Maine libraries receive $1.36 million to expand broadband

July 6th, 2010 · Ramona du Houx

The Maine State Library has been awarded more than $1.36 million in federal Recovery Act funds to expand broadband access and education at many of Maine’s public libraries.

“The Maine State Library project is an important step forward in enabling all Maine residents – especially those in currently underserved areas – to have access to broadband technology and services,” said Governor John Baldacci. “High speed Internet access is vital to expand our educational opportunities and workforce development and is an important way to connect Mainers to information and services. By connecting Maine people and businesses to high-speed broadband – students, workers, families and companies – Maine will be able to compete for business and jobs now and into the future.”

The Maine State Library’s proposal is called The Maine Public Library Information Commons Project. The goals of the program are to:

• Increase the number of broadband workstations and upgrade public computers at 107 public libraries;

• Add 11 video conferencing regional hubs and three mobile computer labs;

• Enhance training opportunities for librarians and residents;

• Ensure that vulnerable groups such as the unemployed and the elderly are able to access assistance to broadband technologies.

“The Maine State Library is delighted to have been awarded this very competitive federal grant to serve the people of Maine more effectively through advanced technology in its public libraries,” said Linda Lord, Maine State Librarian. “It is no secret that public libraries are serving more and more citizens in the face of severe budget challenges. This grant and the collaboration with our Department of Labor Workforce Division led by John Dorrer and The Collaboration on Innovation, Technology and Equal Access to Justice chaired by Associate Justice Andrew Mead with Vice Chair Juliet Holmes-Smith, Volunteer Lawyers Project Director, will fund technology and training to make a significant difference in the lives of job seeking Mainers and those needing ‘access to justice.’ We thank the Broadband Strategy Council, the ConnectME Authority, the more than 100 libraries involved and the Governor’s Office for their support of this project.”

ConnectME was established under the Baldacci adminsitration in 2004 to help connect the state, especially rural areas, to internet access.

The Governor said that the Federal Recovery Act is helping Maine in the aggressive efforts to improve its information superhighway. The federal Recovery Act has provided more than $25 million to build dark fiber networks across Maine, including many unserved and underserved areas. The State has also received $11.5 million in Recovery Act funds to promote quality of health care through technology and to develop the State’s health care workforce.

The Maine Public Library Information Commons Project is funded through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with a match that includes:

• $357, 369 from the Maine Telecommunications Education Access Fun;

• $52,000 from libraries to partially fund computers from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and

• $179,245 in a match in time and salary from the Maine State Library, Maine InfoNet and the Maine School and Library Network Circuit Rider.

Critical to the success of the Maine State Library’s application for funding was the partnerships that were built with the Maine Department of Labor, Maine Information Network, Access to Justice, Project Compass and Maine InfoNet.

For more information on the Maine State Library’s grant, visit http://www.maine.gov/msl/btop.htm