Information Access in Rural Areas of the United States: the Public Library’s Role in the Digital Divide and the Implications of Differing State Funding Models
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Nadine Kozak, JoyceC Latham, Jessica Moyer, John Bohte
Digital Divide, Digital Literacy, Funding, Internet, Public Libraries, Rural
In the United States, individual states have different means of determining and distributing funding. This influences library service and access to information particularly as it pertains to critical Internet access. Funding and service trends have changed, especially as it relates to public libraries, with some modifications working to their advantage and some to their detriment. Public libraries struggle to meet the needs of their users as more information becomes available online. This is especially true in rural areas that have unique challenges such as a very small tax base and limited budgets, space constraints and dated buildings, limited opportunities for staff education and training, and poor telecommunications infrastructure. Despite these challenges, public libraries need to provide access to e-government and other key information so that their communities can be a part of a democratic society. This has become especially critical in rural areas where the public library may be the only place to access the Internet and communicate with professionals who can assist in the navigation of digital literacy tasks. It is becoming increasingly important to examine funding models and their impact on information access in rural libraries. What is the impact of targeted federal broadband programs in rural public libraries? Is there a funding model that is most effective for rural public libraries? Are librarians opting out of government systems to pursue private assistance with connectivity when available? What is the role of the librarian in digital literacy in rural libraries? These questions were answered by examining five states representing varied funding structures including federal grant support, E-rate, state funding, local funding and library system funding. Surveys and interviews with public library directors and library system staff indicated that federal programs such as E-rate and National Broadband Grant infrastructure funding were making a small impact, but this was not enough to assist librarians with their increasing technology needs. Even more concerning was the diminishing state funding and support to rural public libraries and for library systems that once provided technology support. The objective of this research is to determine best practice for Internet and community anchor institution policy in the U.S., and to advocate for increased public funding that is so critical to public libraries in rural areas.
Thiele, Jennifer Sue, "Information Access in Rural Areas of the United States: the Public Library’s Role in the Digital Divide and the Implications of Differing State Funding Models" (2016). Theses and Dissertations. 1212.