Libraries Support Digital Readiness with Tech Training, STEM Programs, More Robust Online Collections

Leading Role Recognized in Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

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.

President Obama and Congress recently acknowledged the vital contributions of libraries by enabling them—for the first time—to be considered One-Stop partners and eligible for federal funding to support job training and job search programs. The bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act also authorizes adult education and literacy activities provided by public libraries as an allowable statewide employment and training activity.

“Senator Jack Reed and I led the effort to include public libraries in this important new law because they are often the first places Americans go for skill development and job search assistance,” said Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ). “I’ve seen this firsthand with NJWorks@yourlibraryproject, which used federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding to help get job seekers back to work with access to online job resources and training in every community in New Jersey.”

Overall, libraries report technology improvements—including nearly ubiquitous public wi-fi, growing mobile resources and a leap in e-book access—but the ALA’s 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey also documents digital differences among states and an urban/rural divide.

“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:

*98% of libraries provide free public access to Wi-Fi, up from 89% in 2012;

*98% provide technology training, ranging from internet safety and privacy to coding to using social media;

*98% provide assistance completing online government forms;

*97% provide online homework help;

*95% offer workforce development training programs;

*90% offer e-books, up from 76% in 2012;

*56% offer health and wellness programs regarding developing healthy lifestyles;

*50% offer entrepreneurship and small business development programs; and

*Average number of computers provided by libraries is now 20, up from 16 in 2012

“Changes in technology—whether internet speeds, or new devices or new applications—are racing faster all the time,” said IMLS Director Susan Hildreth. “Libraries are ideally positioned to help everyone in our communities get up to speed. This is the heart of digital inclusion—equitable access to internet-connected devices and online content plus the skills to take advantage of the educational, economic and social opportunities available through these technologies.”

Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and managed by the ALA Office for Research & Statistics and the Information Policy and Access Center at the University of Maryland, the Digital Inclusion Study provides national- and state-level data. The International City/County Management Association and ALA Office for Information Technology Policy are partners in the research effort.

While most libraries marked progress from the last national library technology study in 2012, advances are uneven. Less than half of rural libraries reported they increased bandwidth speeds in the last 24 months, compared with 64 percent of urban libraries and 56 percent of suburban libraries. Fewer than two-thirds of rural libraries report having access to information technology (IT) staff, far behind their counterparts. A vast majority of all libraries (66 percent), though, agree they would like to increase their broadband capacity, and that cost is the leading barrier to doing so.

“It is increasingly understood that access to broadband is the critical success factor across our society, and we must do more to connect all of our communities,” said ICMA Executive Director Robert J. O’Neill, Jr. “Libraries play an essential role in helping local governments meet their greatest challenges by connecting their services to critical community priorities.”

The study provides a first national look at emerging trends, from STEM maker spaces (17 percent, or about 3,000 libraries), to wireless printing (33 percent) to 3D printers and hosting hackathons or other coding/application development events (about 2 percent each, or roughly 260 libraries). Creation and making activities already are transforming what is possible for communities through libraries. At the Johnson County Library in Kansas, for instance, a library patron printed a mechanical hand for a family friend. High school student Mason Wilde loaded needed blueprints onto library computers and used the library’s 3D printer to create the necessary parts. Wilde then decided to start a nonprofit to make 3D prosthetics for other children, and he is now considering a career in the biomedical field.

“Creating is becoming a new digital competency, and libraries are building and expanding their programs and services to meet these changing community needs,” said Ann Joslin, President of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies. Joslin also is the state librarian in Idaho, which currently has a pilot program underway to support library maker activities and encourage the use of new technologies and tools.

“Whether it’s a class on internet safety, an entrepreneur who identifies potential customers from databases or a class on digital content creation, libraries continue to establish themselves as digital leaders in communities,” Young concluded. “This study demonstrates how technology investments benefit our libraries and our patrons, and keep our communities thriving.”

Methodology: The Digital Inclusion Survey collected data from a nationally representative sample of public libraries at the branch/outlet level between September 3 and November 30, 2013. The survey was open to all public libraries to participate. However, the analysis conducted used only sampled libraries. The survey received 3,392 responses, for a 70.1 percent response rate. For more information, please visit http://www.ala.org/research/digitalinclusion and http://digitalinclusion.umd.edu/. Past related reports on public library technology are available at www.ala.org/plinternetfunding.

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RUSA seeks webinar and online course proposals through September 1, 2015

RUSA encourages subject matter experts and experienced librarians to submit proposals for RUSA webinars to be presented October 2014 to August 2015.

The Reference and User Services Association, (RUSA) seeks proposals for webinars and online courses on highly relevant subjects such as e-books, library programming and outreach, technology advisory, reference services, collection marketing and leading a book group; the proposals must be submitted by September 1, 2015 for presentation October 2014 to August 2015.

Online course and webinar proposals submitted during this open call period will be reviewed and approved by September 15, 2015.

RUSA serves librarians in reference, user services, adult readers advisory, collection development, resource sharing, genealogy and archives, business reference and reference technology. RUSA webinars and online courses are an opportunity for librarians from all types of libraries to infuse their year with professional development they can conveniently—and affordably—pursue from the comfort of their home or office.

Successful online learning proposals will:

  • Show plans for content and presentation strategies that will fill the allotted time: 60-75 minutes for webinars, and 4-6 weeks for courses;
  • Identify clear learning outcomes for participants;
  • Clearly illustrate the qualifications of the presenter(s)/instructor(s) with respect to the proposed topic;
  • Show how the presentation addresses a topic either of interest to RUSA members, or represents an area of RUSA’s expertise that benefits other types of librarians, and is unique from other available online learning offerings.

The following topics are of great value and interest, though RUSA welcomes submissions presenting on other topics, as well: reference basics; reference for specialized audiences; research, trends and hot topics in readers advisory; technology advisory; information literacy; community partnerships; library programs; outreach; partnerships among different types of libraries; government data and related resources; library spaces and assessing future needs; copyright in the digital age; collection development; special collections; tips and tutorials for relevant tech tools; standards and guidelines; genealogy; advocating for reference; resource development; fundraising; marketing; job searching and related resources; book reviewing; interlibrary loan; creating a single service point (vs. multiple service points in a single facility); embedded librarians; e-books; writing annotations; leading a book group; collection marketing; and library marketing and display ideas.

Submit webinar proposals using this online proposal form; there is a separate submission form for online courses.

Review RUSA’s current online learning offerings, including webinars and courses, at the RUSA website, and also get more information about the proposal process.

Presenters for accepted proposals will receive compensation for their time and will also receive training for Blackboard Collaborate, RUSA’s online webinar presentation software, and support for Moodle, the online course platform.

Questions about RUSA’s online learning can be sent to Andrea Hill, RUSA web manager at ahill@ala.org.

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Have You Read the Summer 2014 RUSQ? Don’t Miss It!

Have you accessed the most recent issue of Reference and User Services Quarterly, (RUSQ)?
RUSQ, the research journal of RUSA, is hosted by Metapress; to access the journal, you need to set up an account with Metapress. Specific instructions for this setup can be accessed here and also found at the RUSA website under “Communications: RUSQ.

As always, I hope that this issue of RUSQ will have something of interest for everyone. In some column highlights, RUSA Past President Kathleen Kern’s final column looks at change in library settings; “Readers’ Advisory” raises some thoughtful questions about what we mean when we talk about reading; and in the Management column, we get an inside look at the vendor/librarian relationship from someone who has worked on both sides of the divide; and the “Accidental Technologist” examines discovery services. Our feature articles include two pieces on text services, a fascinating look at ambiguity in relation to user questions, and a novel method for teaching information evaluation. There is a fascinating history of RUSA’s business reference section (BRASS), great reading and listening selections from the RUSA Literary Awards, and of course there are the great reviews that you come to expect from the journal.

Please let me know what you would like to see in the journal and if you are interested in writing for RUSQ.

Barry Trott
Editor, RUSQ
btrott@wrl.org

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Tell Us What You Think And Fill Out The RUSA Review Survey!

Below, please find a link to The RUSA Review: Summer 2014 Survey of our Members

The 2014-2015 year will be one of great opportunities and potential change for RUSA.  We will be developing a new strategic plan, which offers us the chance to craft a new vision for our association and determine how we will focus our attention over the next 3-5 years.

We ask that you please take a few minutes to answer seven questions.  Tell us what you value most about your RUSA membership and share with us how you want to be involved.  http://tinyurl.com/2014-RUSA-Survey
Your responses to this survey are extremely important and will provide us with key data that will be used as we enter the strategic planning process.

Any information you include will be managed confidentially. We are committed to continuous improvement in all areas of our association and your participation in this survey is very much appreciated.

Please note that the deadline is July 18th.
Thank you for your time and participation!

The members of the RUSA Review Task Force
Denise Forro
Joseph Thompson (RUSA President)
Kathleen Kern (RUSA Past President)
Kate Kosturski
Chris LeBeau (Task Force Co-Chair)
Cindy Levine
Mary Mintz
Liane Taylor
Christina Thompson
Joseph Yue
Diane Zabel (Task Force Co-Chair)

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