Public Libraries and the Pandemic: Digital Shifts and Disparities to Overcome

New America

Monday, March 22, 2021 - 1:00pm to 2:30pm
Time Zone: 
Virtual Event

A new report from New America, Public Libraries and the Pandemic: Digital Shifts and Disparities to Overcome, explores the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on public libraries and the ways people access information online. The pandemic has exacerbated divides that have long determined who can access resources online and how, making it harder than ever for those who need critical information and library services the most. New America’s report, which includes data from a survey of 2,620 U.S. adults, shows that people are shifting toward the use of online resources at their libraries and feel positively about them. Yet it also shows that others are unaware of, or are experiencing challenges in using, those materials. This is particularly true among people of color, people in low-income households, and those who do not have adequate access to the internet at home. Unpack these findings, discuss innovative programs that libraries are developing to address these issues, and highlight policies that support more equitable access.

Speakers include Tracie D. Hall, executive director of the American Libraries Association; Kelvin Watson, director of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District; John Bracken, executive director of the Digital Public Library of America; Paolo Balboa, program manager at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance; Michelle Jeske, director of the Denver Public Library and president of the Public Libraries Association; Jenny Gerami-Markham, assistant director of Catawba County Library System near Charlotte, NC; and the authors of the report: Lisa Guernsey, director of the Teaching, Learning & Tech program at New America; Sabia Prescott, education policy analyst at New America, and Claire Park, program associate at New America’s Open Technology Institute.

Follow the conversation @NewAmericaEd and @OTI and via #LibrariesDigitalShift on Twitter

Agenda (all times listed in Eastern Time):

1:00 PM - Welcome & Opening Remarks

  • Lisa Guernsey, Director of Teaching, Learning & Tech, New America
  • Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

1:05 PM - Findings from the Study

  • Lisa Guernsey, Director of Teaching, Learning & Tech, New America
  • Sabia Prescott, Policy Analyst, Education Policy Program, New America
  • Claire Park, Program Associate, Open Technology Institute, New America

1:20 PM - Panel 1: Responses to the Report

  • John B. Horrigan, Senior Fellow, Technology Policy Institute (moderator)
  • John Bracken, Executive Director, Digital Public Library of America
  • Jean-Claude Brizard, Executive Director, Digital Promise
  • Tracie D. Hall, Executive Director, American Libraries Association
  • Kelvin Watson, Director, Las Vegas-Clark County District Library

1:50 PM - Q&A

1:55 PM - Panel 2: Innovations and Policy Recommendations

  • Linda Poon of Bloomberg CityLab (moderator)
  • Paolo Balboa, Program Manager, National Digital Inclusion Alliance
  • Jenny Gerami-Markham, Assistant Director, Catawba County Public Library, North Carolina
  • Anita Jennings, Acting Director, Newport News Public Library, Virginia
  • Michelle Jeske, President of the Public Libraries Association and Director, Denver Public Library, Colorado

2:20 PM - Q&A

2:27 PM - Upcoming Opportunities

2:30 PM - Conclude