Thomas Edison State College has received a $5.1 million federal grant to support the New Jersey State Library’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program, a project designed to add computer workstations, upgrade Internet connectivity and provide job search assistance and workforce development programs at hundreds of libraries throughout New Jersey.
The grant, provided by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program, was announced on July 2 and was the only award made to a New Jersey institution in round two of funding. The award, along with a $1.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made to the New Jersey State Library, an affiliate of Thomas Edison State College, will be used to add computers at 124 libraries, upgrade connectivity at 79 libraries, and provide job search assistance, employment skills, workforce development programs and other online resources at 365 libraries across New Jersey. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave an additional $150,000 to the New Jersey State Library to support E-rate technical assistance, which will help sustain the project’s services.
“This grant will help to pave a road to economic recovery for our state,” said New Jersey State Librarian Norma Blake. “New Jersey job seekers are facing a job market in which access to computers and broadband Internet is a basic requirement for job searches, employment applications and workforce skills training. With this award, New Jersey libraries will provide the access to the Internet and free training to help get New Jersey residents back to work and stimulate the economic growth our state needs. We are pleased to partner with the New Jersey Library Association, NJN, the NJ League of Municipalities and the NJ Council of County Colleges.”
Dr. George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College, said “New Jersey libraries are uniquely positioned to play a key role in our state's economic recovery by greatly enhancing the accessibility of broadband Internet to New Jersey residents. The New Jersey State Library has an extraordinary record of developing and leveraging online resources for the citizens of New Jersey, including thousands of adult learners who are enrolled students at our institution.”
“This funding will provide critical resources needed to expand technology infrastructure at libraries across New Jersey,” said Michael Drewniak, press secretary to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. “The federal award, along with the generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will help New Jerseyans with the technology support they need to find work and develop new skills, while increasing access for underserved communities. As New Jersey begins its economic recovery, these resources will be an invaluable community asset and help people get back to work.”
A consortium of New Jersey's community colleges will deliver training using its existing curriculum for library staff and job seekers. In addition, residents will receive online content and training developed by New Jersey Network, the public broadcasting network in New Jersey. This project is designed to enhance broadband capability and workstations in New Jersey libraries so they can become strategic job-creating facilities providing increased availability of job search assistance and workforce development programs. More than 5 million New Jersey residents will be served through this initiative.
BTOP Public Job Center Criteria and Project Goals:
- Establish libraries as “instruments of recovery” by providing job search assistance, employment skills and workforce development programs enabled by the increase in broadband connectivity in high-need communities
- Serve vulnerable populations (unemployed, underemployed or other vulnerable populations: non-English speakers, seniors, disabled, etc.)
- Provide technical support and other resources to support job search and career advancement by establishing libraries as community anchor institutions
- Job search assistance, employment skills and workforce development programs will be offered in partnership with community colleges and New Jersey Network
- Advance the use of E-services for training, employment, digital literacy, and education
- Stimulate employment and provide job opportunities.
Scope of the Project - The NJ Libraries Anchor Institutions as Instruments of Recovery project proposes to:
- Offer affordable pricing for high-speed Internet access services to libraries from the state’s major service providers
- Serve up to an additional 22,500 computer users weekly, offer in-person training for as many as 12,800 residents over the life of the project, and provide online content and databases to the approximately 440,000 unemployed and 230,000 underemployed residents of New Jersey
- Provide up to 938 new workstations to libraries across the state.
“Federal investments in connecting libraries to high-quality Internet services are critical to realizing the universal broadband access our country needs,” said Jill Nishi, deputy director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s U.S. Libraries program. “When libraries provide broadband to communities, they can deliver valuable online opportunities that help people find jobs, further their education, and access important government information. We hope that this BTOP award will help other public and private funders understand the importance of investing in public technology access at New Jersey’s libraries.”
About the Opportunity Online Broadband Grant Program
States participating in the foundation’s Opportunity Online broadband grant program received technical and consulting assistance to develop competitive funding proposals for BTOP, and will receive federally-required matching funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to support their respective BTOP-funded projects. Participating states will also receive assistance to help secure additional federal E-rate funding to sustain broadband connection costs in the future. The foundation solicited letters of interest for the Opportunity Online broadband program from state libraries seeking to acquire significant additional broadband access for public libraries. The foundation chose to support states that articulated the most compelling and feasible projects aligned with the objectives of the BTOP program. The foundation also considered a state’s need for assistance in developing a competitive BTOP proposal.
About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at www.gatesfoundation.org or join the conversation at Facebook and Twitter.
About the New Jersey State Library
The New Jersey State Library has three bureaus: the Library Development Bureau (LDB), the NJ State Library Talking Book & Braille Center (TBBC) and the State Library Information Center (SLIC). The State Library connects people with information through its service to libraries, government and people with special needs. The State Library, which is affiliated with Thomas Edison State College, coordinates, promotes and funds the New Jersey Library Network, of which we are a proud member. Last year, attendance in New Jersey’s public libraries was well over 48 million with total circulation of almost 58 million, an increase of almost 2 million.