Ocean State Libraries Receives Grant to Expand Free “Parking Lot” Wi-Fi at Rhode Island Public Libraries

Contact Information:
Ocean State Libraries
Stephen Spohn
sspohn@oslri.net
401.738.2200 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 1, 2020 

Ocean State Libraries Receives Grant to Expand Free “Parking Lot” Wi-Fi at Rhode Island Public Libraries 

Ocean State Libraries (OSL) has been awarded $85,000 to expand external “parking lot” Wi-Fi to public libraries statewide.  The grant comes from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and the Rhode Island Governor’s “Take It Outside” initiative to expand access to outdoor resources and services to Rhode Islanders.  This generous funding, along with equipment donated from the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center, will be used to expand this service to 40 additional library locations.  OSL recognizes its partnership with OSHEAN which will be essential to this exciting project. 

Due to the pandemic, many public library buildings across the country temporarily closed.  For those who normally relied on public libraries for Internet access and the many others who faced job loss, business closings and other economic tragedies, these closures left them without any reliable means to access the Internet.  People were unable to apply for unemployment, apply for relief funding, search and apply for jobs, and more.  External “parking lot” Wi-Fi will allow library customers to take advantage of broadband Internet access regardless of whether libraries are open or closed, and to do so while safely social distancing.  This provides a valuable service for those who have no or limited Internet service at home, are experiencing a residential power outage, or are traveling around Rhode Island.   

 “One of the stark realities of the pandemic is our ever-increasing reliance on the Internet and the imperative we have to close the digital divide,” remarks David Marble, CEO of OSHEAN.  “It is core to OSHEAN’s mission to partner with our membership, especially in initiatives like this, and we applaud OSL and CommerceRI for their leadership in recognizing the opportunity to help our communities with an important piece of the access puzzle.” 

OSL Executive Director Stephen Spohn states, “This award recognizes the valuable contributions that public libraries make to workforce development and the economy through programs that build job skills and knowledge that powers innovation and market research.”   

 

Libraries, Workforce Development and Economic Impact 

Public libraries are critical partners in workforce development and support for small businesses and entrepreneurs. 

  • Free access to public computers and the Internet.   Access to computers and broadband Internet is not available in every home.  This is an essential service that is especially vital for job seekers and others who seek to improve their economic circumstances.  The pandemic has magnified the need for this library service with many more people out of work and with small businesses facing extraordinary economic pressures. 
  • Workshops to build digital literacy skills in the workforce.  Libraries offer workshops, resources and one-on-one assistance to help Rhode Islanders to learn new technologies and to expand skills that strengthen Rhode Island’s workforce.  In their response to the pandemic, Rhode Island’s public libraries have offered more than 1,600 online programs including workshops to develop digital skills, to support job seekers and to provide a platform to local performers and artisans. 
  • Workshops and resources for job seekers.  As noted above, libraries have shifted programs online to continue to serve this audience.  In addition, libraries emphasized access to public computers and the Internet in their reopening plans to help job seekers to apply for jobs and unemployment.  Libraries have also expanded their investment in digital content including online courses to expand skills for job seekers. 
  • Access to print and digital resources for business and market research.  Entrepreneurs and small businesses can find technical manuals, business directories, legal reference materials and more.  These resources help to power innovation and business in Rhode Island. 
  • Employment and promotion of local performers, artisans, fitness instructors and more.  Libraries connect consumers to local small businesses.  Their move to online programs during the pandemic has continued this support when it is arguably needed most. 

 

Ocean State Libraries along with its partner OSHEAN has already been at work to expand access to external “parking lot” Wi-Fi at libraries.  So far, external Wi-Fi is available at 15 sites with plans underway for 11 additional sites through the generosity of OSHEAN, The Rhode Island Foundation, and the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center. 

Ocean State Libraries hopes that this expanded service will help all who live, work and learn in Rhode Island.  To stay informed, visit us online at www.oslri.org. 

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About Ocean State Libraries 

Ocean State Libraries (OSL) is a consortium of Rhode Island’s 48 public libraries and St. George’s School.  OSL coordinates a statewide catalog of library materials, digital content and future-ready technology services for its member libraries so they may better serve their patrons and communities.  Through their library’s membership in OSL and OSL’s partnership with the Rhode Island Office of Library & Information Services, library patrons have access to over six million books, movies and more, all available at or through their local public library.
https://www.oslri.org 

 

About OSHEAN 

Founded in 1999, OSHEAN is a nonprofit coalition of universities, K-12 schools, libraries, hospitals, government agencies, and other non-profit organizations dedicated to providing innovative Internet-based technology solutions for its member institutions and the communities they serve.  OSHEAN is an active member of the local and national technology communities, regularly contributing expertise and resources to a wide range of initiatives, from school enrichment activities to community forums on technology-related issues in the public interest.  OSHEAN regularly pursues opportunities for local, regional and national collaboration and plays a leadership role in professional education for IT professionals and policy development in the information technology arena.   

https://www.oshean.org/  

High Demand for Digital Library Services in Rhode Island

Contact Information:
Ocean State Libraries
Stephen Spohn
sspohn@oslri.net
401.738.2200

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 26, 2020

High Demand for Digital Library Services in Rhode Island

Libraries are busier than they’ve ever been right now.

While public library buildings are closed, Rhode Island’s public libraries continue to offer vital 24/7 digital services to their communities.  Through their public libraries and AskRI, public libraries have access to digital books, magazines and newspapers and a wealth of online learning tools.  From the comfort of home, Rhode Island residents have full access to:

  • 125,000+ ebooks and digital audiobooks in Ocean State Libraries’ eZone.
  • Encyclopedias for all ages, including
  • English and Spanish editions in AskRI
  • Millions of full text articles for students and online learners in AskRI.
  • Online learning tools to learn a language or to prepare for a test in AskRI

Access all these resources are more via the Ocean State Libraries website: www.oslri.org.

Library card sign-ups have increased by 167%!  Prior to this crisis, OSL received an average of 9 applications each day.  Since public library buildings closed, this average has grown to 24 applications each day with a recent high of 55 applications on March 23!

Ebook and digital audiobook use has increased by 23%!  Ocean State Libraries’ eZone is seeing a large spike in new users and ebook use.  Comparing the last 7 days against the first week of March, OSL has seen a 23% increase in circulation and a 255% increase in new users.

AskRI [www.askri.org] provides free online resources for Rhode Islanders. Mango Languages has courses to learn over 70 languages, and 19 English as a Second Language courses. Learning Express includes free test preparation - for SATs, various graduate school entrance exams, professional certification, and citizenship (in English and Spanish).

New digital resources are on the way, too!  Stay tuned for news at oslri.org and AskRI.org about exciting new resources that will become available statewide soon.  Many individual public libraries are also working on new digital resources, too. Check your local library website to see what’s available today and what’s on the way!

 

To find online learning and enrichment resources from Ocean State Libraries and AskRI, visit https://olis-ri.libguides.com/online/home

 

Rhode Island public libraries have plans to offer library programs digitally!  Just a small selection in the works include:

 

Ocean State Libraries Executive Director Stephen Spohn states, “This event underscores the essential roles that libraries play in the fabric of American society.  Libraries empower learning, community and imagination. Today, libraries are reaching out to their communities with digital story times, digital book clubs and other digital programs to help communities to come together when the events of the day are keeping us all apart.”

Ocean State Libraries President and Barrington Public Library Director Kristen Chin states, “Barrington Public’s tagline is ‘Where you belong,’ so it feels wrong to close our doors and not welcome our patrons in, but this is exactly what your libraries need to do to keep the community safe.  Of course, that doesn’t mean we won’t find new ways to meet your needs in this current reality. Your librarians are hard at work to deliver the programs and services you enjoyed in person, but in new and exciting ways.”

Cranston Public Library Director Ed Garcia states, “The health of our library workers and our community is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately libraries are by design unable to practice social distancing to the degree being recommended by public health officials. Our amazing librarians are working on ways to deliver programs and services virtually as we all try to do our part in combating this outbreak.” 

Library Patron Susan Harrington from Cranston states, “Cranston Public Library has been a life-saver for me during this crisis.  Through their website, I can take advantage of so many resources safely from home.  They are making social distancing enjoyable. Thank you!”

Island Free Library Director Kristin Baumann reports, “Our virtual Story Time, Music Time and Kid Yoga programs were quite successful this week, with all positive reviews from viewers and loads of gratitude.  Last night, a Spanish translation of the local emergency declaration was broadcasted by the library to ensure that all members of the community understood the health and safety measures expected of residents. As always, the Island Free Library is committed to everyone’s well-being and will continue to educate, inform, engage and entertain patrons, lighting the way through these uncertain times.”

Langworthy Public Library Director Nomi Hague shares, “We have worked hard to position libraries as your community-centered home away from home, striving to meet the informational, recreational, and social needs of all who enter our spaces. That is why it is so frustrating for us to be unable to provide that hands-on exemplary service that makes libraries unique. During this crisis we are not only working hard to deliver services to you in new ways, but we are also cleaning and revamping our libraries, very much looking forward to welcoming you back as soon as possible.”

Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services Chief Karen Mellor states, “The Office of Library and Information Services is working closely with Ocean State Libraries to provide Rhode Islanders with free access to online learning tools and authoritative, accurate information resources for students and life-long learners.  Now more than ever, libraries across the state are playing a critical role, providing creative solutions to move services online, and working together to provide Rhode Islanders with virtual access to the services and programs they depend on for reading, learning and recreation.”

For the latest information about Ocean State Libraries and COVID-19, visit us online at www.oslri.org.

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About Ocean State Libraries

Ocean State Libraries (OSL) is a consortium of Rhode Island’s 48 public libraries and St. George’s School.  OSL coordinates a statewide catalog of library materials, digital content and future-ready technology services for its member libraries so they may better serve their patrons and communities.  Through their library’s membership in OSL and OSL’s partnership with the Rhode Island Office of Library & Information Services, library patrons have access to over six million books, movies and more, all available at or through their local public library.
https://www.oslri.org

 

About the Office of Library & Information Services

The Office of Library and Information Services is Rhode Island’s state library administrative agency. It provides support, resources and funding for libraries statewide to meet the library and information needs of all Rhode Islanders. The agency is part of the Rhode Island Department of Administration.
https://olis.ri.org