Libraries as community technology hubs

We were glad to see this article in Government Technology last week: http://www.govtech.com/data/Data-Reinvents-Libraries-for-the-21st-Century.html

Bibliotech

The Bexar County BiblioTech all digital library.

The article and two related pieces in the same issue, highlight the important role that libraries play as community technology hubs. We will forgive the author the clichéd comments about how surprising it is to find that the library is not the tired dusty “retro institution” that everyone thinks it is. Actually, no one who has actually been in a library anytime in the last several years will harbor that misconception. Libraries, as all who use them on a regular basis–and Texans log about 75 million visits to public libraries each year–know, are the go-to places to explore new technology, get online if you don’t have access, complete job applications, learn computer skills, and access digital resources. The article cites the 2013 Digital Inclusion Survey by American Library Association that found that “97.5 percent of libraries help visitors complete online government forms, 74.1 percent support e-government and civic engagement programs, 98 percent offer technology training.”

Libraries have long been early adopters of technology as one of the first institutions to automate access to collections starting in the 1970s, to provide access to online information since the 1980s, to provide access to the Internet in the 1990s. In the new millennium, libraries are technology training using projects like maker spaces to encourage exploration of new technologies such as applications development and robotics.

Libraries in Texas today have an added tool to help ensure their role as a technology hub in their communities. Since last year, TSLAC has been providing access to a project called Edge, which offers libraries a toolkit and framework to help them assess their readiness to serve the technology needs of their communities. To-date, 273, or about half of the public libraries in Texas have registered to participate in Edge and 207 have completed the self-assessment process. The Edge model is designed to help libraries improve their public technology services by enhancing the community value of technology, engaging the community and decision makers, and effectively managing resources. We believe libraries can and should assume the role suggested by the Government Technologies article a leader of technology access and innovation in their communities.

For public libraries that are not yet participating, we urge you to consider it. Visit our Edge page at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/edge for more details.

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