The Intersection of Public Policy and Public Access: Digital Divides, Digital Literacy, Digital Inclusion, and Public Libraries

Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Public libraries, Library advocacy & activism, Access to information, Digital divide, Library rules & regulations, Internet access for library users, Internet in education, Policy sciences, Internet -- Study & teaching


The terms digital divide, digital literacy, and digital inclusion have been widely used in discourse related to the Internet over the past two decades. Even though these terms are rarely defined and their meanings shift with changes in technology, these concepts have driven many Internet-related policy decisions in public libraries. This article examines what has happened in the gap between concepts and policies, as public libraries organize to provide Internet education, access, and assistance. Following an examination of the meanings assigned to these terms and policy efforts based on these concepts, this article examines the roles of public libraries related to the concepts and the ways in which these roles have been shaped by policies that impact access to information that is increasingly embedded within a range of technologies. The article then explores the ways in which policy could better support public libraries in these roles and the ways that these roles can contribute to public library advocacy and a voice in policy making.