Saint Paul Public Library to Launch Mobile Computer Lab with Knight Foundation Grant

Saint Paul Public Library to Launch Mobile Computer Lab with Knight Foundation Grant ; Project will allow the library to increase computer training and job search assistance, particularly for people who speak English as a second language.

December 16, 2009, SAINT PAUL, MN – The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library and the Saint Paul Public Library will expand computer training to underserved neighborhoods with a mobile computer lab, thanks to a $300,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The project features two components. First, the library will launch a mobile service delivery van, complete with 10 laptop computers loaded with teaching and testing software.  The Mobile Workplace will regularly visit at least nine community partner locations where library staff will offer job search assistance and computer training. The second component is the participation of multilingual cultural liaisons who will ensure that services are offered in high-priority languages, including Spanish, Hmong and Somali, with outreach to specific cultural communities.

“Libraries are the greatest providers of free Internet – offering residents access to the critical skills and information they need to find jobs in the 21st century workforce” said Polly Talen, program director for Knight Foundation. “Through this initiative, we hope to augment the library’s role as a vital community center while helping to create informed and well-prepared communities.”

“Through the past few years, Saint Paul’s libraries have developed into education and workforce development centers serving children and residents,” Mayor Chris Coleman said. “In the new economy, lack of access to computer resources and broadband divides communities, neighborhoods, and schools. Our libraries are filling that void, and thanks to partners like Knight Foundation, we can bring the resources to our residents to ensure they are not left behind in this fast changing world.”

The grant is part of a $5.5 million Knight Foundation initiative benefiting library users in 20 communities across the United States. The effort reinforces the sweeping recommendations by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, a project of the Aspen Institute.  In a report issued earlier this year, the Commission asserts that democracy in America is threatened by the lack of equal access to quality information. Funding public libraries, as centers of digital and media training, is one key to filling the gaps, the commission says. Its report is available at www.knightcomm.org.

With the Mobile Workplace Project, the Saint Paul Public Library hopes to significantly increase its technology training and job search classes, perhaps doubling the 420 technology programs offered in 2008. Unlike branch libraries, the Mobile Workplace will focus exclusively on training and classes.

In the past year, the Library conducted four surveys of staff assistance to people requesting help with job- and business-related matters. It found that, on average, staff has 700 one-on-one interactions per week relating to jobs, careers and small business. These requests have increased by 34 percent over the prior year. The Mobile Workplace Project will increase the Library’s ability to respond to these requests and reach people who may not be aware of all the resources the Library has to offer due to common language barriers facing new Americans.

About the Saint Paul Public Library

For 127 years, the Saint Paul Public Library has enriched the quality of life in the community by anticipating and responding to the community’s need for information and offering free access to technology, books, movies, music, programs and classes for people of all ages. The Saint Paul Public Library offers service in 12 library branches, Central Library and the Bookmobile, which helps make Saint Paul the Most Livable City in America.

 About The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library

Currently celebrating its 65th year, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library is a private, nonprofit, membership organization which assists the Saint Paul Public Library through private fundraising, advocacy, cultural programming and public awareness activities.  For more information, contact The Friends at 651-222-3242, or visit www.thefriends.org.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

For more information, call Ann McKinnon at 651-366-6489

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.