As a partner in the ‘Connect @ Your Library’ project, AARP Montana and the Montana State Library are teaming up to celebrate National Library Week, April 8-14, 2012. National Library Week is a national observance each April to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use. Libraries across the state will host events and activities designed to showcase today’s reinvented, hi-tech libraries, which is the theme of the current statewide marketing effort, aptly titled Library.Next.
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“The Montana State Library is investing in the future of communities all across Montana with Library.Next,” said Jennie Stapp, Montana State Librarian. “The Library.Next project means faster Web access, more computer stations and Wi-Fi at libraries throughout Montana. We hope Montanans will join us in local libraries throughout the state to find out all that today’s modern libraries have to offer.”
As part of the project, local libraries also offer patrons a variety of workshops on using the Web while staying safe online. Web-savvy librarians are readily available to offer help on everything from privacy settings to applying for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to using AARP online tools.
A study in 2010 ranked Montana 50th out of 50 states in broadband Internet penetration, with just 34% of connections having broadband speeds above two megabits per second. This problem is made more challenging by the state’s low population density and expansive geography. In many cases, public libraries are the only feasible source of broadband Internet access in remote communities.
In July 2010, the Montana State Library announced the launch of a $2.7 million grant program to increase availability of Internet throughout state. The State Library received a $1,829,473 grant to fund its "Enhancing Computer Centers at Montana Public Libraries" project, which is designed to expand broadband capacity and training in many of Montana's public libraries. An additional $897,231 in matching funds was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Montana State Library project is providing more access at faster speeds to 43 local libraries in 29 counties across the state within reach of 86 percent of Montana’s population. Participating libraries were chosen based on demonstrated library need and geographic challenges, as well as their ability and willingness to sustain project investments.
“AARP Montana is excited to partner with the Montana State Library to spotlight ‘Library.Next’ during National Library Week,” said Joy Bruck, AARP Montana State President. “Today’s public libraries are a place to meet new people, learn new things and discover new ideas. Certainly the libraries help support life-long learning but as technology centers, they also help families stay connected through e-mail, Facebook or live, interactive video chats.”
In a recent AARP Bulletin story about the future of public libraries, Allan Kleiman noted that the over-65 population "will double in size by 2025, and libraries are realizing that this is a potentially new and exciting market." Allan Kleiman is one of the leading consultants on retrofitting the nation's public libraries as beacons for older adults. Kleiman, who has consulted with libraries across America on how to attract older people, sees libraries as places for assembling an active, more inquiring generation that wants books, but also much more information and connectivity. He believes the proven success of interactive sections for teens and children will translate to the same for older adults.
Find a library near you or to see how many computer work stations your library offers. Call or click through to your local library to find events associated with National Library Week.