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  • The Jamaica Library Service (JLS) is on a mission to transform public libraries and communities across the island by providing increased access to information and communication technology (ICT).
  • In addition to enhancing the programmes and services of the JLS, the initiative will also provide training in ICT skills and other related areas for library staff and users.
  • Local project partners include: Ministry of Education, Microsoft, RJR Communications Group, Jamaica Information Service (JIS), USF, Management Institute for National Development (MIND), The Gleaner Company and Jamaica Public Service Limited (JPS).

The Jamaica Library Service (JLS) is on a mission to transform public libraries and communities across the island by providing increased access to information and communication technology (ICT).

This will be done through a project dubbed: ‘Using Technology to Empower Individuals and Communities for Development,’ which is being funding through a US$2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Initiative, based in Seattle, United States, and the Government of Jamaica in the amount of US$1.1 million.

Director General at the JLS, Karen Barton, tells JIS News that the project, which will be implemented over a two-year period, from November 2014 to 2016, will provide additional technology resources across 127 public libraries, to boost access by Jamaicans to ICT.

In addition to enhancing the programmes and services of the JLS, the initiative will also provide training in ICT skills and other related areas for library staff and users.

Under the programme, 805 additional state-of-the-art computer systems will be installed in 127 public libraries and six mobile library units; new and enhanced network infrastructure will be implemented; and advanced high speed Internet service is to be provided to all locations, through partnership. The Universal Service Fund (USF) is already providing services in 44 locations.

“In terms of training, we will be undertaking capacity building for staff at various levels islandwide and have already started a ‘train the trainer’ programme for 50 members of staff,” Mrs. Barton outlines.

She adds that advocacy training will begin in January 2015 through a curriculum developed by Global Libraries and previous grantors. A training plan will also be developed and implemented for both staff and users, guided by the Global Libraries training manual.

In addition to the overall objective, Mrs. Barton notes that the project will create greater awareness of the value of public libraries in communities to build local and national support, while promoting the service offerings to existing and potential users to increase library usage.

“The beneficiaries are many as we are reaching out to all users and potential users of the libraries including marginalised groups, senior citizens, uneducated individuals, persons from rural communities, the unemployed and persons with disabilities,” the Director General highlights.

Mrs. Barton is expressing gratitude for the grant from Global Libraries to undertake the project. She tells JIS News that the approval came after many unsuccessful attempts.

“Just at the time we were thinking (of taking a break from applying), in June 2012, we received a letter of interest from Global Libraries informing us that we were among four libraries in the Caribbean and Latin America that were preselected to apply for the grant,” she recalls.

She explains that the service had initially applied for US$50,000, and “was surprised and elated” to learn that they were contending for a US$2 million grant.

“Immediately, we began to plan to apply for the award, which took over a year because they wanted the application to be done in a certain way so we had to go to Seattle for training and went through the entire process resulting in our success,” Mrs. Barton reflects.

She points out that as part of the project deliverables, the JLS had to undertake a needs assessment survey and will be conducting three baseline impact studies over the period.

At the end of the project, Mrs. Barton envisions that the JLS will be “a well-resourced, well-managed and technology-enhanced organisation, with well trained, competent and satisfied staff providing universal access to information and knowledge, resulting in excellence in customer service, an information literate society and a positive impact on national development.”

Local project partners include: Ministry of Education, Microsoft, RJR Communications Group, Jamaica Information Service (JIS), USF, Management Institute for National Development (MIND), The Gleaner Company and Jamaica Public Service Limited (JPS).

 

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