Public libraries already offer Internet access
The Editor, Sir:
We note with great interest Bert Samuels' 'Letter of the Day' October 25, lobbying for the Government to make wireless access a public service and would like to point out that some important strides have already been made in that direction through the Jamaica Library Service (JLS), an agency of the Ministry of Education.
Since May 1, 2008, the JLS has provided free access to computers and the Internet throughout our network of 13 parish (main) libraries, 113 branch libraries and on six of our mobile library units across the island. This service is provided from 502 public-access computers. In addition, since September this year, free wireless access has been provided at all 13 main libraries and a select number of branch libraries. Users of the public library can therefore also access Internet service free of charge using their own wireless-ready equipment (laptops, etc).
Since the introduction of free access in May 2008 to March 31, this year the number of users of this service has escalated by 273.3 per cent. Users not only have access to the vast free resources on the Internet, but also have free access to at least one online database to which the organisation subscribes.
To assist users in navigating the information superhighway, the JLS also provides training in areas such as information literacy, computer basics for children and senior citizens. We fully endorse and support access to information for all, hence one of our most vulnerable groups are provided with a special service. Some of our computers have been equipped with the Job Access With Speech software which reads regular print resources to the blind and visually challenged. These individuals are trained to use the software.
The JLS continues to explore various initiatives to expand and improve on these services which are critical to preparing our people to compete in the global marketplace and to help the nation to achieve its Vision 2030 objectives. No segment of our population need be deprived of the means to move full speed ahead on the information superhighway. We, therefore, invite all Jamaicans to visit the nearest public library; log on to the benefits of access to computers and the Internet and enjoy, free of cost, the exciting menu of programmes and the variety of services offered by Jamaica's public libraries.
I am, etc.,