New York City public libraries are taking on a new role for NYC residents. In 2015, libraries provided tech training and education to over 150,000 residents. The library system, with 217 branches throughout the city, has increased its tech training programs by 81% over the last three years. The heightened effort is reflective of public sector progress towards helping grow the digital economy. Research conducted by the Center for an Urban Future looks examines this new trend.
Like other dense urban areas around the country, NYC has seen a huge tech sector boom creating new opportunities for growing the middle class. A new study by Burning Glass found that, across the board, 88% of middle-skill jobs in New York required a high level of digital skill. Low-income communities face larger barriers to learning the tech skills needed to occupy these jobs.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has a dedicated effort to build a workforce that meets the demand for tech intensive jobs called the Tech Talent Pipeline Initiative. A number of nonprofit coding schools and digital literacy organizations have contributed to this initiative by offering programs for low income and under-served communities, but the NYC public libraries have been able to take advantage of their familiar presence in every community.
Though the large Mid-Manhattan Library branch served the most people in 2015 with 14,704 tech training participants, 38 out of 50 the branches with the largest program growth are located outside of Manhattan. This means neighborhoods with residents traditionally underrepresented in the tech workforce are taking advantage of the tech training offerings.
Many policy advocates see public schools and libraries as natural anchor institutions for improving broadband access and addressing the digital divide in under-served communities. As the need for infrastructure grows, libraries and schools have the potential to fill the gap for a number of people. This rationale is especially strong for rural communities that can take advantage of federal funding to build middle mile networks to schools and libraries. The NYC public libraries are proving that re-purposing public institutions can also have a significant impact in urban areas facing tech talent gaps.
View the full set of data with research conducted by Kathleen Gorman and a summary written by Jonathan Bowles here: