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Libraries Without Borders US (LWB US) is a non-profit organization that delivers access to information, education, and cultural resources, with a particular emphasis on serving communities subject to systemic discrimination. From parks in Baltimore to laundromats in Oakland, LWB US designs innovative tools and programs that meet people where they are, providing the resources they need most.
The ongoing public health crisis provoked by the spread of COVID-19 has ushered in unprecedented challenges, particularly for low-income households as well as for many Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Before the coronavirus, more than 20 million Americans—mostly BIPOC, rural, and/or poor communities—lacked reliable access to the internet and over 25% of US adults lacked access to a desktop or laptop computer. This digital divide builds on long-standing inequities in education and access to information, inequities which have left 21 percent of US adults functionally illiterate. Libraries and local non-profit organizations are well-positioned to address these challenges and meet the need for early childhood, literacy, technology, and civic spaces. And yet, millions of people in America lack the time and money to travel to the appropriate services provider or are unaware of the scope of services available.
Combating poverty and economic inequality
A root cause as well as a direct effect of inequities in access to information, economic inequality has left millions around the world trapped in poverty without the ability to climb the social ladder. In response, LWB US remains committed to providing critical resources that build capacity and combat poverty, from internet, computers, and books to digital, health, legal, and financial information.
Combating racial inequities
LWB US continues to meet the challenges of the pandemic with a heightened awareness of systemic and institutionalized racism laid bare by Black Lives Matter as well as by the increase in racially-motivated hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. With our local and national partners, we address the racial justice crisis by focusing our efforts on equitable access to information and education across the US and around the world.
Meeting people where they are
LWB US is committed to meeting people where they are, providing the resources they need most. We listen to residents and our partners in order to design innovative, customized solutions to urgent questions of access to information and knowledge. From churches in Baltimore to laundromats in Oakland and San Antonio, from manufactured housing communities in Minnesota to community centers in Puerto Rico, we center the principles of human-centered design, which approach problem solving through the lens of the user at every stage of the process.
Ensuring equitable access
The public health crisis, the struggle for racial justice, and rising economic inequality across the US all reinforce our mission at LWB US: to provide equitable access to information and knowledge to communities in need. We believe that this access is a lever of social development and a critical element for building economic justice and racial equity. LWB US operates in a collaborative ecosystem, bringing libraries, community-based organizations, businesses, government agencies, and community leaders to the table. Through this approach, we maximize our collective impact and promote civic engagement and democratic processes that are racially, sexually, and otherwise inclusive. We believe that access to knowledge, information, and education is a fundamental human right.
Some more sources on the racial digital divide: