Computer Centers as Library Outposts
We have all heard of libraries that house computer centers. How about neighborhood computer centers that become libraries? The Dayton, Ohio Edgenet and Otterbein computer centers, along with the Ohio Community Computing Center Network, have embarked on an exciting partnership with the Dayton and Montgomery County Public Library and the Library and Community Technology Access Project. Federal Library Services Construction Act funds from the state library of Ohio will be used to hire a full-time librarian to work half-time at each center.
The goals of the project are simple: expand access to technology and training in the Edgemont and Otterbein neighborhoods; enhance library services in these neighborhoods; and provide a model for library and community organization collaboration.
National reports have clearly demonstrated the gap that exists in access to computer technology and telecommunications. Statistics cited in the U.S. Department of Commerce report Falling Through the Net show that information have-nots are disproportionately found in our country's central cities, and that income is a clear indicator as to whether a household has a computer. For example:
7.6% of central city residents with household incomes of less than $10,000 have computers, while almost two-thirds of households earning $75,000 or more annually have computers.
On the basis of race, black households in central cities have the lowest percentage of computers in the home.
This report also identified the "pivotal role to be assumed in the new electronic age by the traditional providers of information access for the general public—public schools, libraries and other community access centers," and the need for these organizations to work together.
Library services to be provided as part of this project include Internet training, training on use of the library's electronic databases and CD-ROMs, and well as providing general information on the library's resources and how to use them. These services will be in addition to the general technology and computer training already being provided at Edgemont and Otterbein.
The neighborhoods targeted for this project, the Edgemont neighborhood on Dayton's near west side, and Twin Towers, the neighborhood around Otterbein United Methodist Church on Dayton's near east side, clearly are at-risk in the area of access to technology, information and training. Neither neighborhood has a library branch within easy walking distance, targeted to that neighborhood. In addition, in the Edgemont neighborhood, which is 97% African-American:
In the Twin Towers neighborhood:
The hoped for result is that residents of the two targeted neighborhoods, Edgemont and Otterbein, will have easy, affordable access to expanded computer technology and telecommunications training. While some training is currently taking place, the partnership between the centers and the library will provide added services.
Another anticipated outcome of this project is that people in the Edgemont and Otterbein neighborhoods will become more familiar with library resources, as well as becoming more likely to take advantage of the resources available at library branches.
Finally, the project will provide a model of "lessons learned" for other library/community organizations around the state, as they seek ways to partner in joint library/community organization technology projects.
For more information, contact either Linda Broadus of the Edgemont Neighborhood Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cary Williams at email@example.com
[Editor's Note: the reader may also find interesting the following report on the impact of the Internet in Pennsylvania public libraries: http://research.umbc.edu/~bertot/OnLinePA.html]
Community Technology Center Review, January 1998