Even in the digital age, libraries continue to serve the central function of connecting many in our communities to the larger world. Today, Shawn Bakker, President of Nashville Public Library Foundation shares how the organization brings additional resources to help serve the library’s clients in new ways, including expanding digital equity across Nashville.
In the library of the 21st century, books are only half the story. Today’s community library is an agile information hub for personal empowerment, continuously adapting to meet the needs of its patrons and the rapidly changing circumstances of our society. Government funding pays for staff, books and buildings, but the programs that make Nashville Public Library a community jewel require more support than is available in public funds. The Nashville Public Library Foundation (NPLF) provides that bridge.
Since its creation in 1997, the Nashville Public Library Foundation, has raised over $65 million, from individuals and organizations, to advance the impact and reach of Nashville Public Library programs and initiatives that exist beyond the budget of Metro government. Gifts to the Foundation ignite a world of opportunity and access for people of all ages through investment in library resources that build literacy, digital skills, workforce readiness, lifelong learning and ultimately, create better lives. Support from NPLF enables the library to build robust programs, and pivot when circumstances require.
We are especially proud of our partnerships with community pillars, like Google Fiber, whose values align with ours and whose generosity helps NPL meet the growing needs of Nashvillians. Google Fiber’s investment in the Foundation is enabling life-changing initiatives like NPL’s Digital Inclusion program.
Digital inclusion refers to the work necessary to ensure that all communities, especially those with the most barriers to access, have the tools needed to thrive in our modern, internet-based society. This includes not only access to hardware, software and the internet, but also the knowledge and support to effectively use those resources. Put simply: digital divide is the problem. Digital equity is the goal. Digital inclusion is the pathway.
Nashville Public Library is a central hub for this work in our community, and many of its programs are aimed toward seniors, who often have the greatest need. NPL’s Digital Inclusion program offers in person training to adults at branches, community centers and partner organizations throughout the city. Library staff travel throughout Nashville, delivering services and resources to make seniors feel connected, valued and empowered. Since the program's inception in 2017, it has served 1,500 to 2,000 seniors annually and was one of the programs highlighted in the NPL Library of the Year Award.
Participants report using their newfound skills for pursuit of college degrees, new jobs, telehealth visits, and to facilitate family connections. One graduate shared with us recently, “During the pandemic, thanks to the wonderful people at NPL’s Digital Inclusion program, I got an iPad and learned how to see and chat with my grandson.” The benefits are immediate, and for some of Nashville’s seniors, life changing.
Steadfast partners like Google Fiber allow Nashville Public Library to focus on creating dramatic impacts for Nashvillians and programs that help our community become a more literate, imaginative, and equitable place.
Posted by Shawn Bakker, President, Nashville Public Library Foundation