Gone are the days in a library where you could hear a pin drop. In the past, there was no talking, no beverages, no food, no candy, and no equipment. Visitors would go in, find books, check them out, take them home, return them to the book drop, and repeat.
Well, not anymore!
A transformation has taken place over the last decade. Libraries have grown their resources and knowledge at an unprecedented pace, and technology has driven this. It wasn't until Suncoast Remake Learning Days
, a 10-day hands-on learning festival, that I found a perfect venue to remind me that technology introduced to young minds early creates endless possibilities for children and their families. Of all places, I found this in Arcadia, Florida, tucked inside the DeSoto County Library
. In addition to traditional library services, I was impressed by its growing offering of digital access and technology for all.
Why is this so unusual?
Through the work and engagement of the Digital Access for All initiative
, we now know that DeSoto County doesn't have any fixed-wired internet service provider. Most residents use satellite or cellular service, and many do this just on their phones.
Arriving at the library, you're surprised by the easily accessible, spacious building and the colorful, inviting mural located in the very heart of Arcadia. As you enter, you first come upon general services, technology, hard copy resources, and well-trained professional librarians eager to help. When you make your way through the stacks to the Children's Wing, the landscape moves toward artful, bright, comfortable, smaller seating, eye-level tech stations, and more smiling, helpful children's librarians.
During Suncoast Remake Learning Days, the library provided six learning sessions for parents with 2–8-year-olds structured in STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math. Laid out for its guests were orbs, tablets, laptops, desktop computers, lasers, construction paper, markers, glue, and chalk. There was also a mindset that encouraged technology-based learning and permission for curious little ones to touch and manipulate the objects.
The children had no fear, no hesitation, just eager little minds soaking up the sights and sounds of technology and proud inquisitive parents right there with them. It was encouraging to see so much interest and involvement from parents. Sixty-four percent of children nationwide are not proficient readers by the end of third grade, and this achievement gap will undermine efforts to end intergenerational poverty if left unchecked. Improving a student's ability to read on grade level by third grade is the most important benchmark for a child's success in school, and this is a tremendously important issue in DeSoto County.
The important reminder that you can access digital technology and literature resources for free at libraries like DeSoto County Library and the recent excitement around children's interest in technology emphasizes that the earlier we reach children, the higher level of percentage we have for their success. When barriers such as the lack of home internet connectivity
(affordable or sustainable), devices
(multiple devices and types in each household), and skills training
(the ability for the individual to properly use technology programs or have access to trained professionals) are removed, the possibilities are endless, lifechanging, and influential.
In DeSoto County, the community is involved in an awakening of sorts. They have come to realize they are at a disadvantage without the type of digital access to technology most of the rest of the region already has. They care deeply about the generational impact this has on their children, families, and community. But one thing is for sure, the very young children and parents I encountered in Arcadia during Suncoast Remake Learning Days aren't waiting for the rest of the community to catch up. They are taking advantage of finding ways to keep their little ones engaged in the latest technology through frequent visits to their local library. Watch the Suncoast Campaign's shout out to DeSoto County Library