New ALA Report “U.S. Public Libraries and BTOP” Shares Community Impacts

US Public Libraries and BTOP

Today, the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information
Technology Policy released “U.S. Public Libraries and BTOP,” a new report (pdf) that details U.S. library engagement with the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).

The preliminary report is the first of its kind to highlight
statewide library BTOP projects and the improvements they have made to
public access technology resources, digital literacy and workforce
development.

NTIA established BTOP to increase broadband access and adoption
nationwide, and U.S. state and public libraries have been critical
partners in this effort. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act of 2009, the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration (NTIA) awarded just over $4 billion to 233 BTOP projects.

“Libraries have served as first responders in these tough economic
times,” said ALA President Maureen Sullivan. “Libraries report services
for job seekers as the most important public internet service they
provide.

“Millions of Americans have turned to us to gain new technology
skills and access to specialized resources. BTOP has helped to enable
expanded services and to develop the improved infrastructure to meet
these community needs.”

Highlights from the report:

  • The Maine State Library is working with the Volunteer Lawyers
    Project to provide legal information clinics through new library
    videoconferencing technology. The clinics will be offered in real time,
    allowing patrons at multiple locations, and especially in rural
    locations, to attend and ask questions directly of the presenting
    attorney.
  • More than 365,000 Coloradans increased their digital literacy skills
    through that state’s BTOP project. Ninety-five percent of those who
    took formal classes in Colorado stated they learned a valuable skill and
    would recommend the classes to others.
  • The Nebraska Library Commission expects to more than double its
    grant goal (45 libraries) for upgrading broadband speeds in this mostly
    rural state. Of the 85 libraries upgraded so far, the average speed
    moved from 2.9Mbps to 18.2Mbps. All 147 Nebraska libraries now offer
    Wi-Fi.

“With more than 16,400 locations providing no-fee public access to
computers and the Internet, libraries combine trained staff, relevant
digital content and a trusted community institution to support digital
opportunity,” said Larra Clark, director of the ALA’s Program on
Networks.

The preliminary report can be found on the ALA Washington Office blog, District Dispatch (pdf), and a final report will be available by April 1.