Library Closures, Limited Hours Will Affect Louisville Workers, Employers

The following opinion piece was first published in Louisville Business First in June 2019

Tom Ferree, Chairman & CEO, Connected Nation

Louisville, KY – Thanks to budget cuts all but four Louisville libraries will be closed or have reduced hours. The decision is, in effect, creating “digital deserts” across the city—negatively impacting children, senior citizens, and low-income adults.

For many in our community the library is the ONLY access they have to the Internet. Think about that for a second: try to apply for a job without it, access government services, or help your child with homework.

But the lack of access does not just affect the individual or families—it negatively affects local business. According to a report from the World Economic Forum, businesses are facing the “challenge of building a digital-ready workforce” and have a clear talent gap in “technological skills vital to digital strategy.”

It’s not just one or two industries that are impacted. According to a study done by the same group—73% of employers report a digital skills shortage and 65% of today’s children will work in new job types that don’t even exist.

What this means is we MUST provide internet access to as many Louisville residents – both adults and children –as possible. Closing or limiting hours at local libraries is a terrible option for employers and potential employees. It’s a vital link to digital training and job access for adults and gives kids a chance to develop critical digital skills they’ll need to meet the demands of a changing workforce.

Connected Nation (CN) has long recognized the importance of libraries as digital access points—especially for underserved populations.  We’ve had the pleasure of working alongside groups like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Library Association to improve Internet connections in public libraries across several states. This project was funded because the Gates Foundation understood libraries are the only source of free, public Internet access in most communities.

The Louisville Free Public Library understands this as well. According to the LFPL website, there are computer workstations at every *open* library to advance the “Library’s education mission as a provider of information and life-long learning.”

Our motto is “Everyone belongs in a Connected Nation.” No one should be left out of the opportunities and resources the Internet provides and we MUST develop a digital-ready workforce in our city.  Louisville leaders should reverse this action.

Tom Ferree
Chairman & CEO
Connected Nation

 

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