Libraries as Universal Service Providers

Nancy Kranich
In the twentieth century, public libraries deployed a number of creative means such as mobile and outdoor libraries, packhorse rural delivery, literacy training, and reading to the blind to ensure that everyone in their communities was served. Similarly, today's public libraries provide access to the Internet, ensuring equal opportunity and leveling the playing field for all Americans. 2/3 of Americans use a public library at least once every year, either in person, by phone, or by computer.
more » ... se numbers hold for Americans of all groupings and ethnicities. Thanks to the Universal Service provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Gates Foundation, and local, state and federal investments, 99% of public libraries are now wired—many with broadband and wireless services—and offer free public access to the Internet. Libraries are now the number one point of access for the public outside the home, school, and work, leveling the playing field for those left behind in the digital age. But universal service programs need increased funding, better coordination, policy changes, and service improvements if every American is to have the opportunity to participate in the 21st century information society.
doi:10.7282/t3hh6ndf fatcat:bt4v4kztmrgd5kg6qyixvsqpki