Sept. 4, 2014
LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Library Commission recently enhanced public computer access in 147 libraries across the state and then faced a challenge: New demands on library staff and volunteers to help patrons use the computers and the available technology. Now, in partnership with the Nebraska Broadband Initiative, new training will help library staff and patrons take full advantage of these resources.
This was a nice problem to have, said Mary Jo Ryan, communications coordinator for the commission, because it showed libraries were meeting a public need.
Officials with the Nebraska Broadband Initiative saw an opportunity to help expand broadband access.
"Lots of people, both young and old, visit the libraries to use their computers and high speed Internet. The librarians help troubleshoot and provide new information," said Charlotte Narjes, University of Nebraska - Lincoln and a leader of the Broadband Initiative. "This effort is one way to show how broadband technologies can be used and expand awareness of opportunities."
Based on these needs, a series of training workshops for library staffs is planned. Sessions are scheduled in Alliance, Atkinson, Kearney, Lincoln, Norfolk, North Platte and Omaha. Each location will host a monthly session, September through October.
Ryan said many people who go to libraries for computer services have little experience.
"If they haven't had the opportunity ... we really want them to have a good coach to help them have a good experience," Ryan said. For computer novices, having success right away is key to making them feel comfortable with the technology.
Library patrons use broadband service for a variety of services, including accessing government information, looking for a job and getting health-care information.
"It's a real help to people trying to make health-care decisions," Ryan said.
In some communities, she added, people are running their small business from library computers.
The training sessions will help library staff serve as resources for these small local businesses.
"In today's business structure, these small businesses can truly compete with larger markets – if they have the online resources for their operations," said Connie Hancock, UNL Extension educator and a leader of the Broadband Initiative. "We will help the staffs become confident helping these businesses identify and use new technology tools."
These events are offered as part of the Nebraska Broadband Initiative. This Broadband Mapping and Planning Initiative is funded through a grant to the Nebraska Public Service Commission by the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and aims to increase broadband adoption and use. Project partners include the University of Nebraska, Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Nebraska Information Technology Commission, Nebraska Public Service Commission, and the AIM Institute. For more information, check http://broadband.nebraska.govConnie Hancock
UNL Extension Educator
Coordinator of Special Projects
Mary Jo Ryan
Nebraska Library Commissio
IANR News Service