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David Lee King: Digital inclusion at the library

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Image: Digital inclusion at the library

Digital inclusion was a hot topic in the library world in 2016. Are you familiar with the phrase? Digital Inclusion is simply helping people of all walks of life access the internet and use technology. For starters, anyway.

Image: David Lee KingDavid Lee King

David Lee King is the Digital Services Director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, where he plans, implements, and experiments with emerging technology trends.

He speaks internationally about emerging trends, website management, digital experience, and social media, and has been published in many library-related journals. David is a Library Journal Mover and Shaker.

His newest book is Face2Face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections.

David blogs at

Read David's other articles…

The phrase "digital inclusion" might not be familiar, but the activity is something libraries are very familiar with. Most likely, your library has free public wifi and public computers that customers can use. You might have ebook readers and other technology tools that customers can check out.

I'll bet you even teach some technology-focused classes. Classes that range from taming your mouse (we still teach that), to using the internet and setting up an email account, to setting up Facebook privacy settings or creating a resume and filling out online job applications.

Image: Digital inclusion at the library

Some libraries have been doing some new things in this area. For example, New York Public Library and Chicago Public Library (and many others) have started loaning out mifi devices, which are small Internet routers that allow people to connect to wifi. Anyone ever think that we would one day be able to "check out" the Internet to our patrons?

My library (Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library) has been doing some work in this area, too. This year, my library partnered with a low income housing organization (Topeka Housing Authority) in Topeka, KS and built a computer lab. We have started teaching technology-focused classes there, so people living in that community don't have to drive or catch a bus downtown to take our technology classes.

We also have plans to provide low-cost computers or tablets to residents, and help connect them to low cost wifi solutions through the US government's ConnectHome programme.

Our library director is also tackling digital inclusion at a broader level by working with several community and local government groups focused on community-wide broadband initiatives.

Those are some examples of what's happening in digital inclusion and libraries. Has your library focused on providing Internet connectivity to customers that can't afford it? Do you have classes that help library patrons get better jobs or better their lives in some way? I'll bet so. Let's continue to help all our customers connect to the things they need to succeed.

Here are some articles for further reading on digital inclusion projects: