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DIGITAL DIVIDE

IN LIBRARY AND MEASURES TO BRIDGE THE DIVIDE

Sabitri Majhi
Assistant Professor, P.G. Dept of Library and Information Science, Sambalpur University.
sabitriindia@gmail.com

Rasmilata Sahoo
Library Professional Trainee, NIT Rourkela
rashmilatasahoo@gmail.com

Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to show how the digital divide has become a common figure
of speech originating from “information rich and information poor” and “information have and
have nots”. The article aims to focus on concept of Digital Divide, several extent of the digital
divide in library, ways in bridging the digital Divide in library and benefits of bridging the digital
divide in libraries in general and academic libraries in particular.
Keywords: Digital Divide, ICT, Library services, Information literacy
1. Introduction
Information and communication technologies (ICT) in general, and the Internet and the
World Wide Web in particular, have facilitated effortless communication with almost everyone,
and easy access to information located online anywhere in the world. At the same time they have
also widened the gap between the rich and the poor, the ‘have’ and the ‘have not’s. In other
words although new technologies provided many opportunities for us, have also created ‘digital
divide’. This term ‘Digital Divide’, is used to describe the discrepancy between people who have
access to and the resources to use new information and communication tools, such as
the Internet, and people who do not have the resources and access to the technology. The term
also describes the discrepancy between those who have the skills, knowledge and abilities to use
the technologies and those who do not (Webopedia). The digital divide can exist between those
living in rural areas and those living in urban areas, between the educated and uneducated,
between techno savvy people and technology fearing people etc.

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Libraries also suffer with this divide. There are imbalances of access to ICT among libraries
and these imbalances have implications for equitable access to quality information service
delivering in libraries. Digital divide limits the several uses, benefits and advantages that ICT
brings to libraries that are ICT compliant. So there must be some initiatives to bridge this divide
for getting maximum benefits and advantages that ICT brings to libraries.

2. Why Digital Divide?


There are several contributors to the digital divide in society including differences in
income, literacy, infrastructure, etc. In countries where people worry for getting their food, use of
technology and internet access is less concern for them. At some places people those having
income for using those technologies are not getting facilities to access those sophisticated
technologies. Again people having those facilities are also not able to take advantage out of this
because of less or no knowledge and skill in using those technologies. Technological change is
the major contributor to the growth and development of the information society. Day to day our
society is changing and Information communication technology (ICT) is also developing but few
people accept this change and go with ICT but few others are not comfortable with it. There are
some other causes for digital divide like Linguistic diversity, age, disability, gender, geographical
differences etc.

3. Digital Divide in library

The concept of digital divide in libraries refers to the widening imbalances of access to ICTs
in libraries. There is inequitable use and access of ICTs associated with the provision and use of
information services in libraries. These inequitable use and access have created obstacle for
equitable access to quality information service being delivered in libraries. Hence the
phenomenon of ‘Digital divide’ limits the several uses and advantages that ICT brings to
libraries. There are several reasons for this divide in libraries, out of those few major reasons are
listed below.

3.1. Information Literacy


Digital divide is witnessed among library professionals who are working in the digital
environment too. Along with the rapid development of the ICTs the gap is also growing wider as

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the technology in growing faster. Few professionals are growing their capabilities to use the
modern technology, whereas few people fear for this change in the method of library operation
in library. So Libraries could not utilize the full potentialities of their staffs because of lack of
ICT literacy of the staffs. As advanced machines and many advanced featured software are
being developed more capable library professionals are required to use those technologies in
library operations.
3.2. Budget
Shrinking library budget forces the library management to maintain a minimum standard of
services. Library should get appropriate budget to meet the expenditure for ICT connectivity,
library automation, Digitization, staff training, recruiting adequate number of staffs, making user
awareness program me etc.
3.3. Proper connectivity
Poor services for access to ICT, especially the Internet are also one of the main reasons of
digital divide in library. Not only computer should be with library staffs and patrons, high
speed internet connectivity must there for continuous and easy access to information in
library.
3.4. Unskilled library staff and library users
The generation gap is the most important reason in digital divide. Change is the law of
nature. As society is changing to information society, libraries are also changing from traditional
mode of working to modern mode of working with new technologies. But some people have not
accepted it. They feel uncomfortable to use the technology. The skills and knowledge to use
information technology effectively in library are highly essential. Every One (both staff and user)
must have the interest to learn and use the technology. Now huge number of information sources
is being published in electronic form and sophisticated technologies are coming to manage those
information sources in library. Skilled library staff can provide effective and timely service to the
users by using those sophisticated technologies. If staffs are unskilled in using technology, they
can’t provide proper service to the users and can’t meet the changing need of the techno savvy
users. Similarly some unskilled users, without having the knowledge in using the technology
can’t effectively use the information services provided by the library. Hence there is a gap
between those having skill to use computer, internet and online information and those are not
having skill to use.
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4. Impact of Digital Divide on Scholarly Communication
For several years libraries tried to teach users for being self-sufficient in the information
provided by a library to the users. In recent years, that concept has been expanded. The library
professionals must have to gain all the necessary skills required for effective scholarly
communication. So the users can be educated from the librarians regarding effective Scholarly
communication activities. The librarian in an academic/research institution library must ensure
that the scholarly communities are having following necessary skills for effective Scholarly
Communication.
The Scholarly community must possess the ability to understand innovations in information
technology and to make smart decisions about the applications of those technologies to an
individual’s scholarship. They must possess the ability to understand the form, organization,
location and access methods of information resources. The ability to understand and use
information technology tools to carry on research and scholarship. Including these, library must
help the community in following regards.
Help authors to understand variety of Publishing Models
Help authors to know the ways and platforms to communicate results of research
Help authors make their works open access
Help users to use copyrighted materials fairly and legally
Help users to evaluate information resources for their lit reviews
However, very few libraries plan group events related to scholarly communications.
Again librarians can educate the scholarly communities only if they are having appropriate skill
regarding effective Scholarly communication activities. But there is a digital divide among the
libraries and library professionals. In Some cases libraries don’t have infrastructure and in some
other, library staff don’t have appropriate skill and awareness regarding scholarly
communications.
5. Measures in bridging the Digital Divide in Library
One of the common barriers to the use of ICTs in the digital age is associated with
information literacy or digital literacy. Information literacy is the ability to access, evaluate and
use information. Again Digital literacy is the skill to use computers and ICT to access
information. The digital age is involved with huge challenges as new innovations in ICTs are
emerging. Now the traditional methods of processing, storing, retrieving, providing and

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accessing information in libraries are being changed with the modern methods. But there is a gap
that exists between two categories of people working in libraries. Some library professionals are
technically sound and some others fear for the modern methods of processing, storing, retrieving
and delivering information. Again there is a huge gap between the user communities of the
libraries. Some of them are comfortable to access information via ICT and some others are
comfortable with the traditional methods. To acquire the skills for working with ICTs, both
library professionals and users need education and training. This type of education and training
will help them to Understand the purpose why libraries must be automated and digitize their
materials. It also can make the professionals aware about the expected role of information
professionals in the present digital era. The key to successfully building collection in the digital
era is also training of library professional because if they learn for effective use of technology,
the other people will automatically follow their work culture. Again they will also help to bridge
the digital divide by training the information users.
Along with education and training additional strategies required to be followed by all
stakeholders and governments. The strategies are like below:
 Development of connectivity in libraries.
 Providing sufficient budget for Library automation and digitization.
 Making public awareness on the benefits of ICTs.
 Making universal access of information and information sources to users by use of
affordable ICTs.
6. Conclusion
Both patrons and library staffs should make strong effort in building their skill for effectively
using ICTs. If libraries are really keen to provide effective and timely service to the users, they
must work for bridging the digital divide in library. Along with this responsibility of libraries to
bridge the digital divide library staffs and library users, libraries have another responsibility to
bridge the digital divide in society. An example of attempt of library to bridge the digital divide
in society is the development of “online indigenous digital library as part of public library
services” in Durban, South Africa. This project has the potential to narrow the digital divide by
not only giving the people of the Durban area access to this digital resource, but also by
incorporating the community members into the process of creating it (Greyling E. 2010). The
national knowledge commission (2007) has made a recommendation that all academic
institutions must set up an international repository of ETD. So the libraries should make
continuous effort for creation of effective resource sharing network at regional, national and

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international level. So libraries should adopt appropriate infrastructure and other innovative
measures for bridging the digital divide in library as well as in society, otherwise we will be
lagging behind.

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