Category Archives: digital divide

Please Give to the Robbins Public Library

Many of you may have heard about the air conditioner being stolen from the William Leonard Public Library in Robbins, IL (note this library doesn’t even have a website but a wordpress created when they were to close a few years ago).  This library proudly serves in one of the most under-resourced communities in Chicagoland.  This community, who just three years ago would have closed if not for a generous donation from an NBA player, plays a vital role in the community.  This week we are experiencing another round of 90+ and even 100 degree days.  This library and its community need an A/C unit.  Please make a donation here.  Every penny counts!!!

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Filed under digital divide, information activist

Chicago Information Deserts

You may have read my post over at Libraries and Transliteracy where I introduce the concept of information deserts.  Well I have been conducting some research on information deserts in Chicago, and I thought I would share some of my initial findings:

Of the 843 census tracts considered, 237 are considered information deserts.  The deserts are home to 776,729 residents.  In other words, about 27% of Chicago’s population lives within an information desert.   The southern part of Chicago has the vast majority of information deserts.

Some racial and ethnic groups are far more likely to live in an information desert.   African-Americans are the most likely to live in an information desert compared to whites or Latinos.   467,373 African-Americans live in an information desert compared to the 72,515 whites.

I still have some more research to do, but the study revealed some interesting findings.  I did not think that so many people lived in such information poverty right here in Chicago.


Filed under digital divide, information activist, information deserts

Information Deserts

The other day I posted a brief snippet of an article that I penned on Information Deserts over at Libraries and Transliteracy.  Well, I ran across this TedXWindycity video on food deserts.  See how it relates:


Filed under digital divide, information deserts

The Internet is Now a Human Right

According to the UN, the Internet is now a human right.  As an observer of issues related to the digital divide and network neutrality, I am overjoyed by this proclamation.

“There should be as little restriction as possible to the flow of information via the Internet, except in a few, very exceptional, and limited circumstances prescribed by international human rights law,” Mr. La Rue stressed. [and librarians agree]

“In recent months, we have seen a growing movement of people around the world who are advocating for change – for justice, equality, accountability of the powerful and better respect for human rights,” Mr. La Rue said while presenting his new report* on the right to freedom of opinion and expression on the Internet to the UN Human Rights Council.

This is true, and yet we know of bloggers who are jailed in certain countries because of what or how they express themselves.  This is a step in the right direction, and hopefully a wake up call for American politicians.


Filed under digital divide, human rights, net neutrality

Ebooks, Publishers and Accessibility

Late last night I decided that I wanted to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Shallows (mock me now).  It was pretty late, so I just figured I would download it to my iPad through my Kindle app or iBooks.  No such luck.  As it turns out, Harry Potter is not available digitally, and yes I did check overdrive too.

This bothers me for a couple of reasons:

1.  What are the publishers waiting for?  eBooks are here to stay.  The technology works, and prevents “theft” of their property, so what’s the hold up?

2. This is also an accessibility issue.  There are people in this country, and internationally, who only have access to books through digital means.  These people are barred from reading.

3. I prefer books like Harry Potter on the iPad, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.


I’m sorry Arthur A. Levine Books, but I will not purchase any of your books now, until you make them available in the medium I want!


Filed under digital divide, eBooks

A Divided City: librarians have become a discretionary purchase

I have blogged about both YOUMedia and Whittier Elementary School, both in Chicago.  YOUMedia is Chicago’s highly successful digital space for teens.  Whittier Elementary School (Chicago Public Schools) was a school where parent’s staged a month long sit-in to restore the schools library.

Well, a recent article explains that the sit-in at Whittier Elementary School was a minor success in regards to the 164 Chicago Public Schools lacking a library.  1 in 4 elementary schools and 51 high schools in Chicago do not have a stand alone professionally staffed library.  The deathblow comes from an expert on urban education who states that librarians have become a discretionary purchase.

So in Chicago, kids likely have no access to a library in their schools, but a lucky few have access to games at YOUMedia?  Don’t get me wrong, I think YOUMedia is great, and will be the future of libraries.  I think Chicago Public Library is a great organization, but I’m just trying to point out the obvious divide here.  How is Chicago so supportive of libraries on one-hand and yet also view libraries as discretionary purchases on the other?

The biggest question for me is how are teens suppose to use the YOUMedia center if they have not had access to libraries in their schools?  More importantly, how are the kids who most need access to libraries going feel about all of this?


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Filed under Chicago, digital divide, information activist

Monopolies and Freedom

This is a bit of a rant.  I am surprised that so few have stood up to the recent monopolies that have been created.  Moreover, the restrictions that come from these companies are horrible.  Much of this thought stems from a recent post over at Googlization of Everything by Siva Vaidhyanathan.  The post was from Tim Wu and originally ran over at Boing Boing.

The alarming issues that I see are the following:

Even though you purchase a mobile device, you are restricted to what carrier you use.  For example, my iPad must use AT&T while my Droid must use Verizon as carriers.  Could you imagine if Honda owners were forced to use Shell, or Gap shoppers were forced to purchase coffee only at Starbucks.  We would never accept that, yet we accept it in terms of mobile access.  Tim Wu argues that this violates ownership rights and the right to freedom of speech.

Net neutrality is another issue.  Carriers, we have really shrunk from a ton to a few ISPs (Aol, Juno, etc… are gone) leaving Comcast and AT&T as the two major ISPs.  On the wireless side we have a few more, but really it’s just Verizon and AT&T based on usage.  The problem with the lack of competition is the ISPs can get away with attempts to censor or restrict freedom.  For example, they have both attempted to block all access to SKYPE or YouTube.  They argue that these sites suck up too much bandwidth.  If you can’t use the internet to communicate with loved ones, or to view some video’s, what the heck good is it?  Net neutrality is of fundamental importance to librarians, who strive for free and open access.

Why do we continue to accept these two attempts at restriction?

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Filed under digital divide, mobile devices, net neutrality