Increased Access to Technology in Public Libraries
The Jamaica Library Service (JLS) is hailing the Global Libraries ICT Project as a major success, as it has significantly transformed public libraries across the island through increased access to technology.
The project, dubbed ‘JLS: Using Technology to Empower Individuals and Communities for Development’, is funded by a US$2-million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Initiative, and US$1.1 million from the Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.
The project, which was expected to last from November 2013 to November 2016, has been extended to March 31, 2017.
Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on March 14, Director General at the JLS, Karen Barton, said that through the project, the JLS has acquired 1,063 new state-of-the-art information and communications technology (ICT) resources to use in its 119 public libraries.
The ICT resources, she added, include 780 desktop computers, 271 tablets and 12 laptops.
“We have also installed over 150 wireless access points across public libraries, which will enable our library users to enjoy increased Wi-Fi access,” she noted further.
Mrs. Barton said the overall objective of the project is to improve ICT provisions for library users as “there is a worldwide trend where libraries are getting into more ICT services, and this is what our users are demanding”.
Additionally, the project facilitated the installation of the latest Microsoft applications on all computers utilised by users in all public libraries across Jamaica.
“We had over US$1.1 million worth of software from Microsoft, so we were able to not only put the new software on the new computers, but we were able to update the software on the old systems,” Mrs. Barton informed.
In terms of training, more than 600 JLS staff members participated in customer service, digital literacy and social media courses, while some 2,000 library users received training in basic computer and digital literacy.
The Director General informed that under the project, a comprehensive membership drive was launched that primarily targeted new library users, in order to encourage them to take advantage of the various services and programmes.
Between April 2016 and February 2017, the JLS registered 15,729 new members, exceeding its target for that period by 3,759.
“We did our first impact study last year August to measure the effect we are having since we implemented this project, and also to determine how many of our objectives we have been able to achieve,” Mrs. Barton said.
This study, she continued, showed that 90 per cent of library users view the public library as an important institution in the community, while 60 per cent read more because of access to technology at public libraries.
“The library service is on the move, and we implore persons to utilise the services and benefit from what is being provided… . We know that technology is the way forward, and the library is not going to be left behind,” she said.
Project partners are Microsoft, RJR/Gleaner Communications Group, Jamaica Information Service (JIS), Jamaica Public Service Limited (JPS), Universal Service Fund, CHASE Fund and EBSCO Information Services (Elton B. Stephens Co).