Heavy Lifting… It’s What Builds Tomorrow

Computer terminals lined up in technology room in Brownsville Public Library

Brownsville Public Library Public Computing Center

Libraries are at time of incredible possibilities and incredible strain. The influx of attention and funding for broadband, infrastructure, digital inclusion and equity, and digital literacy is phenomenal—a major area of need for which the library community has been calling for investment for years. With great thanks to our federal partners at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), who awarded Texas $8.4 million to support pandemic relief and undertake digital inclusion projects, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) has been moving forward with many programs, including grants and training.

One new project we are happy to announce is a study to better understand digital literacy in Texas public libraries. We are excited to work with librarians and library workers across the state to identify, assess, and showcase the incredible value and role of libraries in supporting Texans’ robust and meaningful engagement in today’s digital world.

We are collaborating with IC² Institute at the University of Texas at Austin for this research project, Texas Public Libraries: Serving Communities to Enhance Digital Literacy. The purpose of this study is to

  • Collect data on the current practices of Texas public libraries in offering digital literacy training;
  • Assess the barriers to, and necessary resources for, expanded training and support of community digital literacy;
  • Develop cost estimates for enhancing digital literacy services;
  • Document digital literacy collaborations between libraries and community partners such as schools, institutions of higher education, local workforce development boards, and chambers of commerce; and
  • Identify areas of strength in digital literacy training and areas in need of support and programming.

We believe this research will provide much-needed, data-driven benchmarks to help us understand and communicate the work of libraries in this area; identify and articulate areas of need; and aid local and state stakeholders in assessing the impact and potential of this work. We expect the report and findings to be completed by the end of this summer, and we will make the information available to the public.

We need the help and participation of Texas libraries! Our partners at IC2 will be reaching out to libraries statewide to gather information. I urge you to participate in data gathering activities, especially if you have an existing program focused on digital literacy or if you have particular needs you want to share.

With many new funding sources for technology projects, infrastructure, and digital equity activities (which includes digital literacy), we want to ensure that TSLAC and your library are positioned with the data and assessment needed to move forward and make the case for libraries.

2 thoughts on “Heavy Lifting… It’s What Builds Tomorrow

  1. It would be my pleasure to take part in this study. The value of digital literacy services and equity access is extremely important. Funding would create an avenue for equity to needy populations.

  2. The West Pearland library is close enough to the border of Houston to be considered metropolitan, and close enough to the more rural parts of Pearland for broadband access to not be a guarantee.
    When the pandemic raged and many library buildings were closed, the West Pearland Library saw an influx of older users visiting the library for job searches – many who had not used a computer for much besides social media in several years. These were people suddenly asked to become experts on job search websites and the peculiarities of digital job applications. Many lacked proficiency with basic web browsers, and had trouble retrieving authentication emails because they were accustomed to using devices which remembered their passwords for them.
    These are some of the people we have in mind when we try to plan digital literacy services.

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