Winter 2004-2005

Community Technology Center and Library Partnerships in Ohio
by Gabriel Gloden

CTCs and libraries share many similarities, and thus the opportunities for collaboration are vast.  But when I surveyed Ohio's CTC community, even I was surprised by the breadth and variety of CTC/Library partnerships. From partnering to provide high-speed Internet access to refurbished computers, libraries are natural allies in the community technology movement.  Listed here are just a few examples of how CTCs and Libraries can partner to enhance their programs and, hopefully, offer insight and inspiration to other CTCs outside of Ohio.

The Holland Center, Southern Perry County
The Holland Center, Southern Perry County

Partnering to Provide High-Speed Internet: Southern Perry County

The Holland Center, SPiCYAM and SPICE organizations developed a verbal agreement in 2002 for access to utilize the Perry County District Libraries T1 line. With the assistance of the Ohio University CNS (Communications Network Services) department each of the facilities was outfitted with the necessary equipment needed to access the T1. SPiCYAM is located across the street from the Shawnee branch library, which ran cable into their center. The Holland Center and SPICE received service through the Corning branch library, which fed a satellite signal through a bank to the nearby centers. All organizations have indefinite use of the line as long as their purpose for utilization falls within the libraries’ guidelines such as allowing individuals public access and prohibiting the use of the line for profit.

Partnering to provide innovative programs: Athens

Life As a Kid project
Life As a Kid project

The Appalachian Media Access Center (AMAC) partnered with the local Athens Branch library to develop the “Life as a Kid” project, a video collaborative that compiled interviews with local residents of all ages relating their experiences as children growing up in Appalachia. The library conceived the project and recruited AMAC to act as a consultant and tech support after being funded through an OCCN grant. The AMAC staff helped children and adults throughout the process learn how to shoot and edit the video footage. They also acted as consultants in the purchasing of the video equipment.

Partnering to provide knowledgeable staff: Cleveland

The Technology and Information Literacy Initiative (TILI) is an innovative program that seamlessly blends technology and technology training, information literacy training, bibliographic instruction, support resources, and other electronic information tools to buttress the learning process. In partnership with the Cuyahoga Community College (CCC) library, the TILI program gains support through knowledgeable staff and instructors. Many of the participating CTCs’ instructors are required to have a Library Sciences degree and teach Information Gathering techniques to the centers’ students.

Partnering to provide funds and space: Sandusky and Oberlin

The Sandusky Library received a $70,000 grant from the Ohio Community Computing Network to equip and operate a community technology center in the new Library. The CTC is called the Center for Lifelong Learning and it is located in, and owned and operated by, the Sandusky Library.  With a service area population of 50,000 people, about 1,400 people visit the library every day.  This makes the location of the lab very accessible for the community, and with the library’s technology and reference staff here, the patrons have all the help they need to find the information they are seeking. The classroom-style computer lab features 15 computers, and is located in the renovated Erie County Jail portion of the new Library. As part of Clevnet, a consortium of libraries in the northern Ohio area, the Center for Lifelong Learning recently used the lab to conduct training for librarians on the new SIRSI library services program.

The Bridge in Oberlin has been in partnership with the Public Library since 2000 when it first opened.  The library acted as the Bridge’s first fiscal agent and handled all of its financial reports and accounting.  From the beginning, the library had hoped the Bridge would become an extension of the library, which it did in 2002. All of the Bridge’s operational costs are funded through the library’s budget, but the center still actively seeks grants for special projects and programs.

Partnering to provide supplementary materials: Zanesville

The James Madison CTC for Families and Zanesville City Schools have a strong partnership with the public library and the school libraries. The center’s clientele frequent the public library for its summer programs and other activities. In return, the public library sends books and computer programs to use at the CTC. The school libraries house the center’s computer reading programs. The CTC also just received a 21st Century grant and plans to offer computer programs to enhance learning each morning (CCC Successmaker, Accelerated Reader, Wiggleworks, etc.). The center’s adults have also received computer training from the public library.

Partnering to provide the community with refurbished technology: Dayton

The Easter Seals Technology Resource Center , an organization that provides services using assistive technology, has a partnership with the Dayton Local Library, which donates old computers to the center for refurbishment. These newly refurbished computers are then redistributed to special-needs classroom teachers in the local area.

Partnering to share patrons: Scioto County

In addition to the ABLE site located at the Lucasville Library Branch, there is a library branch at the Northwest Family Resource Center (home of the Northwest Community Technology Center). Students are asked when they enroll if they currently have a library card.  If not, they are directed to obtain one. In return, the library refers patrons to the CTC if the librarian senses a person may have certain needs, such as help with reading. The center also offers early childhood education classes in conjunction with the library's adult workshops.  The adults drop off their children at the center before they attend the library's workshop. In addition, the library's service coordinator is a member of the CTC’s advisory committee. The library also uses the Northwest CTC for workshops on computer literacy.  The CTC also uses the library computers if staff or patrons need to access a site that is blocked on the center’s computers.

The early 20th Century British politician Augustine Birrell once said "Libraries are not made; they grow."  By harvesting the resources from these great institutions, community technology programs will begin to grow, not just in size, but in value.  These are just a few examples from Ohio; I invite CTCs from around the world to develop relationships with that great hallmark of civilization, the library.

Gabe Gloden is OCCN VISTA Leader.

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