These twenty libraries are not the only benefactors of video conferencing. Any library with a computer, webcam and microphone, and internet connection can tap into these resources. Not only that, but in doing so, libraries can open the door to faster ways of connecting with colleagues across the state. There’s built-in technical support (between Networkmaine) and one-on-one assistance (Alan Fecteau and I at the Maine State Library) for this service.
In the State Capitol Building today, librarians and legislators are meeting to talk about the completion of the state’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant, a grant that provided more than 100 libraries with computers and interconnected more than a dozen libraries through videoconferencing technology.
The key word in the above paragraph is “opportunities.” Technology by itself is worthless, but when placed in the hands of libraries with staff who can then support the use of such technology, it can become a priceless tool for many, and that’s really the focus: putting the right tools in the right hands, making the lives of anyone who walks in our doors better in some way.
As you may have heard, not all stories in libraries are contained on printed pages; more and more, they’re printed in electrons, and I don’t just mean e-books. Our stories are becoming about enabling the lifelong student to develop a new skill, the unemployed to find work, or the voice of a grandparent to stretch thousands of miles to reach grandchildren a continent away.
Patrick Therrien, the technology trainer who held more than 120 training sessions across the state over the course of the BTOP grant, tells about one story from a Facebook class for seniors he was presenting. At the end of the training session, one of the attendees spoke to a librarian in passing about his newfound confidence in using the social network, “Now the winter won’t be so long.”
Patrick “Turbo” Therrien at work
It’s not the computer that makes such changes in lives. It’s the knowledge and confidence to use computers and the Internet that these stories are about. BTOP gave our libraries the means by which to create opportunities for others. We are grateful to the grant, but we must also be grateful to the participating libraries for bridging the gap between technology and community.
If your library received a computer or videoconferencing device from the BTOP grant, or Mr. Therrien provided training at your library, do you have an impact story you could share?