Flu and the digital divide

I’m particularly sensitive to information and connections that can only be had through the Internet. In the public library we see people every day who come in with something written on a scrap of paper – an Internet or E-mail address they heard on TV for something they want to know. Unfortunately, the address they’ve written is often wrong, and library staff has to play detective to help them find their needed information. Amazingly, the staff is pretty often successful.

Tonight’s news reported that now the Digital Divide affects peoples’ ability to get a flu shot. Park Nicollet health care system received a shipment of H1N1 flu vaccine and set up an appointment line. There were so many phone calls that they had to shut down phone appointments, and now the only way to get an appointment is by sending an E-mail. Walk-ins will not be accepted.

Where will people turn? I hope to their public library. But will we able to handle it? I don’t know. Limited hours and a finite number of PCs will limit their access. Many don’t know how to use a computer, or have an E-mail account from which to send an E-mail. Staff are stretched thin. Will they have time to help people set up E-mail accounts and send the E-mail to get an appointment for a flu shot? I don’t know. The article doesn’t say, but I assume that Park Nicollet will send an appointment by a return E-mail. That means that the person who wants a flu shot will need to check that possibly new E-mail account again (and again?)