Digital Equity

This initiative is part of the ongoing work of WNYLRC to help build the capacity of libraries and librarians to continue to respond to the information needs of their communities in a digital environment. Information resources critical in addressing needs of individuals and groups in our communities are increasingly only available as online, digital data. Resources necessary to meet the needs of all people for education, health, employment, and many other personal and professional facts of life require them to have:

  • Access to the internet for online information
  • Access to devices to successfully use online information
  • Access to acquiring the skills needed to navigate and use online information

To continue to provide our communities with access to the information they need, library staff themselves will require more training and guidance in how to assist patrons in locating, learning, applying and using online information and, accessing infrastructure for online activities.

Our goal is to develop and implement strategies and models as well as assist members in obtaining support needed for working toward digital equity in the region. As an example, WNYLRC supports training librarians as “Digital Navigators,” or ensuring Digital Navigator programs can be found within libraries where there is an established need. WNYLRC’s Digital Health Information Literacy project, with funding from NNLM, is just one example. WNYLRC's efforts related to training librarians to assist patrons in completing the 2020 Census is another example, and the ARPA-funded Digital Navigator partnership with Mission:Ignite and two local public libraries is yet another.

These projects represent WNYLRC’s ongoing efforts to ensure the skills and resources of the library community are recognized, valued, and utilized by stakeholders who share our goals of addressing gaps in digital literacy specifically, and digital inclusion more broadly, ultimately helping foster a more equitable community.

Information and resources found below can help libraries in addressing and communicating issues of digital equity, including access to open data.

WNYLRC and several of its members are also members of the Western New York Digital Equity Coalition.

The WNYDEC is also a member of the New York State Digital Equity Network.

Check out the WNY Digital Inclusion Toolkit.


In 2011, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) issued a report, “Building Digitally Inclusive Communities,” defining digital inclusion and why it matters. Digital inclusion is generally acknowledged as the ability of people and groups to have equitable access to and be able to use 21st century information communication technologies. In its initial investigations, WNYLRC discovered access to digital content is impacted by adequacy of internet speeds, adequacy of devices available, and adequacy of digital skills and knowledge.  In many cases, these three elements are affected by a person’s socioeconomic standing and by geography. This “digital redlining,” the ability to control how and when content is delivered, isolates certain people in our communities from access to informational resources enjoyed by others and is allowed to persist when government oversight fails and when private enterprise tramples individual rights in the name of profit. Information technology should be a tool for enhancing quality of life for all people, not as a tool for creating inequities in our communities.

The foundational premise of all libraries and library systems is that all people should have equitable access to information, regardless of format or delivery method. The American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights maintains “Freedom of expression is an inalienable human right and the foundation for self-government.  Freedom of expression encompasses the freedom of speech and the corollary right to receive information.  Libraries and librarians protect and promote these rights regardless of the format or technology employed to create and disseminate information.” In communities where there may be economic, social or other disparities, the public library remains the one level playing field where no one is excluded. Libraries are catalysts for digital equity in their communities. To that end, WNYLRC is committed to supporting our members in their efforts to promote digital equity in their communities.

“Digital Divide” Worksheets – The U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) provides 5-year data reports on 15 different topic areas and provides text and bar charts to display highlights of selected social, economic, housing and demographic estimates for a selected geographic area. Further information on a county-by-county basis is available here.

You can create worksheets comparing state level data with county level data (and more detailed to zip codes) as a way of demonstrating where there may be inequities in your community. Click here for an example using Erie County data.

Deployment of Broadband

The need for high speed internet is a necessity in today’s world.  Working and learning from home; access to telehealth services; getting information you need every day and more. Two factors to know about - the speed of your internet service and the choice of internet service providers where you live and/or work.

Speed tests – Test your internet speed to find out if your speeds are adequate to your needs. You can find out more about what speeds are needed for what online activities here.

Internet Service Providers – Find out which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) serve your area.

Resources for assistance in getting access to internet services:

Mobile Citizen: Orovides mobile internet for educational entities, nonprofits and social welfare agencies.
EveryoneOn: Find low cost internet and affordable computers in your area.

Digital Skills and Knowledge

"Digital literacy,” is defined by the American Library Association as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”

Assess your digital skills and knowledge with this free resource: Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment:

Resources for assistance in learning digital skills: