Why We Are Still Here

Yesterday I was working with a woman who needed help applying for jobs. Both of the jobs were in housekeeping, and both required an online application. The woman was not at all comfortable navigating the online environment, but the two employers allowed no other avenue for applying.
I spend most of my days doing one thing and another involving online technology, whether it’s entering book records into an online catalog, posting library events on social media, or dealing with the library’s business via e-mail. We got one application filed, but at a certain point in the next one I hit a snag I could not get past. I tried answering the questions on this page several different ways, but I kept getting the message that ‘There are errors on this page.’ It was very frustrating, and in the end the woman I was helping left to call the employer and tell them there seemed to be a problem with their application process.
But the larger point I took away from this experience—and it is certainly not the first time I have observed this—is that we are fast moving towards a digital world that disenfranchises many people. Sure, our kids have long since incorporated most technologies into their daily lives, perhaps too much. And we as adults are mostly comfortable using Websites and e-mail and smartphones. But what about all those people who, because of education, economic status or other factors, simply have not learned about these things? Do we just leave them behind?
Ever since I have worked in libraries (29 years now) I have been hearing that libraries are obsolete and on their way out. This is said mostly by people who don’t know much about libraries, but it still bothers me to hear it repeated from time to time. When I spend an afternoon working with someone like this woman yesterday, it reminds me again of one of the more important reasons we are here, and why we will need to be here for quite a few years to come.

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