Connect HomeA push to get WiFi into low-income people’s homes is happening right now, from the Obama Administration. Now let’s connect a few dots.

The President has also launched a K-12 e-book initiative with disadvantaged children especially in mind, and let’s hope that it and ConnectHome will dovetail.

Laudably, the American Library Association is encouraging local libraries to reach out in a big way people living in public housing.

Mere wires and e-book-friendly devices, even with books to access, aren’t enough. The kids will need guides and mentors. Librarians and others, in other words!

All this, of course, could fit in well with the cell phone book club concept, given the increasing rates of smartphone ownership even among low-income people.

For inspiration, meanwhile, librarians can turn to Bexar County, Texas, which has just opened the Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech branch in a public housing project. Significantly, a study room is already well booked. What a wonderful reinvention of the role of libraries as study havens! And recognition that the tech by itself isn’t enough.

Let’s not forget these other details. From the start the branch is encouraging public housing residents to bring in their smartphones to learn how to download applications safely.

One hopes that e-book-related apps will be among them—not just the usual commercial software, but also programs such as Moon+ Reader Pro, which will enable people to download public domain and Creative Commons works with which they can build personal libraries.

Kids need keeper books as well as loaner books. And they also need access to software best for their personal needs, not just those of corporations.

At the same time I applaud projects under which libraries are developing their own e-reading applications.

Needless to say, a national digital library endowment could allow a vast expansion of efforts—not just getting the content out there, but helping it be discovered, enjoyed and absorbed. And if we can also think about teaching low-income people to create content, not just consume it, then so much the better.

Related: More information, via Google Cache and InfoDocket. And TeleRead’s past posts about BiblioTech. You might also check out my review of Bexar BiblioTech: The Evolution of the Country’s First All-digital Public Library, by Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff, who conceived the BiblioTech idea.




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