Saturday, November 06, 2004

Why Ohio Libraries matter

Half of Ohio households do not own computers with Internet access and three out of four Ohio workers don't have access to the Internet at their workplace. For many Ohioans it is only through their public library that they can participate in the information economy. Each day as many as 75,000 citizens use 7800 public computers in Ohio public libraries to access the kinds of information and services that most of us take for granted.

Bridging the Digital Divide

While most Ohioans have ready access to the computers at work, school and at home, many are at a real disadvantage. The number of citizens unable to participate in our increasingly digital economy is concentrated among those in the lower economic brackets. In households earning less than $30,000 per year as many as 80% make a public library their first choice when it comes to accessing the Internet.For many, the public library is their only option.

The need is not just for modern computers and broadband network connections. Those on the wrong side of the digital divide lack the familiarity and training to use computer technology. Completing an online search form or sending one's first email message can be a daunting task for a senior citizen. Public libraries around the state provide the support that young children and older Americans need, whether that need is help in completing a homework assignment or assistance in searching for medical information.

Putting Ohioans to Work

To be competitive in today's employment marketplace, job seekers need to be online. Many employment postings are only listed online and some employers require candidates to complete online application forms. Most employers assume they can contact prospective employees via email. Ohio libraries offer a wide range of modern office software and high quality laser printers. Library computers allow those without computers to compete with other candidates.

For the unemployed or displaced worker, their library gives them the opportunity to contribute to the economic strength of Ohio. Remote and online learning options give workers the opportunity to learn new skills and improve their chance of winning open positions. Without Internet access they risk becoming a burden on the state and other social services.

Enabling Digital Government

Innovative services at all level of government have popped up in recent years. These services are popular with state agencies and the citizens they serve because e-government helps lower costs and allow governments to be more responsive to their citizens. From reporting campaign finances to obtaining licenses and paying taxes, it is through Ohio public libraries that e-government works.

Success in the twenty-first century requires computer skills and access to the Internet. More than ever, Ohio's public libraries play an essential role in assuring that all Ohioans can contribute to the State's economic and social vitality.


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