Some more light reading came across my desk via that wonderful thing called the Internet. The reading being, the American Library Association Comments to Federal Communications Commission on In the Matter of: International Comparison and Consumer Survey Requirements in the Broadband Data Improvement Act , A National Broadband Plan for Our Future, Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion, and Possible Steps to Accelerate Such Deployment Pursuant to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, as Amended by the Broadband Data Improvement Act. It’s a hard job sometimes, but someone’s got to do it.
I have commented previously on why I think public libraries are important, but I am not sure that I have ever managed to encapsulate or enunciate my thinking as clearly as I would have liked. This document is probably one of the clearest and best written summaries on why public libraries are important that I have read.
It gives five points as to why Public Libraries are so important to communities and are central to any thinking on providing broadband access in a national context. Here are the standout parts of the document for me:
“There are currently 16,543 public library outlets in communities across the nation. Libraries are found in virtually every community in the United States.1 These libraries play a vital role in their communities in supporting workforce development, small business creation, education from the cradle through higher and continuing education, and access to government resources through public access computer terminals. Communities throughout the nation are reporting an increase in patron visits to the library as the economy continues to suffer, unemployment continues to rise, and workers increasingly need to retool or refine skills.”
I. Community Hubs: Public libraries go beyond stopgap measures in creating and supporting economic opportunity. The added value libraries offer includes job training, information, and digital literacy programs
“The public library has a long history of meeting the information needs of its community. As local communities change, so do the services libraries offer so that patrons are able to access the most relevant information resources they need to live full and productive lives. In today’s economy, libraries across the nation are experiencing a constant demand for services related to job seeking and other employment issues. Today, library services commonly include, but are not limited to: job training and continuing education, resume writing, career counseling, and basic information literacy training, including digital literacy. These services most often require access to robust broadband.”
III. Broadband’s role in regional economic development: Libraries are critical institutions in supporting regional economic development
“Libraries that partner with local or state economic development agencies redouble the reach and impact of these efforts. At the same time, libraries are ―reducing the operation costs and broadening the outreach of other local workforce development agencies, contributing to a stronger community network for job readiness and worker ―retooling.”
V. Workforce development: The value of the public library’s suite of services cannot be overstated
“Beyond providing basic services, libraries enrich their patron’s information needs with resources in a variety of formats. Librarians, experts in search technique, know that with the move to online resources, individuals seeking employment, business information, and skills training, may need assistance now more than ever. Specific populations, such as people recently laid off from long term employment, non-native English speakers, the older workforce, and new graduates often need targeted support.”
I would encourage everyone to go read in full.