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.
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??
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
- Hello Everyone!
- Reflection: Library 2.0