Libraries aim to fill digital gap by obtaining updated technology

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- One in every five adults in America lives in a home with either no computer or no internet connection, that's tens of millions of people according to the Census Bureau.

For many of those people local libraries are filling a huge digital gap.

L.E Phillips Memorial Public Library began getting updated technology like iPads in 2011.

Reference service manager, Renee Ponzio said it was among the first to do so and is hoping to continue by adding even more materials for the community to use for free.

“The library teaches you a lot of up to date technology,” said Aaron Ambrose a frequent visitor at L.E. Phillips.

Ambrose uses the computers at the library to work on his book.

“I can't write because I have arthritis but I get to come in here and practice my writing skills,” he said.

An important tool for the estimated 62 million people in America, or 20 percent of the country's population, who the Census Bureau said have either no computer or no internet connection.

“People still think that all we do is books and we do so much more than that,” Ponzio.

Millions, especially low-income, seniors and those without college degrees are turning to libraries to get connected by using iPads, Overdrive (the state's e-book and e-audio system) and of course, the internet.

“I think it's very important to offer internet especially for those people who don't actually have that type of material at home,” said Ponzio. “There are a lot of people who don't. They just come here and use ours.”

It's not just to surf the web but to apply for jobs, learn about new technology and for students to access study materials.

'If they didn't come to the public library, where they have access to computers, as well as high-speed broadband and the qualified staff to help them on the computer, they would really be at a disadvantage," said Sari Feldmand, American Library Association president.

With the hope of obtaining a 3D printer and mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for check-out within the next few years, L.E. Phillips is setting out to be a place to build new skills to bridge the digital divide.

We really want to provide well rounded information for the community so they can come here and find what they need.

The American Library Association's currently has a new campaign called "Libraries Transform" focuses on the future of libraries.

Chippewa Falls. Altoona, and Fall Creek public libraries are also taking part in the effort.

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