The Invisible Digital Divide In Libraries

The Invisible Digital Divide In Libraries.

“I will get someone else to help you.”

We often think of the digital divide as the difference between those who have access to technology (and the internet by implication) and those who don’t. While this divide does exist and does need to be addressed there is also another digital divide that is less obvious but in my opinion requires just as much attention – the divide between those who participate in digital spaces and those who don’t not because they don’t have access to technology, skills or training but because they (and/or others) believe they don’t need to.

A large number of people working in libraries (maybe even a majority) are being silently left behind without being noticed. They stay away from using “new digital tools, don’t fully understand the digital jargon spoken by their peers, and don’t ask questions as peer pressure makes them think that they are the only ones who are not ‘in the know’.” They can be found at all levels in a library and as a result can have a damaging effect on the quality and consistency of services provided.

They might think they are doing alright without needing to know the nuances of social media, how to create an email account or how to setup an appointment in Microsoft Outlook because they can always refer such questions from a library member to the ‘digital expert’ on staff. And while there is always a time and place to refer to an expert the digital environment is transforming the world we live in. Digital literacy is no longer optional.


There are some fundamental digital literacy competencies that I believe all staff who are paid to work for a library regardless of their position should know:

  • how search engines work
  • privacy and protection tips
  • social bookmarking
  • communicating online
  • content curation
  • digital rights and responsibilities and
  • Creative Commons licences

These are learn-able skills. These are extremely valuable skills for our work in the library profession. These are also very valuable skills to share with our community members.

For all library staff to embrace and enhance their use of digital tools in everything they do, we (as managers, team leaders and peers) must recognise that being digitally literate should not be the “natural privilege of a gifted few, but the right of everybody” in the library. There is no shame in not knowing what a hashtag is or how to make your facebook page private, “but there should be pride in slowly but certainly conquering the peak of digital proficiency”.

This blog post has been adapted from Kim, A. (2015, November 23). Digital learning and the invisible digital divide [Web log message]. Retrieved from


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