The FCC Working Group on the Information Needs of Communities delivered its report today on the media landscape in a broadband age. Although the report’s section on libraries contains nothing startling or new to those in the library community, the group does provide among its recommendations a strong endorsement of the “central role” of libraries in “the information life of their communities” which is worth highlighting and is reproduced here in full:
Rather than being rendered obsolete by the Internet, libraries are playing an ever more important role in the information life of their communities. Forty percent of those in poverty say their sole access to the Internet is through the library. Poor children who lack digital skills will stay poor; unemployed adults who cannot access job opportunities will stay unemployed. Insuring that libraries have enough terminals and fast enough speeds becomes a matter of both basic equity and economic necessity.
At a minimum, as government plans broadband deployment and adoption strategies, it should consider the central role of public libraries. Whether helping them to become Wi-Fi hotspots or providing more desktop terminals, a first order of business is to ensure that those who want Internet access should get it.
Local foundations and businesses may play a role, too. To the extent libraries are maxed out because of lack of equipment or technical expertise, technology companies can and should help fill the gap by donating equipment and services. [emphasis in original]