They threw me a computer but what I really needed was a life preserver

Anthony G. Wilhelm


Libraries and museums have a central role to play in ensuring that all Americans are able to access and use effectively emerging communications tools, such as the Internet. These institutions are key pillars of the public sphere of communications, the realm of civil society independent of government and commercial forces that provides citizens the tools to become full participants in republican self-government. This paper identifies four attributes of the digital divide -- literacy, access, content and training -- and discusses the role of libraries and museums in cultivating each of these capacities. The central thrust of the paper is that there are comprehensive solutions to bridge the divide (in the realization of these four elements) where the technological component is necessary but not sufficient to move the truly disadvantaged into the mainstream of American life.

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