Today, the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy released the first national report (19 pages; PDF) detailing U.S. library engagement with the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). The preliminary report highlights statewide library BTOP projects and improvements they have made to public access technology resources, digital literacy and workforce development.
“Libraries have served as first responders in these tough economic times,” said ALA President Maureen Sullivan. “Libraries report services for job seekers as the most important public internet service they provide. 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.”
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. NTIA established BTOP to increase broadband access and adoption nationwide, and U.S. state and public libraries have been critical partners in this effort.
“Through collaboration with the New Jersey Community College Consortium, the New Jersey State Library has delivered over 1,000 job readiness computer skills workshops. More than 10,000 N.J. residents have accessed online career resources at public libraries, including more than 183,000 job searches conducted and 9,400 resumes created. In addition, residents conducted over 36,500 searches using the libraries’ online small business and entrepreneurial resource
*The Maine State Library is working with the Volunteer Lawyers Project to provide legal information clinics through new library videoconferencing technology. The clinics will be offered in real time, allowing patrons at multiple locations, and especially in rural locations, to attend and ask questions directly of the presenting attorney.
*More than 365,000 Coloradans increased their digital literacy skills through that state’s BTOP project. Ninety-five percent of those who took formal classes in Colorado stated they learned a valuable skill and would recommend the classes to others.
*The Nebraska Library Commission expects to more than double its grant goal (45 libraries) for upgrading broadband speeds in this mostly rural state. Of the 85 libraries upgraded so far, the average speed moved from 2.9Mbps to 18.2Mbps. All 147 Nebraska libraries now offer Wi-Fi.
“With more than 16,400 locations providing no-fee public access to computers and the Internet, libraries combine trained staff, relevant digital content and a trusted community institution to support digital opportunity,” said Larra Clark, director of the ALA’s Program on Networks.
The final version of report is expected in April.
Direct to Full Text Report (19 pages; PDF)