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Why is the Digital Library project necessary?

Chicago's inner city school system presents, in microcosm, a national problem: students from low-income families are falling further and further behind in learning skills, reading skills and preparation for entry into the modern workplace.

Over the past ten years, significant investments in the city schools by foundations nationwide have begun to reverse these disturbing trends. Yet the technological playing field is still heavily weighted towards affluent suburban and private schools. A digital divide is opening up between students from low-income communities and those from more affluent areas.

Within the Illinois public school system, there is a great disparity in the quality of library materials available to the students. In some schools the libraries are quite good, while in others it is difficult to imagine a student completing even rudimentary assignments with the resources available.

A 1994 survey by the American Library Association and the National Commission on Libraries and Information Services found that 40-49% of Illinois elementary schools ranked their library collections as poor in terms of supporting the curriculum.

eCUIP believes that with appropriate computer technology, Internet access, a core collection of electronic publications, and a growing body of locally digitized source materials, as well as teacher training and support, all students can have access to a wealth of information far beyond what any single school is able to provide.

But even beyond providing students with access to a digital library of materials, eCUIP brings the wealth of technology resources to teachers and ultimately to students, enhancing their educational experience and equipping them for success in our information technology-driven society.

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Percentages of Illinois school library programs rating their collections as poor in terms of supporting the curriculum, by subject:

Science 40%
Vocational Education 44%
Health 44%
Fine Arts 46%
Geography 49%

In addition, both the mean and median number of books added to the collection were less than one per child. And more than half the schools reported that the average copyright date of books about space exploration was 1984 or earlier.

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