year) increased at a 25 percent annual growth rate. Internet use among individuals in the highest-income households (those earning $75,000 per year or more) increased from a higher base but at a much slower 11 percent annual growth rate;
  • The percent of Internet use among people living in rural households is now almost even with the national average: rural = 53 percent; national average = 54 percent;
  • 45 percent of the population uses e-mail (up from 35 percent in 2000); and,
  • Use of the Internet and computers at work has contributed to high use levels at home (by a margin of about 77 percent to 35 percent).

The report shows that those who have been the least traditional users - people of lower income levels, lower educational levels, and the elderly - are among the fastest adopters. And that the expanding uses of the Internet in schools, at work, and in libraries have played a significant role in this development. Cost is still cited by low-income users as the principle reason for not having computing at home. But the push for policies that would subsidize household penetration has subsided in the face of the extraordinary grown and diffusion of the new technologies.

I should note that the rapid diffusion of the Internet is not unique to the U.S. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported data from February 2001 on individuals using the Internet from any location: Sweden - 58.1 percent; Denmark - 53.6 percent, Netherlands - 53.3 percent, Finland - 51.1 percent, Austria - 47.9 percent, U.S. - 47.1 percent, U.K. - 39.8 percent [14]. This report shows a lower percentage for the U.S. than our government reports do.



The Internet and U.S. Communication Policy

I will only comment here that policy in the U.S. regarding the Internet is that the private sector, not the public sector, will dominate the building, the ownership and the operation of the Internet. There has been little if any public debate on this issue, unlike the efforts in the 1930s to reform radio broadcasting. The private sector won the radio battle, with the public interest and the nonprofit sector in U.S. communications able to work only at the margins. The nonprofit sector has pioneered new technologies only when they were seen as not yet profitable [15]. The Internet has shown its profitability and in the mid-1990s it was privatized without any public debate at all. The National Science Foundation decided the network was a mature technology that needed no further public subsidy when it could be funded by the private sector. This isn't an administration, i.e. Republican or Democratic position. It has been an agreed upon public policy through many different governments.

Policy issues regarding private sector or public sector domination are important to us and some thoughtful people are discussing the impact the new technology has on the future of democracy and the participation in the democratic process by citizens. The approach one takes depends on whether you see Internet access as an essential public good, as an essential component to full participation in the democratic process, or whether you see it as just another appliance like a TV set, that is, as Internet access being just one more consumer decision [16]. This remains an important issue for those of us working in the public sector.



Public Libraries and the Internet

The shift in the data collection on the surveys done by the government to include questions about individuals and their Internet use has great value for libraries as we strive to build successful library programming in the new digital environment. Libraries do not design programs for households; they design programs for individual users. Thus the data are important, as is the agreed upon policy stated in several of the reports, that libraries and schools will play and important role in connecting Americans.

The Gates Foundation developed its U.S. Library Program to work in partnership with public libraries to provide access to computers, the Internet and digital information for patrons in low-income communities. Through its program the Gates Foundation has provided computers to many public libraries as well as technical training for library staff on how to teach computer classes on e-mail, Internet searching and Microsoft Word. Training also is provided in on-going technical assistance. The U.S. government also has responded with the education or e-rate discounts on telecommunications services for schools and libraries. The e-rate was passed by the Congress as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It specifies that, upon request, individual telecommunications carriers must provide service to schools and libraries at "affordable" rates. The Telecommunications Act is a deregulatory act sought by telecommunications carriers, paving the way for the commercialization of the Internet. The e-rate was inserted by Senatorial amendment and is the only new policy related to the Internet which has the public interest as its purpose. Through the support of the Gates Foundation and the development of the government's policy of "affordable" rates, one can find now in most public libraries in the U.S. computers and Internet access. Who is using these computers and for what purposes are among the questions of interest.

Our first investigation, as part of an ongoing study of the use made of computers in public libraries, was conducted in the central library in one community in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The community is described as a two-way multiracial city which means there are two population groups that each account for at least 30 percent of the city's total population [17]. In this case, of the 112,000 residents, 47 percent are Black; 46 percent Hispanic, 4 percent White, 2 percent Asian Pacific Islander. The median household income (1998/99 data) is $32,982; about 26 percent of the population has some public assistance. Only 7.2 percent of the population is over 60 years of age; about 24 percent is under 24. In 1998/99, the unemployment rate was reported to be 9.8 percent, about 4 percent higher than the national average.

Library patrons who came to the library to use the public access computers on the second floor adjacent to the Reference Department or who came seeking help from the librarians in the Reference Department during the hours of 10 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in each of two weeks, were approached and asked to participate in a survey of computer use in the library. (The Children's Library is located on the first floor of the library; it contains computers and its own reference department. The users of the Children's Library did not participate in the study, nor did people seeking audio visual materials, Spanish Language Materials or the Circulation Department; all of these service areas are on the first floor.) Those who agreed to participate were given the questionnaire, asked to complete it and return it at their convenience, preferably before they left the library. One hundred and fifty questionnaires were distributed; 128 were returned; for a response rate of 85 percent. We were gratified by the response. Participants were eager to help us and to tell us of their experiences. I should note that our respondent group did not match the profile of the city. Fifty-nine percent of our respondents were Black; 28 percent Hispanic; 5 percent white. We can only speculate as to the lower Hispanic use; we did not investigate that. The library's public access computers include two Spanish language computers, but these are not used much, only when there are no other terminals available. It may be that patrons seeking Spanish language materials, located on the first floor of the library, do not venture to the second floor where public access terminals, including Spanish language terminals, are, but we don't know and did not examine this question. The question which emerges is "What content is being sought in the Spanish language and what content is available?" These are questions for future investigation.

We were interested in the experience the respondents had in using computers; what kinds of information they were seeking in their computer use; whether they used computers at any other locations, e.g. home, school, work; whether they had received any formal training in computer use, particularly Internet use; whether they had considered buying a computer and why or why not.

These questions have emerged in other investigations as being important to the policy issues rising out of the debates on the digital divide and they continue to be central to policy makers in libraries as planning continues on the initiatives relating to information technology and the role of the public sector.

Public Library Student - Student Responses

Sixty-eight of the respondents were students and all of them came to the library to use the computers. They also checked out books and used various library materials, and studied, but computer use was their major purpose. Thirteen of these students were new users of computers (less than six months); the rest (N=55) had been computer users for over a year and were very confident users.

As might be expected of the students, 54 of the 68 were in the library working on school related projects, and 43 reported they also were doing word processing, presumably - although we did not ask this - related to school projects. While 54 indicated that school related projects were their purpose, e-mail also was an important use. Thirty-seven of the 68 reported e-mail use as being an activity.

We asked, "If there were no public computers available in the library, where would you go to use computers?" Sixty-one of the 68 students reported they would go to a school (presumable the one they were attending). The impact of school use on users of public library computers is great, reflecting national reports that show the use of computers in school as being a great influence on the growing use of computing among the young. In addition, 59 of the students responded they would go to "my house" (N= 36) or "a relative's house" (N=23) if there were no computing available in the library. This response posed problems for us, which I will comment on later.

This multi-racial community, which is not affluent, reflects the national picture in the growing use of computing among the young. Only one student indicated that he/she would go without a computer were there not a public library computer available - a remarkable illustration of the impact of computing. Fifteen of the students indicated they owned a computer, a much lower number than the 36 who said they would "go to my house" if there were no computing available.

Public Library Study - Adult, Non-student Responses

Of the sixty adult, non-student, respondents, all come to the library to use computers as well as to do other activities, e.g., checking out books. Twelve were new computer users; the rest indicated they have been using computers for over a year and were very comfortable doing so. E-mail emerged as the most popular activity (N=42 respondents), followed by searching for job information (N=33). Twenty-eight, all but two being women, indicated they were working on school related projects. These women were not enrolled in school themselves; they were helping their children with homework. Anecdotal evidence from librarians in the library indicates this behavior is a common phenomenon.

The respondents is our study fall below the national average in household penetration. Of the 128 respondents, 33 (26 percent) reported owning a computer, less that the more than 50 percent of household penetration reported in the 1999 study. The lower level of household access did not inhibit computer use at other locations. As the early government policies stated, the public library is providing a place for people to use computers and access the Internet.



Public Library Connectivity in the U.S.

There are more than 16,000 public libraries in the U.S., serving a population of 264 million people. In 1994, only one in ten library systems provided Internet access. In 2000, 95 percent of all library locations did. As to the earlier concern that rural areas would be less connected than urban areas, the data collected in 2000 show that 93 percent of public library outlets in rural areas are connected [18].

So we have evidence that the early definition of the digital divide, which is the difference between the "haves" and the "have nots", should be refined. In the U.S. the Internet is being diffused widely into American society. Of course some people will never use the Internet and others won't be able to afford it at home. But the rate of diffusion surpasses anything we have seen among communication technologies. It is astonishing. Internet access is available to people at home, at work, at school, and at the library.

We also are beginning to see more sophisticated investigations on the use of the Internet [19]. And some investigators are beginning to talk about a "second-level digital divide", exploring differences in Internet users' online skills [20]. Each of these approaches has implications for library programming. We know that there is a great variation in the abilities of Internet users to locate content online. We now offer people a network-connected machine in our libraries, but we don't give much help in how they can take advantage of all that the Web offers. Our patrons may have technical access but many still lack the knowledge needed to get to the accurate and complete information they seek.

Instruction in use of the Internet and in the development of computing skills was recognized early by the Gates Foundation which paid for staff training on the computers the Foundation was making available to local public libraries. Most public libraries offer some training sessions for patrons. The library in our study offers six introductory courses: A basic Introduction to Computers, an Introduction to the Internet, a session on Using E-mail, Word Processing Basics which is a basic introduction to Microsoft Word, and an Introduction to the Library's Online Resources beginning with the Library's Web-based catalog. Some libraries offer much more instruction than this, but in general, this represents the instructional program of most. We are just beginning to develop staff who are at ease in front of a class and at ease with teaching Internet access. Most public libraries are not yet hiring new staff to do the instructional services; they have only been able to add instructional duties onto regular staff jobs. As information technology becomes more central to the work of the library and instruction becomes more common as a central job responsibility, there will be a major shift in the duties and job tasks as well as a shift in the knowledge, skills, and abilities we will seek in staff. This shift will not come as fast as we would like simply because the Internet diffusion is so fast and jobs and libraries are not use to, nor are they able to, respond as fast as users will demand.

But, we cannot wait and we must begin our planning. We see the young users already at computers in our libraries. Although still new as users in many cases, they have requirements regarding use we cannot ignore. James Rettig, in a thoughtful piece on reference service in academic libraries has identified these as:

"Immediacy ... our students expect to be able to receive service anytime of day or night, any and every day of the week. They expect service to respond to them as quickly as their logged-on IM buddies respond, even though, as we know, an online reference transaction, including, of course, the reference interview, is inherently more complex than exchanges consisting of ... spoken language.

Interactivity. Follow-up responses after the initial response are expected to be equally swift.

Personalization. This means that students expect to receive information packaged just for them.

Mobility. [This] is a value that will increase ... As ubiquitous wireless computing becomes as commonplace as wireless telephone, the mobility value will gain in importance."

Rettig goes on to say,

"These values implicitly undermine good reference service which, even when delivered in a short time, is far more deliberative than one-line volleys of contraction-packed instant messages. Our audience is clueless about just how complex the process is, how complex the universe of information available to them is, and how important a critical approach to information is. Nevertheless, we must recognize that the slogan of the Kash 'n Karry grocery chain, "Fresh, Fast & Friendly," sums up key expectations students have of any service" [21].

Some of the thoughtful discussion on the impact the electronic information technology has on libraries is found in the discussions on the future of reference service. National trends in the U.S. show a decline in reference questions asked in academic libraries. (Data collected from its members by the Association of Research Libraries - comprised of the 125 largest academic libraries in the U.S. - reported 595,185 reference queries in 2000; 902,804 in 1999; 980,009 in 1997.) A recent study by Joseph Janes using survey data reports a decline in academic libraries but an increase in public libraries. Combining types of libraries, Janes reports the largest libraries are reporting a decline in questions; the smallest libraries reporting an increase [22]. The Janes data come from a questionnaire completed by reference librarians in public and academic libraries of various sizes. The librarians were asked about their perceptions of increase or decline, not for actual statistics.

Janes also reports differences in attitudes between public and academic librarians in that the public librarians were more likely to think that technology has made reference more interesting, more fun, very different, cheaper and more effective. Academic librarians reported in more negatives tones, saying technology has made reference more challenging, more difficult, and more time-consuming.

As digital reference grows in importance in our libraries, we will see changes in the services provided by reference departments. An expansion of online reference service, is one example. The matter of whether the reference service will be continue to be primarily place-bound or in a room where a reference librarian works, not face to face with a patron, but computer screen to computer screen will be important. The role played by the library's Web page in offering reference service will be another extension of reference service.



Measurement and Evaluation of Libraries

These developments are likely to influence how we evaluate the reference situation, for online systems enable us to more easily evaluate the accuracy of the question interpretation and the question response. The 55 percent rule which has emerged in evaluation studies of reference services as being the norm, even though it is decried by evaluators and others as being unacceptable, will be readily observable and accountable. (A recent study by Mathew Saxton on nearly 10,000 real reference asked in 12 different public libraries in Southern California, contradicts this 55 percent rule. In Saxton's study, a panel of reference experts determined that librarians, 90 percent of the time, recommended an accurate sources or an accurate strategy in response to users' questions [23]. Reference librarians are beginning to talk about how new reference services will be evaluated; these discussions will include requirements such as the ones mentioned above: immediacy, interactivity, personalization, mobility [24]. And, of course, there will be others. For the moment, though, Janes reports that only nine percent of his respondents reported any kind of systematic user evaluation of the digital reference service.

Just let me comment that a great deal of work has been done in the U.K., Europe, and the U.S. on measurement and evaluation of libraries and their services. Outcomes assessment has been the on-going topic for the last ten years or so without much success. In 1973 Robert Orr posed the seminal questions on the evaluation of library services: "How good is the service?" and "How much good does it do?" [25] These questions will be asked about our services related to electronic access to information and the Internet. And we are at the very early stages of identifying measures that will measure use. At first blush it seems easy, for the vendors have the information, we can just ask them for it. In looking just at measures related to databases, we have difficulties, for each vendor counts in a different way and while we are working on the development of standards on these questions, we are a long way away from agreement.

For example, one measure would be number of database sessions defined as "total count of the number of sessions (logins) initiated to the online databases." These data can be provided by database vendors. But data comparability will vary due to time-outs and other network management protocols. Libraries may also collect this information, depending upon their network design and management. Or another measure: number of database queries/searches defined as the total count of the number of searches conducted in the library's online databases. Subsequent activities by users (e.g., browsing, printing) are not considered as being a part of the search process. These data can be provided by database vendors. The nature of the library's contract, network access, and other telecommunication factors will impact just how much detail a library will get. A library may be able itself to determine total searches, but not determine outline or computer-specific use. These measures are rudimentary measures of library performance in electronic services, but we haven't reached a level of agreement on just how to measure, let alone develop benchmarks, or comparisons.




The diffusion of the computing and Internet access is astonishing. Access is available at home, at work, in school, and in the library. We should be proud of the rate of diffusion in libraries while at the same time embrace - and design and plan for - the change it means for our internal operations, the nature of our jobs, and our missions, goals, and objectives. What role the library will play in the development of quality instructional programs in Internet searching and access remains to be seen. Also the role the public library will play in the development of and inclusion of important local information available through the library's Web site and not just on a flyer posted in the library's lobby is unclear. We certainly have opportunities, and some libraries are exploring those. But I anticipate heated debates on this issue in the context of mission, goals, and objectives, as libraries confront change. These areas offer great opportunities. They also offer challenges. We have already instituted extraordinary change in our libraries and have seen the digital divide, identified less than ten years ago, be reduced so that it is no longer a major policy issue. More change is coming, though, as we anticipate a "second digital divide" and seek ways in our libraries to reduce or eliminate that.

My perspective on librarianship and librarians is that once we have identified the problem, then we can find the solution. Our field is populated by creative, thoughtful, professionals striving to serve the public good. In this, then, I am eagerly looking forward to the next phase of public library development in the wonderful new and fast changing environment in which we work. End of article


About the Author

Beverly P. Lynch is Professor at the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies and and Director of the Senior Fellows Program at UCLA.



I would like to thank Rachel Pergament Delgadillo and Roberto Delgadillo for their assistance in this paper and for their insights on public library patrons and their uses of the Internet in libraries.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Scottish Library Association, 20 May 2002, at Peebles, Scotland.



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22. Joseph Janes. "Digital Reference: Reference Libraries' Experiences and Attitudes," Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, volume 53, number 7 (May 2002), pp. 549-566.

23. John V. Richardson, Jr. "Reference is Better Than We Thought," Library Journal, volume 127, number 7 (15 April 2002) pp. 41-42.

24. Jo Bell Whitlatch. "Evaluating Reference Services in the Electronic Age," Library Trends, volume 50 (Fall 2001) pp. 207-217.

25. R.H. Orr. "Measuring the Goodness of Library Services: A General Framework for Considering Quantitative Measures," Journal of Documentation, volume 29 (September 1973) pp. 315-333.

Editorial history

Paper received 2 July 2002; accepted 19 September 2002.

Contents Index

Copyright ©2002, First Monday

Copyright ©2002, Beverly P. Lynch

The Digital Divide or the Digital Connection: A U.S. Perspective by Beverly P. Lynch
First Monday, volume 7, number 10 (October 2002),

A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.

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