February 26, 2010
Pennsylvania’s public libraries are urged to consider applying to install or expand Wi-Fi in your library through the special stimulus initiative that is in effect for libraries. (An application may be made for computers, equipment, shelving, furniture, even bookmobiles and renovations and construction). Wi-Fi is suggested as it offers an opportunity to expand access (please see notes below for benefits). With the Wi-Fi application, you may want to consider laptops, a charging cart, a separate server perhaps, installation costs and other equipment that would complement Wi-Fi. If you already have Wi-Fi, consider expanding or updating your laptops etc.
For this program:
- Your library must be in a location with a population of 20,000 or less. (This is NOT like CDBG where service population is considered; only your facility’s location is considered for the population).
- You do not need to have a building project.
- Grants are possible based on the median household income; loans are available for those above the limit.
- Please Read the attached Library flyer Fact Sheet
This special initiative is on top of a current program* being run by the US Department of Agriculture. The program aims to provide educational opportunities and improve public services in rural communities.
Your first step would be to contact the USDA regional office in your location. Click here.
It is to your benefit to do this as quickly as possible. Do not delay. Your application should be in no later than April. (I do not believe the application is as strenuous as others)
Do Not Hesitate to Apply—especially if you are in an area with a low median household income and could receive a grant! If YOU don’t have time to do this, find someone that can do it.
The people at USDA are also very good to work with—give them a call now. Locate your regional office’s phone by clicking here.
to think about:
Libraries are the only source of no-fee Internet access for 71 percent of America’s communities (79% in rural areas) and are critical to providing equal access to information and educational services to all of our communities.
Pennsylvania’s public libraries serve as information hubs in the community, providing free and equal access to all their services, including the computer centers. Residents as well as non-residents are free to use the internet without charge and the libraries and services are accessible to those with disabilities. Public libraries also make their facilities open to other non-profits and government agencies. Often a community’s only welcoming public space open in the evenings and weekends, libraries’ only restrictions on use would be due to space needs or the limited number of computers available. Many libraries have no more room for immobile workstations. Providing wireless and laptops would allow libraries to offer more computer time/access and meet demand. Patrons could access Internet resources anywhere in the library. (Also think of educational/training opportunities that would be available in different sections of the library).
Patrons may also bring in their own devices (laptops, iPads). Many patrons, with new devices, such as the iPads, but without access to the Internet, especially need access to Wi-Fi in their community to download and update applications. In rural areas, there may not be the coffee shops on every corner offering free Wi-Fi. The only option may be the library.
Expanded access through Wi-Fi expands educational opportunities in rural areas. Pennsylvania’s libraries provide formal training and programming to meet the needs of all ages in their communities, from pre-school children to senior citizens, and often work in partnership with other non-profit or government agencies, such as work-force development agencies, in order to provide that training. Libraries also provide informal training as needed for individual needs of patrons. The libraries provide life-long learning opportunities to everyone, reflected in the wide variety of programming that is available. In 2008, Pennsylvania’s public libraries held 168,330 separate programs open to the public. This number does not include the many separate computer training classes. With Wi-Fi, more people can access statewide and other educational databases and more people can participate in computer and internet training at these community centers of life long learning.
More people can work on their resume, search for job opportunities and access online community resources and government programs with expanded access through Wi-Fi. Libraries provide classes on how to use computers and certain databases to locate jobs or do employment applications. Health resources are also accessed at the public libraries through proprietary databases and the Internet. The libraries provide computer and software training to educate their patrons in the use of essential e-government services, such as unemployment benefits, federal and state emergency assistance, tax filing, social security and Medicare Part D. A recent American Library Association study, found that 61 percent of libraries report providing access to government information as one of the most critical Internet services they provide. Training programs on accessing career and business information are also held, often in partnership with state employment and training agencies.
Other things to think about:
Wi-Fi provides a welcoming service for visitors and an enticement for the non-library user.
Wi-Fi at libraries should be enabled so that people may use their own devices without cumbersome log in.
It keeps the library in the technology forefront in the eyes of the community, maintaining our image as an entity necessary to the vitality of the community.
New access is also great for PR and may draw other funds or partnerships.
Cost is reasonable in relation to benefit and reach. It is not technologically intricate
All libraries in Pennsylvania should think of providing Wi-Fi to their patrons!
*The Community Facilities Program of USDA Rural Development provides funding for public entities and non-profit organizations to assist in the development of essential community facilities in rural areas and towns of up to 20,000 in population. This program is available annually to eligible applicants. Funds may be used for construction, expansion or improvements to facilities. Funds may also be used to purchase equipment. There is a special initiative this year for rural libraries under this program and supplemented with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. Please note that this program can provide loans and grants. Grant funds are directed toward those communities having a low population and low median household income according to 2000 US Census data. The loans that are available are fixed rate and long term to allow for affordability. Loan terms can be up to 40 years on buildings and up to 15 years on equipment or useful life. Currently, our interest rate on loans is at 4.00%.