Filling Digital Divide by Developing Public Libraries’ Educational and Cultural Services

Document Type : مقالات پژوهشی


Purpose – this paper aims to describe the role of public libraries in bridging the digital divide. The paper firstly reviews the existing literature body in this area and then suggests a number of practical solutions. Digital divide is a concept which appears in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) since 1990 and refers to the existing inequality in accessing to ICT among various social groups of people.

Method – A purposeful sample of 28 public libraries from seven English-speaking countries (The USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa) was selected. Then the researcher carried out a qualitative content analysis of their websites to evaluate their practical ways of addressing this issue and finally he incorporated all of these solutions into a number of practical guidelines.

Findings – Based on the availability of ICT facilities in public libraries and the users’ proficiency of information literacy skills, four level of digital divide can be identified as follow: deep, semi-deep, average, and shallow digital divide. The results show the most important solution to fill out the digital divide is to enhance the educational role of libraries and to improve their information services. Moreover, public libraries can take more actions to address this issue such as: providing their users with more computer facilities and electronic resources, reconstruct their existing hardware and software, revising their policies, providing end users with more advanced facilities to access to the Internet and other electronic resources, launch remote services such as electronic reference desk, running information literacy skills workshops, development new library websites and maintain them updated, and finally having a more mutual and dynamic interaction with formal educational institutions and encourage library users to use more ICT facilities.

Originality and Value – Despite the importance of digital divide and publishing a huge number of papers on this topic in English, there are only a few Persian papers regarding this topic and this paper would be a useful source for Persian readers.