Remote + Connected

Remote + Connected: What it means to me

The title for my blog–Remote + Connected–comes from my real life experience living intensively in a remote, rural community for the last three years and part time for the last ten years. More and more, I identify myself as living in a remote, rural location, since the term “rural” can mean many different things, from living a few miles from an urban cluster to living far, far away from anyone else. By definition, “remote” rural is living 25 miles from an urban area and 10 miles from an urban cluster, but I have an easier definition: can you see the Milky Way at night? If not, you are probably not living in a remote, rural area.

Borrego Springs, California Creator: Kevin Key

The reason I bring this up is because many people who live in cities assume that rural areas have similar infrastructures with just less population. But that is not the case by far. Where I live we don’t even get mail delivered to our house (only the local post office). We have no sidewalks (or stoplights), no natural gas or sewage (just septic) and no fiber cables for broadband Internet connection. Yes, whole communities in rural areas survive digitally from linking to cell towers and satellite connections. Since I live in the middle of a state park, there is zero possibility of fiber cables every coming to my town (due to environmental impact) and probably 5G as well. Up until 2016, it was difficult to stream anything because speeds were slow here (under 5 Mbps). Now, I get 40 Mbps (when I am lucky) which is enough to be able to video stream (with a few hiccups) and take my SJSU courses but much slower than my urban neighbors in San Diego.

From what I just wrote, it might seem that Rural = Disconnected, removed (thankfully at times) from everything that happens “over there”, in the big city. Yet, I feel rural communities can have the best of both worlds: close knit “people” communities where neighbors and locals help each other out and “virtual” communities (like SJSU school, this class, etc) where people like me can access education, social networks, health care (yes, I do lots of medical appointments virtually now), civic engagement, and more. In many ways, rural areas are on the cutting edge of new technologies but they either don’t know it or don’t receive public acclaim for it. Oh, I forgot to mention that my community was the first one in America right to inhabit a solar-powered micro-grid, so if that isn’t on the cutting edge of new technologies, I don’t know what is??

Borrego Springs, California Microgrid (SDG&E)

So where do libraries come into this picture? For many rural areas libraries are the center of the community, not just for books but for all sorts of ways of connecting to people and information. For example, where I work the library is the only free Wifi spot within a 90-munute drive, the only place to see movies on a screen (or rent DVDs), the air conditioned cool zone for when it gets hot (summers are often 110+ degrees) and the evacuation center for wild fires. It also serves as a polling place, summer lunchroom for children and teens, a virtual VetConnect kiosk, US Citizenship classroom and host to all sorts of community gatherings, from Firefighters Association to Mexican folk dancing classes to Dark Sky astronomy parties. We do it all! But even as I write this, I know, with a shift in emphasis toward the Hyperlinked Library, we could do even more and making an even bigger impact in people’s lives.

So get ready. Rural communities across the United States (and the rest of the world) are just now coming online and joining the global digital scene. In the next 10 years, I expect much technological innovation will flow from these communities because we see the applications of new technologies from a totally different perspective. Our geographic limitations become sources of inspiration and creativity in the virtual world.

P.S. If you would like to keep up at what happens at my library, subscribe to our Instagram account @borregolibrary

4 thoughts on “Remote + Connected: What it means to me

  1. Liz Olson

    Hi Cristin, I loved reading this post. You did such a great job of calling to attention the dichotomy that you inhabit with your library in the balancing act of being in a remote area, yet being so technologically advanced. You made such a strong point about the importance of virtual communities, especially in this paragraph when you said, “where people like me can access education, social networks, health care (yes, I do lots of medical appointments virtually now), civic engagement, and more. In many ways, rural areas are on the cutting edge of new technologies but they either don’t know it or don’t receive public acclaim for it.” At first, the terms ‘rural,’ and ‘remote,’ don’t immediately connote images of cutting edge technology, but you offered a very interesting point that libraries in these areas do in fact counterbalance these terms by providing these necessary services to the rest of the community, especially because they might be the closest area that could fulfill this need with many of its community members. This was a really interesting perspective, thank you for sharing!
    -Liz

  2. Jacqueline

    Hi Crisitin,
    this was such an interesting read (and I LOVE that photo of the milky way—I’m missing out!). I particularly like how you mention that “people who live in cities assume that rural areas have similar infrastructures with just less population” but really there is far less infrastructure, which is why libraries are, if not more important in remote rural locations than in cities, at the very least just as important because it acts as a community center, education center, internet cafe, and evacuation site. I think these are the areas that librarians need to better advocate: the library is not just a library. It is a community hub. You’ve done a great job here!

    1. Cristin Marie Post author

      I am so glad you agree and pleased that others understand the importance of libraries in rural areas, it really is one of the areas I am most passionate about in library studies.

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