When Ottawa made the short list for the 2010 intelligent communities of the year award at the annual conference of the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) on January 20, the Ottawa Public Library’s (OPL) digital inclusion programs were singled out as actively using broadband and information technology to excel in today’s global economy.
“This international recognition confirms the important role that the Ottawa Public Library plays in the education of our future community leaders,” says Councillor Jan Harder, OPL Board Chair. Ottawa was commended for its commitment to using information technology for education that helps young people prepare for knowledge-based careers in the community.
OPL offers a dynamic array of digital products and services to its patrons. It has seen consistent, year-over-year increases in visits to its web site, which numbered more than five million in 2008. And in 2009, electronic database usage was up nearly 20 per cent over the previous year.
BiblioCommons, the new catalogue introduced in 2009, is an example of constant technical and usability enhancements to ensure that information is accessible in a way that keeps users engaged. The new catalogue is easier to use, has greater search relevancy and provides social networking tools so that people can share information and interests.
In 2009, circulation of digital media such as audio books, e-books, and music increased by 90 per cent over 2008. Patrons can download these items from the OPL web site and many of the holdings may be transferred to a personal listening device such as an iPod or iPhone so that users can learn on the go.
High-speed wireless Internet access was first piloted at the Ottawa Public Library in 2007. Since 2008, it has been available in all 33 branches of the OPL. Users enjoy online connectivity in OPL branches that allows them a place, other than school or home, to continue studying, working and living online. Laptop computers, smartphones, or any other electronic devices that support the technology are often seen on study tables in OPL branches, right next to a stack of reference books.
Free Internet access has been available to OPL cardholders at in-branch computer terminals since 1996, and high-speed Internet access since 2001 at every branch across the city. OPL also offers an array of software applications on close to 400 public access workstations. In 2008, public Internet access workstations at the OPL were used nearly one million times.
OPL has a wide variety of databases available for students to use online, 24 hours a day. Peer-reviewed, academic journals and trade magazines for subjects ranging from science to sociology are available all OPL cardholders. Even if the library is not open, these databases are never closed.
For patrons who need help using a personal computer, OPL offers formalized computer and Internet training courses. In 2008, the Ottawa Public Library held nearly 400 computer-training sessions aimed at teaching older adults and newcomers how to use a personal computer. More than 1,500 people attended these sessions.
OPL also provides assistive technology to eliminate or diminish barriers to information and maximize user independence such as
- Assistive technology workstations with large character keyboard, trackball, mouse, scanner, height-adjustable desk, shared printer and a variety of assistive technology programs such as Kurzwell 1000 and 3000, JAWS, Dragon Naturally Speaking and J-Say.
- Wheelchair accessible workstations at wheelchair accessible branches
- ZoomText to magnify and read the text on a computer screen
- StickyKeys – a computer feature for people who have difficulty holding down two or more keys at a time
ICF singled out Ottawa for its relentless focus on education and start-ups. One of the top seven will be announced as the Intelligent Community of the Year on May 21, 2010 at ICF’s Broadband Economy Summit. The Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI) proposed Ottawa for the competition, which this year focused on school-work connections in the “education last mile”.
For more information about the ICF, visit their website at http://www.intelligentcommunity.org/.
For more information on OCRI, visit their website at www.ocri.ca.