- The Jamaica Library Service (JLS) has been transforming public libraries across the island by equipping them with state-of-the-art technology resources, in order to provide Jamaicans with improved access to information and communications technologies (ICTs).
- This is being done through the ‘Using Technology to Empower Individuals and Communities for Development’ project.
- Jamaicans are also benefitting from training and improvement in general library services under the two-year initiative, which got underway in November 2014.
The Jamaica Library Service (JLS) has been transforming public libraries across the island by equipping them with state-of-the-art technology resources, in order to provide Jamaicans with improved access to information and communications technologies (ICTs).
This is being done through the ‘Using Technology to Empower Individuals and Communities for Development’ project, which being funded by way of a US$2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Initiative, and US$1.1 million from the Government of Jamaica.
Jamaicans are also benefitting from training and improvement in general library services under the two-year initiative, which got underway in November 2014.
Director General at the JLS, Karen Barton, tells JIS News that 805 state-of-the-art ICT resources including desktop computers, servers and laptops have been purchased and dispatched to all public libraries across Jamaica.
“We have also installed over 150 wireless access points across all public libraries, which will enable our library users to enjoy increased Wi-fi access,” she notes further.
Mrs. Barton says the objective of the project is to improve ICT provisions for library users. She says “there is a worldwide trend where libraries are getting into more ICT services as this is what our users are demanding.”
Through partnership with the Management Institute for National Development (MIND), 300 JLS staff members have successfully completed training in technology management, Microsoft office suite, leadership and the train the trainer programme.
Additionally, the JLS is currently facilitating free training in basic computer skills and digital literacy in select public libraries. There have also been increased requests from community groups for training offered under the project.
“In order to create greater awareness about the value of public libraries, we have established eight advocacy committees both at the parish and national levels,”
Mrs. Barton informs.
She notes that these committees comprise key stakeholders in both private and public sector entities, who will act as library advocates.
Mrs. Barton informs that the JLS continues to be the leading provider of free computer services and Internet access, serving 118 public libraries as well as through six mobile units.
She reveals that the entity is soon to roll out an extensive advertising campaign as a means of promoting the suite of programmes and services that are being offered.
In April, the JLS will be launching a comprehensive membership drive, primarily targeting new library users, in order to encourage them to take advantage of the various services and programmes.
An Integrated Library Management System (ILMS) will also be implemented to improve the efficiency of the library’s operations as well as service for users.
With the project is slated to end on November 30, Mrs. Barton informs that the JLS will be conducting an impact study beginning in March “to measure the (effect) we are having since we have implemented this project and also to determine how much of our objectives we have been able to achieve.”
She notes that the response to date indicates that members of the public are enthused about the project.
“Persons are excited to see and use the new computers…they are also happy that more of them can utilise the wi-fi service and others have been using it because they can log on with their own electronic device whether cell phone, laptop or tablet…there is usually a long line to use the equipment but having their own allow them to benefit from the wi-fi services,” she highlights.
The Director General says that on completion of the project, the JLS intends to continue to provide all the services implemented with the support and partnership of the Universal Service Fund (USF), the private sector, and the Government.
“We are expecting to reach as many Jamaicans as possible, who have access to all our libraries and mobile units. We are also on a mission to increase our membership as many persons feel that the library is just about books, but the library is more like the community hub, where you can fulfil educational and academic needs and so, we are targeting a large number of persons in order for the community to be transformed through technology,” she tells JIS News.
She adds that “the library service is on the move and we implore persons to utilise the services and benefit from what is being provided…we know that technology is the way and the library is not going to be left behind.”
Other local project partners are the Ministry of Education, Microsoft, RJR Communications Group, Jamaica Information Service (JIS), The Gleaner Company, and Jamaica Public Service Limited (JPS).