Library services are now mobile in Pike County, Ky.
The Pike County Public Library District in Kentucky has unveiled a mobile technology center to bring computer training, Internet access, employment assistance and other programs to outlying areas of the county.
The center -- a 32-foot trailer which took six months of on-and-off work to build -- was unveiled April 4. It cost approximately $30,000, a majority of which was funded by a grant by the EQT Foundation, the charitable donation arm of EQT, a natural gas production company.
The partnership between the library district and EQT was facilitated by ConnectKentucky, a nonprofit organization that develops and implements strategy for technology deployment.
Armed with the mobile technology center, the Pike County Public Library District can extend its reach into the community, which has been a challenge, according to Wesley Fleming, technology coordinator for the district.
Pike County is the largest local government district in Kentucky in terms of land area, according to Fleming, which can make it difficult for citizens to travel to a library location. Now they won’t have to.
“Our county is so large, and obviously we can’t put a branch library in every area of the county, it’s too expensive,” Fleming said. “We’ve had discussions in the past about a way to get out there and take technology and programs to people in areas we can’t serve by traditional methods, and this is it.”
No travel or programming schedule for the mobile center has been established yet. But Fleming said computer classes would be a major part of the offerings when the mobile center hits the road later this year. He also expects Internet access to be a major hit with patrons.
Internet access will be provided by a Hughes broadband satellite system. When the mobile tech center makes a stop, the system uses GPS to zero-in on a satellite in orbit and provides broadband connectivity similar to the speed of a land-based T1 connection.
With many of the county’s research services now online, the mobile center should allow residents who lack Internet access to check out the latest features being offered.
“Ancestry is one of the things we have online, and people like to do a lot of family research,” Fleming said. “That’s something we can go out there and present to them now. If you have a family event, we can show up with the mobile center and allow you to do some research and introduce you to the resources we have at the library.”
The mobile tech center has space for as many as nine computers, and program and class offerings will likely be restricted to about an hour or 90 minutes. Other resources that will be available include newspapers, downloadable e-books, audio books, music downloads and online practice tests for exams such as the ACT and SAT.
Fleming said the library district also is looking at other uses for the center once it starts rolling.
“We’re also looking to go out to community events … something we can participate in,” Fleming added. “[The mobile technology center] is a huge marketing tool for us.”
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.