online @ your library update

online @ your library logo

We are almost halfway through the “online @ your library” Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant period. Through “online @ your library,” the Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL) is expanding broadband and public computing capacity in 56 of Idaho’s least connected public libraries and expanding online resources statewide for jobseekers, K-12 students, and adult learners.

Expanded broadband
The Commission matched individual BTOP libraries with the lowest-cost providers for broadband Internet service in their particular communities. In addition, up to 90 percent of the Internet bill for the libraries will be paid by the FCC E-Rate Universal Service Fund. Most of the libraries are also getting wi-fi equipment that will enable library users who bring their own computers to the library to access the Internet. Many BTOP libraries are already up and running with their expanded broadband and new computers and laptops.

Online resources
LearningExpress Library has been well-used since the BTOP-funded statewide subscription became available in November 2010. At libraries throughout the state, jobseekers and students are using LearningExpress Library courses for reading, writing, math, and computer skills; study guides for academic tests such as the GED and SAT; and a wide array of career certification preparation and practice exams.
Check out LearningExpress Library usage statistics posted at http://libraries.idaho.gov/page/learningexpress-library. Statewide usage is available quarterly.

Statewide online resources coming in late 2011 include “Scout,” an online video encyclopedia from Idaho Public Television, WGBH Boston, and PBS Learning Media offering thousands of short videos for student use that support state and national education standards; Idaho Department of Labor’s Idaho Jobseekers Handbook offering tools and video tips; and Internet2 resources for libraries. Like LearningExpress Library, these resources will be available through the Libraries Linking Idaho (LiLI) portal at www.lili.org.

Library and partner training
Training is a key component in the “online @ your library” project, and staff members from BTOP libraries
completed E-Rate training as well as training for newly available online resources. BTOP libraries also participated in “Connecting Resources & Partners Workshops” held throughout Idaho this spring. These workshops connected libraries with their local grant partners—such as the Department of Labor and Adult Basic Education—and provided hands-on access to the various resources available to all Idaho residents through the BTOP project.

Partners commented that they appreciate outreach efforts on the part of the Commission to raise awareness about the BTOP project and leverage existing resources within the state. Partners are looking forward to using the information gathered at these sessions to design larger workforce services initiatives.

Promotion
In late May, BTOP libraries received a kit with “online @ your library” materials to promote the availability of the expanded broadband and resources. In addition, all public libraries received table-top displays to place near their public access computers to show computer users where to find valuable online resources.

One of our key BTOP partners, Idaho Public Television, is airing television spots promoting the new resources available to Idaho residents, and is in the process of developing more. Check the spots out here

End-user training
This summer, “digital literacy” coaches are helping computer users at the BTOP libraries. The Idaho Department of Labor field offices matched Youth Corps participants with many of the BTOP libraries. The Youth Corps participants are working part-time in the public libraries, assisting patrons with basic computer skills and tutorials.

The Department of Labor is also leveraging their existing resources for jobseekers to develop an online “Idaho Jobseekers Handbook” that will be available statewide this fall.

Libraries make great partners
Partnering with other state agencies for the “online @ your library” project benefits not only the Commission and Idaho public libraries, but also the partnering agencies. While the libraries learned about resources available to their communities, staff at partnering agencies learned what libraries across the state have to offer and have been “simply amazed” by the discovery. Partners are impressed with the committed effort to bring new resources and assistance to the people in communities across the State. One agency director said, “We have all enjoyed the wonderful library personnel that we’ve met and been privileged to work with….What a group of great partners!