Friday Memorial Library: How TEACH makes resources available to the community
Written by Friday Memorial Library director Kimberly Hennings.
It recently dawned on me that, while I often talk about the library’s digital resources, I have never discussed the programs that help make those resources available to our community.
Technology for Educational Achievement is a program administered by the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Division of Enterprise Technology. TEACH subsidizes much of the cost to provide telecommunications access (e.g. data lines and video links) to eligible schools, libraries and educational institutions. This program is vital to us being able to provide fast, quality access to online resources both in and out of the library.
Last week, Gov. Scott Walker visited our high school. During his talk about the upcoming biennium budget and subsequent question and answer with the students, the governor talked about “barriers to the workforce.” Working in the library every day, I can tell you that one of the biggest barriers to the workforce is the very real digital divide and access to technology.
I was briefly able to discuss with the governor the unique and important role our public library serves in providing free access to all types of information and telecommunications services. This is especially true for people without internet services at home or work. The demand for such services has increased significantly with an ever-growing need for access to digital and online information — including e-government, continuing education and employment opportunities. The vast majority of job applications are now online, or at least require you send your resume via email.
Without state assistance through programs like TEACH, we wouldn’t be able to provide the same level of service to our customers. Last year alone we saw over 12,000 uses of our public internet computers and continued use of our public Wi-Fi. Through our Friends of the Library organization, we were also able to provide Wi-Fi hotspots for checkout. We have five devices that checkout for two weeks at a time and a perpetual waiting list for those devices.
Our communities depend on public libraries for free access to computers, the internet and the world of resources available online. Whether completing a college degree through distance education, getting homework help, applying for Medicare drug benefits, or researching and writing a business plan, providing high-quality access to the internet is critical to meeting the diverse information needs of New Richmond and St. Croix County residents.
As online services and programs become more sophisticated, the need for higher access speeds for all libraries in all Wisconsin communities — large and small — grows.