Saturday, July 31, 2010

WIll the Middle Class Become Extinct?

The New York Daily News has an article about the future of the middle class. As a future social worker, it worries me that as more Americans cannot find work, they will fall behind on their bills, lose their valuables, and eventually become impoverished.
The middle class in America may soon have no pulse at all. Although the U.S. once had the biggest, richest middle class ever, fundamental changes in how giant corporations hire workers mean that the rich are not only getting richer, but everyone else is having to scrimp, save and compete with Third World laborers for work, according to The Business Insider as reported on

The United States once had a vibrant middle-class that rivaled other nations. Now, the gap between the rich and poor has widened to such an extent that the middle class is feeling the pinch very hard.
For the first time ever in the history of this country, banks own a greater share of the residential housing network in America than all individual Americans combined...How are former middle-class workers getting by? For the first time in the history of this country, more than 40% of Americans are getting food stamps. And 21% of all children in America are living below the poverty line this year – the highest rate in two decades.

The poverty rate in America will continue to increase unless there are changes in social and economic policies that reverses the damage and promotes social equity.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

ALA: Library computers essential for those trying to get new jobs

In this national economic downturn, more people than ever are utilizing their local public libraries to find employment information and apply for jobs electronically. Poverty and the digital divide are real, yet states are cutting back funding in these crucial areas. Public libraries are at the forefront by providing greater access to information and educating patrons on how to become more informed citizens.

A sampling of findings from the American Library Association study of Public Library Funding and Technology Access reveals the following:

# 99 percent of public libraries offer free access to computers.
# Public computer and Wi-Fi use was up last year for more than 70 percent of all libraries.
# 89 percent of libraries provide technology training, including classes in computer skills, software use and online job-seeking.
# Most libraries offer Internet services ranging from subscription databases (95 percent) to online homework resources (88 percent).
# 66 percent of libraries provide assistance to patrons completing government forms.
# 76 percent of libraries report public use of Internet computers increased in 2009.
# 88 percent of libraries provide access to job databases and other job opportunity resources.
# 15 percent of all libraries report decreased hours of operation and 56 percent report flat or decreased operating budgets in fiscal 2010.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

danah boyd: Information Literacy and Engaged Citizenry

The New America Foundation recently published an article, "Community Media and Information Literacy in the Digital Age," that ties in nicely with community informatics and the importance of information literacy. The digital divide is not only about access to information, but it also includes an interpretation of information:
boyd argued that people need access to multiple interpretations of information and the training required to contextualize. She concluded her talk with a call to action, saying that while information is power, interpretation is even more powerful and government transparency is not enough. The facts do not always speak for themselves, after all.

Therefore, as boyd explains, government transparency is only one part of the equation. Literacy through engagement is often the catalyst that brings private citizens into public life. However, information literacy is still reserved for the privileged few.

I love this quote because it speaks to the heart of why intellectual freedom and democracy are so important today. If we want to reduce the digital divide among underserved populations, we must reach out and educate these communities on how to evaluate their resources. Then, these communities become engaged citizens who can more accurately interpret the world around them. Otherwise, we can only committing information overload.

UPDATE (9/16/2010): Librarian by Day has a similar post on how librarians play a vital role in 21st century literacies.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Francis Perkins and Social Security

The Francis Perkins Center launched a website, Social Security Stories, about the origins and legacy of the Social Security Act of 1935. It provided benefits to retirees, the disabled and the unemployed. She accomplished a lasting legacy in the history of social welfare.

Francis Perkins was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet. She completed her undergraduate work at Mount Holyoke College and graduate work (economics and sociology) at Columbia University. In her work experiences, she visited settlement houses and engaged in progressive causes. She advocated vigorously for better labor conditions In the U.S. Cabinet, she played a key role in drafting landmark New Deal legislation, such as social security, child labor regulation, minimum wage laws, and unemployment insurance. In 1980, the Francis Perkins Building (Department of Labor headquarters) was commemorated in her honor.

Since the 1930s, Social Security has gradually moved toward universal coverage. Changes in Social Security have reflected a balance between promoting equality and efforts to provide adequate protection. This includes underserved populations, such as the disabled and minority groups.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Death of Library Schools?

There is a very interesting discussion on the blog thread, "The Death of Library Schools" by Will Manley. So far, there are 162 posts on the topic.
These are very dark days in the library world. Skilled and experienced librarians are being terminated, unqualified people are now staffing public service desks (where public service desks still exist), and reference services are being surrendered to Google.

If our profession is going to survive, we need strong library schools. If the library schools die, the profession will die. If the profession dies, libraries will die.

What are your feelings on the future of library schools? Is the iSchool movement the future or should traditional library schools stay intact? Should there be more emphasis on vocational training or a liberal arts education?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

LATimes: Op-Ed on U.S. Public Libraries

The Los Angeles Times has an op-ed about the decline of school and public libraries in the United States. The bad economy has forced many school districts and local governments cut back in funding. Librarians and other service-oriented professions are among the first to receive pink-slips and shutdowns. This is sad news when such services are most critical for needy children and families:
The U.S. is beginning an interesting experiment in democracy: We're cutting public library funds, shrinking our public and school libraries, and in some places, shutting them altogether...

Libraries are an essential service in action, as well as an effective leveler of privilege and avenue of reinvention. As budget cuts affect more facilities, children will be the first to suffer.