Maine State Library

Maine Public Library Information Commons Project

In Maine, where a majority of the population lives in rural areas, broadband access and videoconferencing services can be crucial for fostering economic development, expanding training opportunities, and providing support to community-serving organizations. The Maine State Library plans to upgrade public computer centers at as many as 107 public libraries statewide and increase the number of available broadband workstations by as much as 60 percent by deploying approximately 500 new workstations and upgrading an additional 150. It also plans to enhance training opportunities by deploying 11 video conferencing regional hubs and three mobile computer labs to enable hands-on training in remote rural locations. The project plans to leverage the resources of three existing Maine State Library programs, which aim to improve employment-related services offered by libraries and make legal information and services more accessible to the public.

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BTOP In Action
New laptops at the public library in Cherryfield, Maine

Maine State Library is demonstrating that public computer centers are sources of opportunity for state residents, particularly in a weak economy. The state has experienced its highest increase in unemployment in recent years among residents with the least education, and many job seekers do not have the experience or educational prerequisites to enter occupations with the largest share of openings. To help address some of these challenges, Maine State Library’s Information Commons Project is providing free broadband access, career development tools, and job search resources.

As of December 2011, the Information Commons Project delivered 565 new workstations to computer centers at 107 public libraries statewide. The project also established 11 video-conferencing regional hubs and three mobile computer labs to enable training for librarians and patrons in remote areas. Along with these new computer resources, the project created a web portal that brings together resources to help visitors learn new skills and get jobs. The portal, which can be accessed from home or at a public library, offers more than 80 free career and digital literacy courses, webinars, and resources. Additionally, the portal offers free access to the LearningExpress Library, a platform featuring more than 770 practice tests, tutorials, and e-books on job searches, workplace skills enhancement, GED exam preparation, certification and licensing exam preparation, and college and graduate school admissions exam preparation. The LearningExpress Library includes popular video-based tutorials on Microsoft® Office, Adobe® products, and other software used in the workplace today.

Maine State Library also provides on-site training for job seekers, in partnership with the Maine Department of Labor’s Rapid Response Team. For example, on Dec. 14, 2011, McArthur Public Library in Biddeford hosted a training session for unemployed workers, including a group laid off by a local branch of a home improvement chain. The session gave an overview of the online resources available to job seekers, and covered topics such as interviewing skills, preparing for job fairs, and the use of social media during job searches. More sessions in libraries statewide are scheduled as the Maine State Library works with career centers, workforce investment boards, and public libraries to help residents develop practical skills to rejoin the workforce.

Last updated: January 10, 2012

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