Rural users strain city libraries

For a good illustration of the consequences of the digital divide for local governments and Internet users, take a look at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. A recent article describes the strain put on city library systems because of a lack of home access for rural neighbors.

In Black Hawk County, rural users often don't have adequate Internet service at home. They rely on city library systems for a wide array of uses. It's putting pressure on library budgets. County-level support for these libraries has stayed still for nearly two decades even as the cost of running a library rapidly rises.

The stopgap solution, say county and library officials, is to take a little more out of rural property taxes in order to defray costs for the seven city libraries, and help correct the imbalance between what rural and city users are paying.

Ultimately, however, this isn't a problem that can be solved by nudging a few thousand dollars around in already tight local government budgets. As the Internet becomes more essential to education and civic participation, rural residents will need more than their home dial-up connection. City library systems provide a critical gateway for public Internet access, but can't shoulder the burden by themselves.

Solving the problem of rural Internet access will take a national strategy, one that focuses on bringing the infrastructure of high-speed Internet directly to the home.

Rural users strain city libraries (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)
Public Libraries and the Internet 2006
Public Access computing and Internet access in public libraries: The role of public libraries in e-government and emergency situations

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