Rural Library Sustainability Project Overview
The Rural Library Sustainability Project (RLS), funded through a grant by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a collaboration between WebJunction, State Library Agencies, and Rural and Small Library Staff throughout the US. Built on a train the trainer model, 42 participating states have sent their trainer (s) to WebJunction's Train the Trainer Institute, Sustaining Public Access in Rural Libraries. The curriculum for this Institute focuses on issues and challenges that rural library staffs typically identify as obstacles in sustaining public access computing. The trainers who attend the institute then go out and replicate a similar workshop (s) in their state. Each state has determined the location and numbers of workshops in their state.
Most states that participate will shoot for a target participation rate of 80%. This translates, ideally, into 80% of the total number of "rural libraries" in the state sending one representative to the workshop(s). The total number of "rural libraries" in a respective state is based on the larger of two numbers from the following NCES (FY2001) data points:
This program is exciting because of its attention to a demographic that is heavily represented on WebJunction, yet traditionally feels slighted by local and state governments when it comes to staffing, budgets, and staying current with technology. This infusion of resources into the plight of rural library staff should empower them to initiate strategies within their communities that will assist them in sustaining their public access computing. Indeed, action plans from all over the country are being posted on a regular basis in our Rural Community.
Residually, this program will also establish new connections to WebJunction. Rural library staff will be directed to WebJunction to seek out and share content that is beneficial to them. They will also be encouraged to become a part of WebJunction's All Aboard group. Here they will not only solidify their relationship with other workshop participants, but they'll also reach out and form new relationships, thus diminishing the perceived isolation so often felt by rural and small library staff. Once WebJunction is established as the source for both content (all pertinent content from the workshops, including best practices, action items, etc., will be housed on WebJunction) and community, this group should not only sustain themselves in number, but their efforts will have a compounding effect over time in attracting new members, content, and ideas.
The Rural Library Sustainability Program is funded through 2007. 8 states completed their workshops in 2006: Alabama, Alaska, Illinois, New Mexico, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Virginia, and West Virginia. 15 states (Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, and Utah) are currently in the final phases of workshop delivery, and 19 states (Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) will be delivering workshops through June, 2007.
To date, we have had over 3800 rural library staff attend a workshop in their state, and create an action plan to take back to their community.
The feedback from these workshops has been positive. The majority of comments we've been receiving from participants center around appreciation for: 1) connecting with colleagues and networking with folks in similar straits; 2) being exposed to new ideas and energy; 3) exploring the different resources available on WebJunction; 4) being given the time and the space to think about the needs and potential paths an individual library could take; 5) realizing they are not alone in their struggles and there are many places to go for support.
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This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License