A Libraries and Transliteracy guest post from Jamie Hollier
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca
Many people think I have been pretty lucky in my life, and in many ways they are right. I recently started a great new job, found a wonderful home in a great neighborhood when we moved for that job, and could not have done it all without my amazing husband.
So yeah, I am pretty lucky; but like all luck, these things stem from preparation and opportunities that came my way because of my digital literacy and internet access.
I got my masters online and stayed up with things happening in library land through resources such as this blog to help me prepare for getting the job when the opportunity came through my RSS feed.
I researched neighborhoods and found a great house at a great price from afar thanks to knowing were to look online and how to spot a scam. In fact, I even met my husband online.
Digital literacy has been the key to success for me and that is what this blog and the job I have now are all about. Bringing internet access and transliteracy to people is bringing them the ability to prepare and find opportunities to live a lucky life.
So what is this great job where I help people prepare and find great opportunities?? I am the project coordinator for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) that is being administered by the Colorado State Library. The goal of this project is to establish 77 new and enhanced public computer centers where people can get access to the internet and training on all the diverse benefits and uses that come with access.
These centers will be used by libraries, community centers, and tons of different community partners to make sure that the people of their community have the same opportunities as others. The main target of these centers are the unserved and underserved in their area: the people that have not been lucky enough to have easy access to computers, affordable internet, instruction with these new resources, and the environment that fosters an understanding of the value of digital literacy.
Our project is one of many happening all over the nation. In fact, the project I am working on is just one of seven happening in Colorado alone. BTOP grants were funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and are administered by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The goals of these project, as stated on the BTOP website are as follows:
“In the long term, these Recovery Act investments will help bridge the digital divide, improve access to education and healthcare services, and boost economic development for communities held back by limited or no access to broadband – communities that would otherwise be left behind. For example, the investments made in broadband infrastructure, public computer centers, and sustainable adoption will:
• provide job training to the unemployed or under-employed,
• help school children access the materials they need to learn,
• allow rural doctors to connect to more specialized medical centers, and
• allow small businesses to offer their services to national and international markets.”
Some of these projects are geared toward infrastructure itself and increasing broadband capacity for those communities with little or no access to the internet at all. Right now, according to the national broadband map (http://broadbandmap.gov/), it is estimated that about 5-10% of all Americans do not have internet access available to them that is fast enough to download basic websites.
These projects are the first stage in building digital literacy across the nation by first making sure all people have access to the necessary tools to benefit from online resources.
The other types of grants that were funded are Public Computer Centers and Sustainable Broadband Adoption. These projects are focused on digital literacy education and assuring that people have the knowledge and skills to utilize online resources and opportunities.
This is becoming increasingly important as the internet and digital access consumes more and more media forms, making literacy in most media reliant on digital literacy first. Below are a just a few examples of how BTOP projects across the nation are approaching different aspects of digital literacy:
Health Information Literacy –
The Colorado State Library and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine are partnering to bring more knowledge and understanding about online health resources to the people of Colorado. As a part of the Public Computer Centers project, trainers and medical librarians will be working together to provide online and in person trainings about what to look for in medical resources and the best sites for trustworthy information. (http://www.coloradovirtuallibrary.org/btop/)
Financial Literacy –
Tech Goes Home is a great project in Boston that is providing computer and digital literacy training along with incredibly affordable netbooks and internet access for low income families so that they continue to use the resources they are learning at home. Their trainings cover a range of topics, including tutorials for online tools to help manage finances (http://www.techgoeshome.org/earn).
Education Literacy –
Connect Your Community is a program that is providing computers and training for 26,000 low-income families. One of the really empowering elements of their program is the inclusion of tutorials for online parent resources. These classes allow parents to play a more active role in their children’s education and build stronger connections between home and school lives. (http://www.connectcommunity.org/curriculum-center/cyc-curriculum-electives-2/)
Social Media Literacy –
New Mexico, through a Sustainable Adoption grant, is providing training in many areas, including social media marketing for businesses. The New Mexico State Library reports that one of the most empowering areas of their training is the work they are doing with small businesses, especially the cultural entrepreneurs (jewelers, musicians, painters, etc.) that are so vital to the economy of the state. (http://www.fastforwardnm.org/training)
Cultural Literacy –
Colorado State Library – Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum will be opening in May. As a part of the Colorado State Library’s BTOP project, they have a computer lab going into their new center. This lab will be equipped with computers and software to assist tribal members with recording and cataloging culturally significant artifacts and items. This project will help to build understanding of culture and history for the tribe.
This is just a very small sampling of the examples of the many different projects taking place. The list of training being developed and given across the country through BTOP projects is extensive. Visit the BTOP site (http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/) to see examples of other ways in which local communities are getting involved in bridging the digital divide and fostering transliteracy in their communities.
The work of the BTOP projects and all the similar projects being undertaken by libraries, schools, and other community organizations to bring greater digital literacy to our nation is incredibly important. Being able to provide people with the skills and resources to prepare and find opportunities for their lives is an amazing experience and I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity.
We are living in the middle of a major paradigm shift that is transforming the way people interact with information and libraries. Jamie’s position at the Colorado State Library as the Project Coordinator for Public Computer Centers allows her to work with many diverse libraries and help them flourish as they strive to meet their goals to provide information and training to communities. Jamie brings a unique perspective to the challenges facing libraries today via her partnership in an internet marketing agency. She has previously worked in libraries as a branch manager at a rural library and as a visual resource librarian for an education publishing company. More about Jamie can be found at www.jamiehollier.com.