Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program
Enhancing Computing Centers in Montana Public Libraries
Concluding Press Release
From 2010 to 2013, under the Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP) funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), the Montana State Library partnered with 42 of Montana's public libraries to expand access to free, high-speed Internet to 86% of the state’s population. Though most local libraries have computers with Internet access, many did not have enough computers, fast enough broadband speeds, or Internet-accessible computer facilities to provide adequate services for the thousands of Montanans who need it. As a result, library patrons had long wait times of up to two hours for computers, as well as unacceptably slow browsing speeds.
Thanks to the BTOP program:
- Montana BTOP libraries received 478 new computers;
- Library operating hours increased by 5%;
- Wait times for public computers dropped to an average of less than one minute;
- BTOP libraries offered 51,280 hours of technology related training to 130,345 patrons and 2,373 staff members.
BTOP Public Computing Center Goals
Montana’s project promoted three BTOP statutory purposes:
1) provide improved access to broadband service to consumers residing in underserved areas of the country;
2) provide broadband education, awareness, training, access, equipment, and support to libraries; and,
3) stimulate the demand for broadband, economic growth, and job creation.
With support from The United States Department of Commerce and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Montana State Library pooled two grants totaling over $2.7 million to:
1) increase broadband speeds at participating libraries up to 21 mbps;
2) cut wait times in half by increasing the total number of workstations and expanding library operation hours;
3) improve access by purchasing ADA compliant software, hardware, and furniture, and through minor renovation projects aimed at increasing accessibility of computing center facilities;
4) offer courses to increase computer literacy; and
5) provide Internet and library resources to rural Montana using a mobile computer lab.
As a result, participating Montana public libraries were able to provide better access to higher education, employment opportunities, job training, social networking, and a host of ever-growing online resources.
Many community-based and statewide partners assist local librarians and patrons with efficiently locating ever-growing online resources. These resources include but are not limited to: self- help law resources, employment opportunities, public benefits enrollment, career training, distance learning, and social networking. The BTOP program was privileged to partner with:
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
Montana Department of Labor & Industry, Workforce Services Division
Montana Digital Academy (MTDA) at the University of Montana
The Supreme Court of Montana Self-Help Law Program
Census and Economic Information Center of the Montana Department of Commerce
Montana Legal Services Association
State Law Library of Montana
The United States Department of Commerce-Broadband Technology Opportunities Program
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
$665,000 (cash match)
Montana State Library and Local Libraries
$202,231 (in-kind match)
Available through the project page on the Recovery.Gov website.
Kris Schmitz, Central Services Manager, 406-444-3117
(406) 444-3115 (Main Number)
(800) 338-5087 (Toll Free in Montana)