In a generation where social, educational, health and economic opportunities depend on access to the internet, lack of access means lack of opportunity.
Equality of opportunity in the digital age necessitates that all individuals, especially those who are economically disadvantaged, have access to online information along with the skills to navigate the fast-changing technology. Eighty-six percent of the U.S. population has access to the internet compared to 35% of the world population. Unfortunately, people in rural and poor communities are the least likely to have internet access or the skills to use online resources.
Polk County is predominantly rural, with lower-than-average household incomes. In the 2013-2014 school year, more than one in four students—28%—needed and received subsidized lunches. And yes, 21% of households still don’t have internet access.
The challenge we face as a community is how to address this disparity and equalize the educational and workforce playing field.
The challenge we face as a community is how to create a center that provides equal footing for all individuals; a place for all individuals to explore, interact and imagine the possibilities; a place that ensures that all in our community have access to digital tools and resources necessary to learn, advance and adapt to 21st century living.
The challenge we face is how to collaborate with business to create shared spaces for small organizations, groups and individuals to use technology to develop and sustain new ventures. The challenge is how to position ourselves to help build workers and build employment opportunities for this new information age.
The future of the public library and the growth of our community depend on sustainable and continuous innovation. To truly innovate, we must understand how to stay connected, allowing us as individuals, as businesses and as a community to reach our true potential.
The Osceola Library has one of the higher circulations in the 50-library service cooperative of which it is a part, yet it is stretched as a facility.
We have a unique opportunity to transform our library, community center and village hall and create a discovery center for all; to embrace an expanded role as an online information center; to serve as an innovation hub helping engage people.