Nearly 100 percent of America’s public libraries offer workforce development training programs, online job resources, and technology skills training, according to a new study from the American Library Association (ALA).
Combined with maker spaces, coding classes, and programs dedicated to entrepreneurship and small business development, libraries are equipping U.S. communities with the resources and skills needed to succeed in today’s – and tomorrow’s – global marketplace.
Until the Digital Inclusion Survey, no national study has shown in such detail the extent to which libraries complete education, jumpstart employment and entrepreneurship, and foster individual empowerment and engagement, or the E’s of Libraries™,” said ALA President Courtney Young. “The study also begins to map new programs and technology resources that range from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) maker programming to 3D printing to hackathons.”
Among the study findings:
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Today, the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy released “U.S. Public Libraries and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program,” a new report that details U.S. library engagement with the federal program.
The report is the first to highlight state and local library BTOP projects nationwide and the improvements they have made to public access technology resources, digital literacy, and workforce development. Library projects in 29 states and the District of Columbia are featured in the report. ALA estimates about 20 percent of U.S. public libraries have benefited from BTOP funding.
Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarded just over $4 billion to 233 BTOP projects. The NTIA established BTOP to increase broadband access and adoption nationwide, and U.S. state and public libraries have been critical partners in this effort.
“Libraries have served as first responders in these tough economic times,” said ALA President Maureen Sullivan. “Millions of Americans have turned to us to gain new technology skills and access to specialized resources. BTOP has helped to enable expanded services and to develop the improved infrastructure to meet these community needs.”
These aren’t your grandmother’s libraries. Well, they are, but they’re tackling projects that would have been inconceivable two or three decades ago.
On Friday, the Knight Foundation announced the winners of its latest Knight News Challenge, which asked: “How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?”
The foundation's fundamental goal is to ask, "How can we make sure Americans have access to the news and information so they can be active participants in our democracy,” says John Bracken, vice president for media innovation. “Libraries are really key in improving Americans’ ability to know what’s going on around them.”
Over the past several years, Knight has posed a dozen such questions as calls for proposals, focusing on open government, health data or other areas. “One of the ways we use this contest is to better understand trends,” explains Bracken. The previous round in 2014 had asked, “How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation?” When three of those winners were libraries, it helped inform the next challenge.
The foundation announced eight winners Friday at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. They’ll receive grant amounts of between $130,000 and $600,000 each. Another set of 14 winners will get smaller grants from Knight’s Prototype Fund to test earlier-stage ideas.
“It looks more like a design firm than what the stereotypical approach in libraries is,” Bracken said on Thursday, peering at a room where the winners were participating in a design thinking workshop.
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Cheryl Jackson Baker, author of "Affectionately Yours - The Civil War Letters of William R. Jackson and His Wife Julia," will be the featured guest at the annual meeting of the Blount County Friends of the Library. The meeting will take place at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Blount County Public Library, located at 508 N. Cusick St. in Maryville.
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