Libraries bridge the digital divide

Published 3:22 pm Thursday, August 6, 2015

Public libraries are one of those pillars of the community which serves and supports everyone. Whether you are seeking specific information for a project or looking to escape into another world or time, the library has what you need.

The Buckingham County Public Library is part of the Central Virginia Regional Library (CVRL) System along with the Farmville-Prince Edward Library.

The mission of CVRL is to serve as a lifelong learning resource by providing access to information and assisting in its use for personal and community development. The library meets informational needs and assists with educational, civic and cultural activities via resources, classes and programs.

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Activities and services offered in the Buckingham library include a circulating collection of 33,000 items, public access computers, programs for children, fax and copier services, free high-speed wireless Internet access, free meeting space for community groups, reference services, special collections and access to research databases and job/career information.

This is particularly significant for low-income areas such as Buckingham where almost 25 percent of its population is below the poverty level. The digital divide is nowhere more apparent than in communities like ours that have very limited general access to Internet service due to the high cost of both equipment and services.

Many of our citizens simply cannot afford high speed Internet even if it were more readily available. For many of our citizens the library is, and will be, for the foreseeable future their main access to the digital world. That means reliable access to such services as searching job listings, support for distance education students, public information on government services, self-education and self-improvement.

The library occupies an even more essential space and fills a more fundamental need as a portal to knowledge for people who are without access. Knowledge is power, and at the library, knowledge is free. Within its walls, low-income residents have a chance to level the playing field, to apply for jobs, research their medical needs or simply spend some time in a safe and quiet place reading to their children.

The notion that libraries are on the way out to be replaced by smartphones and tablets is unfounded. When library buildings are planned, the facility is designed to meet community needs 20-30 years in the future.  And in the last couple of years, over a dozen new public libraries were or are being built across Virginia by communities with vision and acumen.

Libraries and those who benefit from them are flourishing across Virginia.

The possibility of thoughtful, well informed members of our community working together for the common good is fostered by a solid school system and kept alive and vital throughout the life span by institutions such as our public library.

The physical space which embodies a library is much more than a building filled with books. It is a significant statement we make to ourselves and to those from outside the county who may wish to learn who we are and what we value.

It can and should be a place where members of the community gather for individual and shared learning, for growth, improvement and enjoyment. The library is a place where all are welcome and all have the right to seek information and experiences that will improve their lives. Come check out our library.

Pat Howe is a librarian who has worked in both public and academic libraries and retired from Longwood University as head of technical services. She serves on two library boards and is a longtime resident of Buckingham County. Her email address is