Multi-Lingual Computer Training and Free Internet Access Boosted in South Florida

Knight Foundation Grants Part of Effort to Meet America’s Information Needs

MIAMI-DADE AND BROWARD COUNTIES – South Florida residents will have increased Internet access and the training in multiple languages to take full advantage of the digital world, thanks to funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The grants are part of a national Knight Foundation initiative to help strengthen residents’ ability to use the Internet to improve their lives.

“Internet access is a prerequisite to being an informed and engaged citizen in the digital age – whether you’re looking for a job, or for information on health issues or school scholarships,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation. “In communities, libraries are essential hubs for that access, and for the training to use it effectively.”

This month, Broward County libraries began offering free computing classes in English, Spanish and Creole at libraries with the greatest demand for Internet access and training. Ultimately, 10 libraries will offer the courses that focus on basic computer literacy, online job searching and resume skills. The expanded schedule will allow 8,000 library patrons to attend. A schedule is available at http://www.broward.org/library/calendar_computers.htm

“Local public libraries are the best and easiest way for people in a community to access the Internet and all it has to offer.  The Broward County Library is swamped with demand by people seeking work, people sending and receiving email and people trying to improve their computer skills to meet the employment skills of today,” said Robert E. Cannon, division director for Broward County Libraries, which received a $100,000 grant.

In Miami-Dade, a $200,000 grant will expand digital access by providing an additional 54 laptops at 13 branches, and enhancing WiFi coverage hot spots at 48 branches.

“The Miami-Dade Public Library System prides itself on being a community gathering place that meets the informational, educational and recreational needs of its customers,” said Library Director Raymond Santiago.  “This grant will greatly enhance our efforts to meet that demand and provide citizens with information that will help them make important decisions about their lives.”

The Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners will formally accept the grant at its Feb. 2 meeting.

Knight Foundation’s Library Initiative, a $5.5 million effort in 20 communities, reinforces the sweeping recommendations by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, a project of the Aspen Institute.  In a report issued earlier this year, the Commission asserts that democracy in America is threatened by the lack of equal access to quality information. Funding public libraries, as centers of digital and media training, is one key to filling the gaps, the commission says. Its report is available at www.knightcomm.org.

About the Broward County Libraries Division
The award-winning Broward County Libraries Division, founded in 1974, provides essential quality of-life community service as well as outstanding customer service throughout Broward County. The Library consists of 37 branches that provide three million items and more than 2,000 computers for public use, and after-school literacy, youth, and teen programs. Its website, www.broward.org/library, includes free online reference and information databases in addition to access about library services, locations, and events that customers access on average 300,000 times a month. The Broward County Library is the ninth-largest library system in the United States, serving over nine million walk in customers annually.

 

About the Miami-Dade Public Library System
The Miami-Dade Public Library System, a recipient of the 2008 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, strives to be a compelling community destination by providing a five-star customer service experience. With 48 branches and four bookmobiles, the library system aims to reach every resident of Miami-Dade County who has a desire for informational, educational or recreational materials. The library offers access to a collection of more than 3.5 million books and materials, 1577 public computers, 117 Self-Checkout machines, Wi-Fi at every location, and a wide range of digital resources, including downloadable e-books, audio books, music and videos. The library proudly serves more than eight million visitors who come through its doors annually and another 4.4 million, who access collections and services through its website, www mdpls.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

Contact:
Tara Zimmermann, 954-357-7386; tzimmerm@browardlibrary.org
Marc Fest, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677; fest@knightfoundation.org
Vinora Hamilton, 305-375-3327; hamiltonv@mdpls.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.