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Dear LM_NETters,


.....Madelynne Johnson.....madelynn@helen.bush.ed

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 27 Jun 94 13:52:13 PDT
To: Multiple recipients of list <nii-teach@wais.com>
Subject: Re: The Poor WIll Always Be With Us

This is a view from an urban perspective!
Forwarded message:
Subj:    Re: The Poor WIll Always Be With Us
Date:    94-06-27 09:08:02 EDT
From:    kgs@panix.com
To:      BBracey

hi there!  thank you!  here it is

The Poor Will Always Be With Us...

I am a librarian in a "poor but proud" city--Newark, New Jersey.

Every day we see poor people in this library.  Some people are
*obviously* poor--their personal appearance speaks for their
situations.  But many, many more people are impoverished in ways
at once only subtly apparent yet highly pernicious: they are poorly
educated, poorly skilled and poorly prepared for the massive
changes in informtion-sharing behavior our world is now

These poor are the children growing up without exposure to
computers--not at school, not at home, not even, for the most
part, in our libraries.  These poor are the adults with such weak
educations and limited information-seeking skills that they
passively accept the quality, quality and media of information we
provide them, regardless of how limited or antiquated our
services. These poor are the people who have never heard of the
"information superhighway," who will not purchase computers with
modems, who have never touched keyboards, who do not know what
the Internet is. Those of you who believe that "everyone" is
aware of the upcoming information revolution do not work with the
reality of poor inner-city lives.

One of the quandaries of the information revolution is that those
who are information-poor are unaware of it, so they are unable to
participate in it.  So far, the information revolution has been
largely waged by highly educated and informed advocates, people
who often have tremendous resources at their disposal.  These
advocates have spoken quite well on behalf of their own needs;
some have attempted to speak to the needs of the information-poor
(as, in essence, I am doing here).  But the information-rich,
however well-meaning, have largely determined and prioritized the
issues of the information revolution according to their own
visions and realities.

So across our nation and the world, we hear of multimedia cable
extended to private homes, but not to housing projects; we read
about public kiosks in wealthy communities, but city schools lack
computers; in academic communities, nearly everyone seems to have
an Internet account, but in the middle of a poor city, there is
not so much as a public-use computer available in the main
library. Information access as a basic public service is broached
only tentatively at the national level.  There is much discussion
of commercializing resources but little discussion about ensuring
access for everyone, even with respect to basic community
information.  Communities with freenets can be lauded for their
efforts in public computing, but the implementation of these
projects invariably assumes a information-rich public proactively
seeking and demanding such services.

Who, then, will speak for the poor?  The problem is (at minimum)
two-fold.  The information have-nots need advocates, guides,
leaders and visionaries to help them understand what it is they
are missing out on, and why it is important.  We who wish to
provide such advocacy, on the other hand, need information from
our disenfranchised communities so we can better understand what
*we* are missing out on, and why it is important--in other words,
to understand what goods and services we need to provide; to
tailor and temper our advocacy with a real-world understanding of
what people need for survival and growth in tomorrow's culture.

Here in Newark, we have several groups attempting to do just
that: to reach out to the disenfranchised, draw them in, and
empower them to shape tomorrow's information revolution.  We have
grass-roots community organizers speaking to small groups around
the city, and Newark Public Library is beginning to reach out to
both city leaders and community organizers to develop a coalition
of information advocates for Newark.  We dream of a network that
will ensure that every Newark resident will have access to
information--and by access we mean not only physical availability
but *awareness of resources* and *resource relevance*--two
stipulations which make our paradigm of access unusual and, in
some ways, extremely progressive.  We can only hope that other
communities join us in repaving the information highway to meet
the needs of not just its present but also its potential

Our efforts demonstrate that unless things change, the
information revolution will only aggravate the inequities
underlying current policies for providing basic services in our
country.  Out of necessity, many of us now assume that the funds
essential to maintaining this network will come from local (city
and county) resources.  (We are hopeful that we are eligible for
a special infusion of funds to help us initiate this project, but
experience teaches city workers that we cannot rely on federal
resources for program maintenance.)  This is not new for
libraries; in our country, the vast majority of funds for public
libraries are provided at the city or county level.  If it is the
de facto funding standard for the new information resources,
however, it bodes poorly for our country's future with respect to
equity in information access.  Jonathon Kozol, in _Savage
Inequalities_, spoke to the inherent unfairness of using local
funds to pay for education; just as we will perpetuate
information poverty if we do not provide people relevant
information in ways they can access it, so too will we perpetuate
poverty in all its forms if we persist in funding national
policies with local taxes.  We must not codify inequality for the
next generation.

The poor will always be with us--and, as working with the poor
has taught me, they *are* us.  The most elaborate networking
scheme, the fastest computers, the most dazzling graphics are all
for naught if they are really a private service for a specially-
privileged population.  It is incumbent on those in public
service, particularly the public information services, and
especially librarians, that we become aggressive participants in
the information revolution--lobbying, writing, organizing, or
whatever else it takes to become equal participants in the desing
of the information superhighway and all it represents--or we, and
those we represent, will be left behind as forgotten casualties
of a silent battle.

Karen G. Schneider, New Jersey kgs@panix.com
These opinions are strictly mine.  I do not speak for my employer
or any other institution or person.

Karen G. Schneider   kgs@panix.com                     *   *   *
"It is better to ask for forgiveness                     *   *
Than permission."                                          *

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To: BBracey@aol.com
Date: Mon, 27 Jun 1994 09:07:30 -0400 (EDT)
In-Reply-To: <9406252003.tn19066@aol.com> from "BBracey@aol.com" at Jun 25,
94 08:03:12 pm
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Subject: Re: The Poor WIll Always Be With Us
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