Guest blog post by Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director, American Library Association Washington Office
Research confirms that digital opportunity depends not only on access to computers and broadband, but the competencies necessary to successfully navigate the online world and be more competitive in the 21st century. America’s libraries are on the forefront of connecting learners of all ages with formal and informal digital literacy skills training, as well as access to a wide range of technology resources.
For these reasons, the American Library Association is pleased to collaborate with the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to support DigitalLiteracy.gov. This new portal is an important first step in collecting and sharing class materials, research, and online learning tools. We look forward to greatly expanding the content available as librarians, educators and other practitioners engage with the website.
From their inception, libraries of all kinds have had the development, promotion, and advancement of literacy at the core of their mission. Now libraries combine trained staff, technology infrastructure and robust electronic collections to meet diverse needs that continue to change and grow. School librarians teach the skills necessary to find and evaluate web resources, and they support use of online collaborative tools that help ensure our students leave school ready for higher education and the 21st century workforce. Information literacy is now considered by several accreditation associations as a key outcome for college students.
And more than 90 percent of public libraries provide formal and informal technology training to their patrons. In 2009, 30 million job-seekers used computers to search and apply for jobs at public libraries.
With funding and support from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), more public libraries are expanding Internet access and digital literacy training. As part of the Broadbandexpress@yourlibrary BTOP grant to the New York State Department of Education, approximately 860 computers will be deployed in 30 libraries and five mobile training centers in 41 counties across the state.
Visitors to New York’s Baldwinsville Public Library, for instance, can attend classes covering a wide range of subjects including computer basics, Internet security and safety, and Microsoft Office® software. The library provides one-on-one resume and cover letter assistance and is beginning a series of workforce development seminars.
Digital literacy also is a cornerstone of the BTOP-funded Fast Forward New Mexico initiative, which is helping predominantly rural, Hispanic, and Native American communities across the state better prepare for economic and educational opportunities. More than 1,200 people have received Internet skills training to date.
Curriculum and resource materials from both New York’s Broadbandexpress@yourlibrary program and the Fast Forward New Mexico initiative are currently available online at DigitalLiteracy.gov – making them available to far more people and further maximizing the impact and reach of these vibrant programs.
In a world where knowledge is power, libraries make everyone more powerful. We look forward to the work ahead…