Library Helps Close the Digital Divide in Nevada County
The days when libraries existed just to loan books are long gone. As Pew research puts it, the library is transforming “from a house of knowledge to a house of access.” Internet access is now critical for everything from research to looking for and applying for jobs. The library is often the only source of internet access for many of its low-income visitors. It is also a convenient place for visitors from out of town or locals who choose not to have internet at home to print something or send an email. As Yolande Wilburn, Nevada County Community Library’s County Librarian puts it: “We provide internet access for those who don’t have it, and help close the digital divide in Nevada County.”
The Great Equalizer
Wilburn sees the library as the great equalizer in many ways. “If someone doesn’t have money to attend college or pay for content, or has dropped out of school, they can learn anything they need to learn and access information at the library,” she said. “People can improve their situation. Anyone with a Nevada County Community Library card can check out a MacBook or Chromebook in the library and take a class, complete a resume, or file electronic applications for services and benefits.”
The library offers much more than internet access in the way of technology. Patrons can use a 3D printer, Virtual Reality goggles, or check out educational kits from the technology lending library. The library also provides classes and demonstrations for people to learn how to use the different technology offerings.
Technical Help Wanted
The Nevada County Community Library has embraced technology, not just for patrons but for their own internal use. They need employees who are comfortable with technology. “Most work done at libraries these days is highly technical – it’s a digital world,” said Wilburn. “We struggle to find entry level people with tech skills – the ability to search, extract information from databases, build an Excel form.”
NCTC Helps Make Connections
This is where the Library has benefited from their participation on the Nevada County Tech Connection’s (NCTC) Talent Development Team. At NCTC’s Talent Development Forum, Wilburn learned about Connecting Point, a public agency that provides programs and services that promote health and independence for people in our community, including career and workforce development. The Library has been able to hire several interns through Connecting Point, and train them in different aspects of library work, including the library’s collaborative technology center.
Wilburn hopes to be able to hire these interns as job opportunities become available, whether they are at the Library or elsewhere in the community. Either way, Wilburn feels good about providing an opportunity for a community member to learn the tech skills he or she needs to get a job. “We are all about working with the community and making sure people have the tech skills to work, not just here,” she said. “I always want to see our programs yield good for the community.”