A Discussion Paper Prepared by:
Knowledge Matters Information Services
II. Executive Summary and Recommendations
III. Introduction and Methodology
IV. Context: History of Libraries and CAP
V. Views of Library Directors
VIII. Appendix A
The goals of Industry Canada include the development of innovation and entrepreneurship among Canadians. The success stories stemming from Industry Canada's CAP sites reflect the degree to which this program has expedited those goals. Because of CAP, the level of use of the Internet through public access computers in library CAP sites is remarkable. The Saskatoon Public Library has seen a 200% to 300% annual increase in the level of use. Similarly, as reported by Southeast Regional Library, it is virtually impossible to accommodate demand for Internet access, an observation that is shared by the entire public library system in Saskatchewan.
Through the use of the Internet, more information literate communities are being developed and the digital divide in Saskatchewan is gradually being reduced. For example, Saskatoon Public Library' developed Tools for Change, a computer literacy program for the First Nations community. The response to this program and the level of demand was simply amazing. Throughout the public library system the perception is that essential life skills, including accessing government information about services, are being developed to a remarkable degree. In particular, inner city young people who have often given up on formal education are undergoing a process of self-education through their access to the Internet and computers in library CAP sites. The impact of CAP has been a rising tide that raises all boats: youth, seniors, the First Nations Community, the unemployed and persons with disabilities have taken the opportunity presented by library CAP sites to make themselves information and computer literate. Collectively, they have advanced themselves through the innovative use and enabling effect of information and communications technologies. The economic, social, cultural and civic benefits to Canadian society have been enormous.
The public library systems of Saskatchewan work closely with SPAN, the organization of CAP networks in Saskatchewan, providing essential knowledge, leadership and direction. Saskatchewan Public Libraries share Industry Canada's agenda of Achieving Excellence Through Innovation. Saskatchewan Public Libraries support the necessary environment, as well as provide the necessary programs and resources, for lifelong learning and a learning culture that is essential in a vibrant, knowledge-based economy. The inclusive nature of the public library makes it accessible to all and, in effect, promotes participation in both formal and informal learning. As well, the democratic nature of public libraries makes them genuinely inclusive and a major force in the reduction of the digital divide. In fact, the public library's ability to provide information retrieval and dissemination services will be increasingly essential in a knowledge-based society. Together, Industry Canada's CAP and Saskatchewan Public Libraries have forged a partnership that has had a significant impact on reducing the digital divide and on the creation of an innovative and entrepreneurial society.
Now that all of this has been achieved, it is only fitting that Industry Canada is now asking were do we go from here. This document provides the necessary direction from a Saskatchewan perspective.
- Executive Summary and Recommendations
Substantial progress has been made in Saskatchewan in achieving Industry Canada's goals of Connecting Canadians through convenient access to the Internet, helping Canadians obtain the knowledge and skills to effectively use information and communication technologies, and furthering the national goal of achieving international leadership as the world's most connected society and economy through the innovative use of library CAP sites.
This report identifies the Saskatchewan library community's need for collaboration with the federal and provincial governments in order to secure regular and predictable sustainability funding for library CAP sites. Sustainability funding is required to further develop library CAP sites and to ensure free and universal public access to the Internet and information technology. The provision of free and universal access to the Internet and information technology will play a crucial role in the elimination of the digital divide. Public libraries provide the necessary infrastructure for the social inclusion that will eliminate or reduce the digital divide. This report also identifies the shared goals of the federal government, the provincial government and the Saskatchewan library community. Achieving these shared goals means that all Canadians have the opportunity to acquire the skills and learning they need to meet the innovation demands of the knowledge-based economy and to improve their productivity, standard of living, and quality of life. Towards this end, over the past six years, Saskatchewan public libraries have transformed themselves in order to offer e-library services.
Recommendations for CAP Sustainability
Recommendation 1: That Industry Canada work with the public library community in Saskatchewan to develop a coordinated, collaborative plan and a policy framework to achieve sustainability for library CAP sites in Saskatchewan.
Recommendation 2: That Industry Canada provides regular, annual funding to library CAP sites.
- Introduction and Methodology
The purpose of this document is:
- To inform the federal and the provincial governments of the needs, views and recommendations of public library CAP sites in Saskatchewan; and
- To allow the needs of Saskatchewan public libraries to positively influence the development of federal and provincial government policy regarding access to technology and information for citizens.
The basic goals for library CAP sites can be summarized as follows:
- Public access to the Internet for personal use.
- Increased awareness of e-library services and information about access to digitized province-wide magazine and journal databases and other information sources.
- Training in the use of technology and in the development of information and communication technology skills (ICT).
- Teaching computer literacy skills to deal with the digital divide.
- Developing basic literacy through appropriate software, particularly First Nation's languages using audio and video.
- Distance education support through cooperative relationships with regional colleges and other education organizations.
- Preservation and sharing of cultural and personal history through digitization projects.
- Active involvement with local community efforts at sustainability and community development.
Public libraries in Saskatchewan are also asking the question: "Where do we go from here?" In order to answer the question, the writer employed to write this report employed a methodology that consisted of:
- interviews with library directors in the Saskatchewan public library system;
- interviews with individuals receiving CAP funding for other networks;
- interviews with individuals working at Saskatchewan regional colleges;
- reviewing relevant literature including previous CAP reports, Industry Canada web site information, and past CAP reports; and
- analysis of Leo J. Deveau's Dalhousie University Masters' thesis: The Canadian Information Highway Debate and the Experience of Public Access in Rural Communities, 1993 - 1999.
- Context: History of Public Libraries and CAP
In 1997, regional libraries in Saskatchewan undertook to review current rural library service and to define the vision for the future development of these services. Their vision was equitable access to quality information, services and resources. They also defined five levels of service to achieve this vision: home access, public access computers, local branch libraries, area resource centers, and regional resource centers. They believe that exploitation of new technologies would provide the means to achieve equity in service delivery.
In 1998, the public library directors created a vision of "seamless access" to quality information resources through technology and identified four priorities for development:
- Searching all library catalogues (single search gateway)
- Access to other databases (remote patron authentication)
- Patron-initiated requests (inter-library loan management)
- Universal library card
Presently, the first three of these steps are close to completion. An application for 2003 - 2004 to the Saskatchewan Government On Line program for funding to complete steps 2 and 3 has been approved. Consultation regarding, the final priority, a universal library card is underway.
The development of these e-library services continues to be a cooperative venture. The Multitype Library Board has also pursued similar goals for e-library services, especially in regard to province-wide access to the reliable information aggregated in magazine and journal databases. The Saskatchewan Library Trustees Association (SLTA) continues to request funding from the municipal and provincial governments for public libraries to develop e-library services.
Industry Canada's Community Access Program (CAP) presented public libraries in Saskatchewan with a further opportunity to achieve their vision of citizen's access to quality information resources. It greatly expanded the number of public access computers available and created a new standard for the provision of public Internet access in the majority of Saskatchewan's rural libraries.
CAP in Saskatchewan
To understand the present situation regarding CAP, it is necessary to understand the history of the program and its initial goals. However, it should be noted that Provincial Library and the public library systems have always sought and utilized many venues of support including federal, provincial and municipal governments and other programs developed to provide public access to information via the Internet and public access to personal computers.
From 1995 to 1998 the Canada/Saskatchewan Works Program provided funding for public libraries to upgrade automated systems to enable more effective networking among public libraries and to place computers in the first 100 branch libraries. Municipal contributions funded over 50% of the program's spending.
Industry Canada provided matching funds for the Every Library Connected Program 1998 - 2000 which resulted in almost 500 public access computer workstations being placed in 284 of Saskatchewan's 320 public libraries. In addition, in the late 1990s and under approved funding from the Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation, 169 workstations were provided to 114 public libraries, a networking allowance was provided to 98 libraries to upgrade from dial-up to dedicated phone lines and one training lab with 11 workstations was provided.
In 2001, Industry Canada provided sustainability funds to 306 library CAP sites to support and further develop CAP site services.
The Saskatchewan Provincial Library and the public library system share Industry Canada's goals for CAP. With these goals successfully implemented:
- All residents of Saskatchewan will have convenient access to the Internet;
- Individuals will be able to obtain the knowledge and skills to effectively use information and communication technologies to help achieve their individual and collective social and economic goals; and
- The national goal of achieving international leadership as the world's most connected society and economy will be advanced.
Planning to Achieve Goals
Leo J. Deveau's research reveals a great deal about the history of Industry Canada's CAP that may be useful to understanding Saskatchewan's situation. Deveau, an independent researcher and graduate student at Dalhousie University, studied CAP and observed that the "character of each CAP site was partly determined by the institution in which it was situated." Deveau notes that "CAP sites in libraries and schools benefited from their respective institutional structures in terms of staff support and resource availability." He states that libraries have, understandably, a more public service orientation and that "libraries are much more interested in the ‘public' aspect of public access than schools, which tended to do less community outreach as CAP sites." In other words, library CAP sites provide both essential infrastructure support and increased access to the public. In fact, the relationship between CAP itself and public library systems is inherently symbiotic as each benefits from the other in achieving their shared goals.
As observed by Deveau, Industry Canada "encouraged partnerships with the knowledge, skills and resources of local communities to establish CAP site environments, [but] did not provide adequate support infrastructures for communities where such skills and resources were limited." Again, the partnership with public library systems addresses this deficiency to some degree in that a substantial base of knowledge, skills and additional resources are integrated into CAP sites through the involvement of the Saskatchewan public library system. More to the point, Deveau makes it evident that CAP always required some kind of partnership to be minimally effective.
Despite the basic idealism and laudable goals of Industry Canada's CAP, Deveau believes that "in light of the growth of the Internet since CAP began, the initial CAP implementation was comparable to putting someone who did not know how to drive on a busy eight-lane highway." To expand the image, one could say that it was a highway still under rapid construction with little signage or direction and the vehicle being driven was itself going through a constantly transforming process. The larger issue, of course, is how information and communication technologies, particularly the Internet, have transformed lives and, in the process, increased the need for new skills, new forms of literacy and a commitment to lifelong learning. In terms of CAP, the pace of social and technological change has reinforced the need for a supportive infrastructure to expedite the process of self-education through access to a personal computer with Internet access, the basic contribution of CAP.
Another observation that is particularly insightful and applicable to Saskatchewan's situation, specifically in terms of Saskatchewan's dispersed population, is that "rural communities were defined in CAP literature as those with populations under 50,000." This assessment conveys the degree to which Saskatchewan has had to face real challenges with CAP and the degree to which Saskatchewan has been inherently disadvantaged in terms of fundamental resources that are more readily available in the larger urban centres that Industry Canada defines as rural. Industry Canada's program was not designed to meet the needs of communities with populations of less than 1,000 people.
Consider the situation in Saskatchewan. The province itself has a landmass of over 250,000 square miles and a relatively small and widely dispersed population of one million people. Of the communities in which a library is located, 11 are in communities of between 2500 and 5000 population; 100 are in communities of 500 to 2500 populations; and 160 serve populations of less than 500. Of the 281 sites receiving CAP sustainability funding, 90% will be in communities of less than 1,000 people.
According to CAP's own definitions, CAP sites in most Saskatchewan communities are "marginalized" and exhibit "the characteristics of such communities, often lacking sufficient financial resources to provide either a full-time paid staff person to support a CAP site or pay a technician to fix technical problems." Even library CAP sites, with their supportive infrastructure, face the challenge of sustaining technical support. As Deveau concludes, "Industry Canada did not consider the broader access resource requirements of CAP sites, especially those residing in marginalized environments." Even with the support of Saskatchewan's public library system, issues of access to resources have not been resolved. These issues include maintaining the computer network in each public library system, the need for extended hours of opening to achieve public access, the availability of high-speed access at CAP sites and providing staffing with adequate technical skill.
For Saskatchewan, as for other provinces, the approach of the federal government "in helping Canadians access the Information Highway was to provide enough funding to allow communities to purchase a few computers, provide one year's worth of Internet connectivity, and staff [the CAP centre] with volunteers. The government's CAP funding arrangement also expected a further 50% contribution from a local organization. However, these organizations had no guidance as to how to promote, support, train or encourage the use of CAP by community members."
As well, according to Deveau, "with or without paid staff, it was clear that some community CAP sites underestimated the effort involved in sustaining long-term community involvement . . . What in fact was the size of the populace that CAP was intended to serve? Had Industry Canada done any market analysis on this question? Nothing turned up in this enquiry to indicate the federal government had ever undertaken such an analysis." Similarly, the Saskatchewan public library systems have not collectively analyzed or assessed what is required to sustain library CAP sites on a long-term basis. Instead, more informal assessments, previous CAP reports and a high level of awareness of the impact of CAP on rural communities are present in the public library system and on the part of the library directors and others.
Deveau notes that regardless of Industry Canada's own failure to determine CAP sustainability and level of service, "in terms of sustainability, it was evident that CAP sites in poorer communities would benefit greatly from more stable funding and access to training and on-going technical expertise." In addition, "there were very complex economic and social issues arising out of both the use and implementation of CAP in rural communities." The public library systems in Saskatchewan have themselves had to cope with the challenge of sustaining a viable public library system - one with increasing demands and public expectations --- with relatively limited financial resources. As previously noted, most branch libraries in Saskatchewan are in small rural communities and these communities consistently work together to receive maximum benefits from the local branch library.
Saskatchewan's unique conditions are not adequately addressed or acknowledged by Industry Canada and, as Deveau observes, "achieving sustainability is not seriously addressed if regional differences in available community resources are not taken into account, nor if interests other than the interests of the community define it." What are required are "policies to address access for disenfranchised individuals and groups, namely those who have low literacy levels, the disabled, the unemployed, etc." These policies "should have been well thought out and researched by policy makers with an understanding of the mechanisms that reinforce marginalization."
Issue: Collaborative Planning
Saskatchewan's geography and demographics have resulted in the creation of over 300 library CAP sites, 90% of which serve populations of under 1,000. This presents unique challenges, which have not been adequately addressed in previous programs. Therefore, the Saskatchewan library community encourages Industry Canada to collaborate with the Provincial Library and the public library systems in Saskatchewan to develop new program initiatives. Historically there have been two parallel streams of CAP development in Saskatchewan, rural CAP sites and library CAP sites, with some overlap between the two. Industry Canada has taken steps to establish a structure to work with rural CAP sites. However, their needs are quite different from the needs of library CAP sites so appropriate planning mechanisms need to be established.
Recommendation 1: That Industry Canada work with the public library community in Saskatchewan to develop a coordinated, collaborative plan and a policy framework to achieve sustainability for library CAP sites in Saskatchewan.
Access and Skill Development
As use of the Internet and information technology evolves, another inherent weakness of CAP becomes apparent: "the federal government's concept of CAP did not addresses these larger issues of "access" and "the required literacy levels for users and the availability (or lack thereof) of literacy development resources within the community to support the user of a CAP site. CAP appeared to be built upon structures of marginalization already in place without a clear analysis of the challenges that such marginalization had in terms of acquiring necessary resources support." Saskatchewan's public library systems are similarly dealing with the larger issue of access and are aware of the need to assist the user in attaining an appropriate level of literacy to access resources and services. The issues pertaining to access are complex and include:
- economic barriers;
- training library CAP site workers;
- the development and maintenance of a networked infrastructure for library CAP sites - support that must be provided at a regional level;
- the number of weekly open hours of library CAP sites; and
- the related complex issues of providing access for the disabled, seniors, First Nations populations and other marginalized groups.
Increasingly, issues of literacy continue to rise to the surface. The digital divide, increasing expectations on the part of the public, and improved software have all resulted in a revised review of the potential impact of CAP. Deveau believes that a revision of the government's information policy development orientation is also necessary. The existing orientation "saw individuals as users of communication systems akin to broadcasting or telecommunications, whereas the Internet was a dynamic, multi-directional, information and communications network --- a network that required substantial information literacy and skill development support to make use of its potential." A different policy orientation would create a more realistic awareness of CAP's capacity to assist individuals in becoming information literate and technically skilled, particularly at a grassroots level and for those seeking basic knowledge and skills. Saskatchewan public library systems have developed a number of programs that that are intended to address digital divide issues by developing basic training dealing with literacy issues that can be made available without staff intervention. More specifically, these programs have not yet begun to deal with information literacy, but with the most basic level of computer literacy.
The Final Report of the Canada/Saskatchewan Every Library Connected Program 1998 - 2000 provided substantial information about the benefits of public access to the Internet from the perspective of the beneficiary. The Saskatchewan public confirmed that the project was "an excellent one for improvement of information, literacy and technology skills in our community."
Specific benefits included:
- Equitable access to information, regardless of socio-economic status;
- Access to government information on health, jobs, pensions, housing, business opportunities and government services;
- Greater family cohesion and closeness, primarily through email communication;
- Access to education resources for children, parents and seniors;
- Vocation self improvement through the acquisition of new skills and resulting improved earning power;
- Access to healthcare information;
- Development of entrepreneurial opportunity; and
- Self-development through greater access to information and services related to specific personal and recreational interests.
Yet the fact remains that the digital divide in marginalized, rural and northern communities now makes the presence of CAP sites even more essential. Increasingly, rural communities will need to develop comprehensive plans to address, in more depth, the issues surrounding access to ensure that their community members have the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge-based, networked economy.
- Views of Library Directors; the Saskatchewan-specific Situation
The views of the library directors in Saskatchewan were solicited in one-on-one conversation with the contractor employed by Provincial Library to implement the 2003 Industry Canada sustainability program. Views have been collated with commonly held views reported only once.
In May of 2003, the Library Directors identified the key outcomes that would be derived from enhanced federal funding. These were:
- Free universal access on a long-term basis;
- Provision of computers, access hours and connectivity to the Internet;
- Training, especially hard-to-find government information on web pages;
- Sustained funding for universal access and not project funding;
- Multiyear projects;
- Ongoing core funding; and
- Communication with libraries.
Issue: Regular Funding
There is a consistent view on the part of the library directors that for sustainability funding to be effective and not to be used in an ad hoc manner, there must be regular, predictable and reliable regular funding on an annual basis. It is not possible to sustain a program over a number of years nor is it possible to plan for the future without essential funding in place. Without regular, predictable and a reasonable annual level of funding, CAP sustainability cannot exist.
Recommendation 2: That Industry Canada provides regular, annual funding to CAP sites.
Issue: Infrastructure, Technology and Staff Support
In terms of the technical infrastructure, the primary area of need consists of maintaining the library network that supports the library CAP sites. Technical support needs to be provided in the context of unique library applications available on the public access machines. The cost factor and affordability are also significant, as it is important to deal with small problems before they become big problems and maintenance is important to ensure that a reliable network is in place. Infrastructure support costs include both equipment and the cost for qualified personnel.
There is a great need for technical support; this includes both high level support to install and maintain networks within the public library system and lower level technical assistance and support for the public supplied by local library staff and for public access CAP computers in library CAP sites.
In addition, there are increasing public expectations that federal government information is instantly available through the Internet and that library staff will provide assistance and access to this information. Public expectation ranges from the need for highly specialized information for knowledge workers to people with low levels of computer literacy seeking help. This presents an increased challenge for library staff, especially with the time demands required to serve the low literacy public.
Area of Need: additional staff hours for centralized technical staff to provide technical support to a number of CAP sites.
Area of Need: IT hardware and software support at a regional network level and not assume that the regional technical support services they have created are a replacement for an integrated IT library service.
Issue: Technology Lifespan
An on-going sustainability issue is, of course, the hard fact that all information technology hardware and software has a limited life span. At the end of three years, most computers are old, less reliable and in need of being upgraded or replaced. The current sustainability funding has addressed this problem for now but in the long-term hardware and software will be a critical issue once again.
Area of Need: 3 to 5 year replacements cycle for computer and network hardware and software.
Reality of Digital Divide in Saskatchewan
The library directors believe that the digital divide is a very significant issue in rural areas: access to technology can be limited due to poverty; under funded schools; limited bandwidth; lack of trained personnel; and a still existing apprehension about, and aversion to, technology.
The example of the "Internet Pilot's License" as tested in the public library system has merit and considerable practical potential, particularly for rural areas. Palliser and Southeast regional libraries developed the project and delivered it in communities within both regions. Each library system had fulltime trainers that were made possible with funding from the Saskatchewan Information Technology Office (ITO). A researcher at the Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy has studied this pilot project from a public policy perspective and additional findings are forthcoming.
Area of Need: addressing the digital divide by expanding the reach to public training province-wide.
The public library system supports the need to improve information literacy through the development of computer literacy. As part of the same ITO project, Saskatoon Public Library has developed a series of online training modules, which were mounted on CDs and distributed to all libraries in Saskatchewan. The northern library system is currently creating Cree and Dene language versions of these training modules but has insufficient funding to complete the project. These products should be made be made Web-accessible and promoted within public libraries.
Area of need: The translation of the Pahkisimon Nuye?áh Library System computer training program into Cree and Dene.
Area of need: Translating these programs into French.
The public library systems are continuing to address the issue of the digital divide and eliminating barriers that increase the digital divide. While on-line courses are seen as an effective method for developing computer literacy, it should be noted that they present an infrastructure problem in terms of adequate time and access to equipment in library CAP centres where access to computers is often restricted to 15 - 20 minutes due to high demand.
Digitization of Saskatchewan Information Content
There is a widespread perception among library directors that Provincial Library and the public library systems have developed substantial resources that could be more effectively highlighted in library CAP sites. The question of developing relevant information content has been partially addressed through the Saskatchewan Web Sites collection database, access to library catalogues, the Saskatchewan Library Directory, and the Ask Us! Question and Answer service. The Multitype Database Licensing Program also makes a huge quantity of reliable magazine, journal and other information resources available to the public.
Digitization of Saskatchewan information resources is a concern of libraries and future CAP funding could be used to develop appropriate information resources; as noted in the Discussion Paper "Fostering Digitization Initiatives in Saskatchewan": "A priority of a Saskatchewan digitization alliance should be to build understanding of the opportunities and limitations that digitization offers with regard to preservation, so that partner institutions can make wise preservations decisions." The process of forming partnerships and examining Saskatchewan content for digitization could greatly enhance the value of library CAP sites through access to new Saskatchewan information resources. Currently, there is a coordinated province-wide plan to produce resources in digital form, to develop a central repository of who is doing what and to coordinate access to these digital resources. Funding is required for both coordination and digitization.
Area of Need: Coordinating and implementing digitization projects.
Issue: Library CAP Web Site Content
The public increasingly expects all material to be available on-line which results in a greater need for library CAP sites to digitize local and provincial information and to buy digital databases and products to meet increasing demand. As the library gains attention and becomes increasingly used, the need for expanded content on their web sites increases. Library directors are addressing training issues that recognize the need for web-based local resources, databases, archives and digitized information. This is clearly an area with enormous potential and, as skill levels increase on the part of library staff, content needs to be addressed in an organized, coherent manner that acknowledges local information needs for communities.
Area of Need: Webmaster positions to develop and to organize content.
Issue: Staff Training
A core sustainability issue is the need for training for library staff in order to provide public training and to assist the public on a one-to-one basis. Additional staff resources are needed for training local branch staff, opening branch libraries for additional public access hours. Most of the libraries have converted existing positions to acquire technical expertise on staff but these are not new positions and, in most cases, the library system is taxed to the limit in terms of its capacity to provide technical support to the branches. It is clear that there is an increasing demand for training by both library staff and the public. It is equally clear that the benefits of staff training resonate throughout the library system.
Area of Need: Staff training to improve computer and information literacy skills to enable them to better assist library and CAP site patrons.
Interest in, and awareness of CAP, can be enhanced by attracting tourists and travelers with appropriate signage to public libraries to let the travelers access web-based mail. Saskatchewan Tourism and the provincial government have a highway sign program to identify libraries and have produced brochures to inform tourists that all libraries provide public access to the Internet through their CAP computers.
Demand for Service/Access
Access is a critical issue for the Saskatchewan public library system with increasing demand in libraries for computers and Internet access; Southeast Regional Library estimates that there is a 20% annual increase in computer and Internet use. In terms of technology, as more is provided, more is demanded. There is a sense in the public library system that demand is growing faster than the library systems' capacity to provide resources with no saturation point in sight.
It should be noted that demand is also growing because of the need to access information about federal government programs. For example, the need for information about the Gun Registry and Employment Insurance services increases the demand for computers, creates greater time needs on the part of patrons to access complex information and forms and has a significant impact on staff as requests for assistance increase.
Issue: Additional Branch Hours
As public demand for training increases and as library staff address training needs that are in addition to an already heavy workload, the need for additional branch hours for training the public becomes a core sustainability issue.
Area of Need: Additional branch hours.
At a retreat in 2000, the public library Directors described current pressures and trends. These included:
- Patrons' growing expectations regarding e-library services (including hours of operation, high speed Internet);
- Pressure to sustain e-library services as well as maintain traditional services;
- Increasing need for digitization;
- A growing digital divide (between those who have access and those who do not) and the need to bridge that divide;
- Pressure to fund the system due to:
- Decreasing rural population (fewer people pay more);
- Need for ongoing training for staff and volunteers;
- Volunteer (fundraising) and staff burnout); and
- Limit to municipal funding.
At that time the Library Directors noted that connectivity had been achieved with help from Industry Canada's CAP but it was anticipated that, after 2003, there would be no dollars left for sustainability from Industry Canada. Directors decided that boards would send letters to the federal government to continue to request funding for infrastructure for the information highway.
Issue: Telecommunications Costs
Telecommunications cost issues for library CAP Centres relate to the need for high-speed Internet access. Under CommunityNet, 162 Saskatchewan libraries will receive subsidized high-speed Internet access over the 5-year life of the program. CommunityNet is funded under the $4.4 million Canada-Saskatchewan Infrastructure Program. Unfortunately, 50% of the public libraries in Saskatchewan will not be served through CommunityNet. It is anticipated that CommunityNet will make telecommunications costs more affordable for all libraries through internal cost sharing strategies. While high speed technology is not available in all communities served by a library, 65 libraries are in locations where access to CommunityNet is technologically possible and the only barrier is a lack of funding. $1.7 million is needed to extend access to these 65 libraries.
Area of need: Funding of $1.7 million to add 65 more public libraries to CommunityNet.
Area of need: A cost-sharing program with the province to extend Community Net to all public libraries in the province.
Issue: Government On-Line (GOL)
Despite Canada's success in e-government, the Accenture Consulting Group on Canada's Government On-Line (GOL) reports that no overall GOL model has yet emerged in Canada and "it may fall to Canadian public libraries to develop a model for the implementation of GOL with the public library/community settings." A report prepared for LibraryNet and Industry Canada in 2003 reported that "to be a transformative player in eGovernment initiatives, public libraries themselves will have to adopt an eLibrary transformative system." The Canadian Library Association has recommended that the LibraryNet Advisory Board could be a partner and catalyst as well as lobby for resources to be made available, stating that "funding could be flowed through a series of partnership agreements between the federal government and the process" (similar to MOUs respecting the CAP program) or "through an independent central funding agency." In those countries in which public libraries are major players in GOL, the libraries have worked with the federal government to develop the GOL vision and strategies (training programs, marketing and branding, public access and high-speed access) and have received federal funding in support of these initiatives.
Area of need: A national vision that includes a defined role for libraries as an integral part of GOL.
Issue: General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)
One of the gray areas in GATS involves the definition of "library services, as "collection, cataloguing, conservation and retrieval services of books and the like [and] lending services of books and records." In fact, library services are increasingly moving beyond GATS's print orientation and dealing with telecommunications, computer technology, and the areas of electronic and digital access to information and resources. The concern is that the federal government will change domestic policies that support libraries in order to conform to the demands of GATS.
Area of need: That Industry Canada champion the cause of libraries and provide the necessary public policy and regulatory development needed if public libraries are to continue to achieve their mandates in a dynamic information and business environment.
The Saskatchewan library community has committed itself to the development of e-library services and to support Industry Canada's vision of a community of connected Canadians. As detailed in this document, there is a need to improve the provision of input into future federal and provincial policy development concerning sustainability funding for access to the Internet and information technology that will create free and universal access to information resources and services that will eliminate the digital divide.
M.A. Thesis, The Canadian Information Highway Debate and The Experience of Public Access in Rural Communities, 1993-1999 by Leo Deveau
Canada - Saskatchewan Agreement on Community Access: Final Report, April 29, 2002
Chapter of Draft Wapiti 5-year plan: The Role of a Wapiti Library in the Community
Developing a Strategy for Enhancing Federal Funding Based on a Shared Vision for Saskatchewan's Public Libraries
Fostering Digitization Initiatives in Saskatchewan: A Discussion Paper, April 2003
Multitype Library Board Public Relations Report to the Board, November 22, 2002 http://www.lib.sk.ca/staff/multitype/PRFinalReport.pdf
Thickwood Hills Business and Learning Centre http://www.thickwoodhills.com/
Industry Canada http://www.ic.gc.ca/
Industry Canada's Community Access Program http://cap.ic.gc.ca/
Industry Canada's Smart Communities http://smartcommunities.ic.gc.ca/index_e.asp
- Appendix A
While research was being done for this document, Wapiti Regional Library provided information to Provincial Library related to the role of a public branch library in community development. It deals with values and actions that are very similar to Industry Canada's Community Access Program to empower citizens through access to information and information technology. For this reason, this information is appended here.
One library system's perspective: The Role of a Wapiti library in a community:
Wapiti Regional Library sees the model of Carleton Trail Regional College training support as one that is applicable to library CAP sites. As well, Wapiti's belief is that libraries and library CAP sites must build on the strengths of community organizations, thereby allowing libraries to use technical strength with independent community CAP sites. Wapiti also suggests a best practices approach that also builds on the strength of successful CAP sites. However, Wapiti's fundamental belief is that the role of libraries is to support community development; this role is also the role and purpose of CAP.
Community development is the business libraries have always been in and will
be for years to come. Community development is an exercise that people can understand, especially in rural Saskatchewan where communities are increasingly on the endangered species list. To effectively speak to stakeholders and decision-makers, Wapiti positions itself as an important participant in Community Development efforts wherever it has a branch.
Wapiti's recommendations include:
Joining the economic development efforts in your community through:
- Chamber of Commerce;
- Regional Economic Development Authority;
- Community promotion initiatives;
- Ensuring the library has a presence in the local welcome wagon;
Involvement with other community-minded associations and boards such as
- Arts councils,
- Cultural associations,
- Literacy associations,
- Early Childhood Development programs,
- Recreation boards, and
- Service Clubs.
Actively promote the use of our libraries for delivering programs and services of other community groups in order to enhance overall community development efforts. Join or help organize community fundraising initiatives or a Community Development Foundation.
Explore cooperative arrangements based on healthy equal partnerships with
other community groups, organizations, and even businesses, that assist all
parties in meeting their respective needs. Such organizations can be:
- Mayor's office (i.e. Mayors book of the month program)
- Municipal offices (building)
- Day-cares (programs and building)
- Retirement homes (programs and building)
- Recreation facilities (programs and building)
- Schools (programs)
- Coffee Shops (programs and building)
- Retail establishments (programs and building)
The more involved the library is in these efforts the more visible their value will be to the community and its decision-makers.
Community Development means working closely with politicians and business
people. Your board must have a person who will be comfortable and confident
operating in this environment. The board must be outgoing in their efforts
to communicate and cooperate with these individuals, sharing information on
the library's value, services, and importance to the community's quality of
life. Failing to "keep decision-makers in the loop" will spell disaster.