The Obama administration is moving forward on initiatives that naturally dovetail with the mission of libraries, and two are especially prominent over the past few weeks:
First, the ConnectED initiative. Here is a challenge and promise to the nation to make high-speed Internet access available almost ubiquitously within five years. Doing so will bring America into the 21st century (we currently rank 15th in broadband subscriptions per capita worldwide – Excel spreadsheet behind this link), opening doors for students and engaging them in a modern way of learning. President Obama’s speech singled out Mooresville Middle School in North Carolina as one of the schools embracing technology in the classroom. Due to their innovations, they rank number two in their state in performance, but are in the bottom 10 for the amount spent per student.
This approach does not pertain only to schools, but also to libraries. If libraries are going to adequately support their local students, they need to be adopting some of the same ideas and innovations. For Maine libraries, offering broadband access is pretty easy — Networkmaine has that part covered for most — but keeping pace will be harder. How many libraries are offering training on search skills, use of databases or Internet safety? (Hint: there are resources out there to help you.)
Secondly, at ALA this past weekend, President Obama thanked libraries and librarians in helping Americans enroll in the Affordable Care Act. He intends for libraries to act as gateways where citizens can walk in off the street, learn more about the Act and actually submit the necessary forms online right from the library, starting October 1st of this year. This is another opportunity for us to demonstrate our value to our communities, particularly the underserved, in making this process as effortless as we can.
Hopefully, we can recognize these as boons to promoting our value. Along with DigitalLearn, Connect2Compete and EveryoneOn, this is a time for libraries to truly shine. Do you think these national initiatives will make an impact in your library and community?