AUGUSTA – Expansion of broadband technology to more than 100 libraries across the state was hailed Friday for its potential to spark economic recovery by providing the unemployed the tools they need to land a job.

The Maine State Library’s recently completed $1.9 million Broadband Technology Opportunity Program aims to provide high-speed Internet access to residents who lack the service and as a result are disadvantaged in their search for a job.

“No matter where you live in Maine, you can get access to high-speed Internet and get help finding a job,” Maine State Librarian Linda Lord said. “With librarians across the state, we are working hard to ensure Mainers know their local public library is a place where they can find a book, a video and also get free access to high-speed Internet and good, practical help finding a job.”

Lord spoke to dozens of librarians and state officials who gathered Friday in the Hall of Flags at the State House to celebrate completion of the two-plus-year project.

The project resulted in a 40 percent increase in publicly available computer work stations at 107 libraries around the state, Lord said. A $1.6 million grant through the U.S. Department of Commerce, matched with $600,000 from the state, also paid for a new video conferring system that links 14 public libraries across the state, including in Farmington, Skowhegan and the Maine State Library in Augusta.

Nationally, about 40 percent of library visits are work-related, according a 2013 report released by the American Library Association.

In Maine, about 200 local libraries have developed and carried out about 25,000 hours of job training over the past two years, Lord said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, the ranking member of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, said at Friday’s event that training was vital to helping veterans transition back into civilian life.

 

Craig Crosby can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

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