If you've been following this blog, you probably already know Knight Foundation is giving $3.3 million to libraries in 12 communities to transform them into digital centers for their communities. We often think of libraries as being good places to find books, and they are. But in the 21st Century, they're serving many other functions as well, and this grant is about expanding those functions.
Here are five ways these grants will help communities:
- They'll create and expand wifi access.Increased bandwidth and new hardware in communities such as Wichita, Kan., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., will allow libraries to better meet a vastly expanding need for Internet access. Wichita's public library system has seen demand for Internet access increase by 25 percent (pdf) over the last year alone.
- They'll allow the libraries to purchase new equipment. In places such as Tallahassee, Fla., and Conway, S.C., money from these grants will cover the costs of updated equipment, including dozens of laptops for patrons to use all throughout the library. These additional capacities will greatly increase the ability of the library to serve patrons. In Tallahassee, for example, the new computing power is expected to mean an additional 380,000 hours of Internet access a year.
- They'll bring the capabilities of the library to under-served communities. Libraries are more than physical buildings. In places such as Lexington, Ky.,, Knight's grants will go towards the creation of mobile computing labs, enabling libraries to reach rural areas, retirement complexes and neighborhood centers.
- They'll help people find jobs.Lacking Internet access to search for jobs and correspond with prospective employers can leave job-seekers at a profound disadvantage. To help provide relief from a severe recession, Knight's grants will allow libraries to beef up their services for the unemployed. In Charlotte, S.C., for example, our grant will fund the creation of a Job Help Center, projected to assist 22,500 residents in its first year of existence. As a reminder of how powerful this assistance can be, don't miss this video featuring a patron of the library system in Charlotte.
- They'll help train people on using digital technologies. In many communities, the local library is the chief hub for continuing education. As digital skills become increasingly vital for citizens to actively participate in their democracy, these grants will allow libraries to give patrons critical training in digital technologies.