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Karen Schneider, better known to the world as the Free Range Librarian
(, offered the Berkman blogging conference a
reality check, reminding attendees that you can't discuss these issues
of journalism, blogging and credibility unless you also understand the
digital divide faced by so many people.

"I represent the end of the information transaction," she began. "I've
heard a lot of the beginning of the information transaction... but I
represent the other end." Schnieder told of what it was like working at
a rural library, heavily under-connected to the Internet, with only one
Internet PC in the entire library. "You are talking about asking the
user to do more work, to read up on everybody - how is a user with only
one half-hour session at a library able to do that?"

"Any ethical framework must begin with the needs and interests of the
users they're serving," she said. It needs to be informed by the way
it's transmitted through time and space -- and in the case of a rural
library, perhaps not getting to the end user in the first place.

Responding to Dan Gillmor's earlier comments that the public must be
prepared to do more work to stay well informed as more journalism goes
online, she said, "I come from a world where the user should have to do
a lot less of the work."

In her closing comments, she asked participants to get better acquainted
with yours truly (it almost made me fall out of my seat.) "Your homework
assignment for today is that you would go to Digital Divide Network and
read some of what Andy Carvin has to say, because I think it's a great
reality check to remind us that many people aren't well connected, not
very well educated about the Internet." She also told us to think about
the eighth grade student trying to look up information on the tsunami,
or even better, the librarian trying to help that student, and the many
challenges they faced due to limited Internet access and limited ICT
literacy. "We have a dearth of information ... on how to process all of
this, "she concluded.

Here's a podcast of her remarks.

Andy Carvin
Program Director
EDC Center for Media & Community
acarvin @ edc . org

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