Public Libraries in Smart Cities and Communities Toolbox
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How to Fund Technology Investments
In your action plan for the development of a smart city or community, one of your library’s priorities is to fund your technology investment. It would take a large portion of your library’s budget if your goal is to be become a technology or innovation hub that provides local residents with access to up-to-date technology and Internet connection as well as open space for citizen engagement and the development of innovations. To update/maintain newly implemented infrastructure in your library also requires relatively consistent funding so that your library can make potential contributions to the development of a smart city or community.
There are different strategies or sources you may want to consider for funding your new technology initiatives. The first one you may want to explore is local/regional government agencies. You may already have funding from the local government for the library’s daily operation but being an active player in the smart city development may require additional financial support. They are regarded as the most important partners for technology investment in the library as they are the leaders who have the vision and resources for the smart city or community related initiatives and programs.
In this respect, local government agencies would probably provide sustainable funding in the long term for your public library to provide new programs or services that contribute to making your city/community smarter. You may consider trying to leverage your local government partners to gain information on funding opportunities available to your organization locally. You may consider contacting the local government IT department to explain your funding needs and how financial support to the public library would benefit the smart city development.
Remember that public libraries may compete with other smart city initiatives for funding. You will need to persuade your local government of the importance and legitimacy of the library in the smart city development and work with the local government to develop a shared understanding so that you have better opportunities to gain financial support.
Second, you can turn to the ALA and multiple foundations who have provided grants that specifically aim to improve the quality of computer and Internet services in the library. Those foundations are also important partners as they have specific pursuits and funding initiatives to improve public library services.
For instance, the ALA provides an updated list of Grant resources for public libraries, which acts as a hub providing links to several resources that are themselves tools for accessing and applying for grants.
In addition, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has launched new investments to help public libraries provide free, high-quality computer and Internet services. Those grants are specifically for the public library and your library can enjoy easier access and lower competition to obtain the funding. In this respect, those funding sources could act as a jump-start to upgrade your technology infrastructure for smart city/community initiatives.
In the meantime, your library may consider reaching out to other local government agencies or external foundations for further maintenance of new technology infrastructure.
General resources on funding technology investments:
ALA grants: http://www.ala.org/tools/research/larks/grants
Foundation Maps: Visualizing Funding for Libraries: http://maps.foundationcenter.org/?acct=libraries
Opportunity Online Grants Will Help Public Libraries Improve Quality of Computer Access - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: https://www.gatesfoundation.org/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2009/07/Opportunity-Online-Grants-Will-Help-Public-Libraries-Improve-Quality-of-Computer-Access
Knight Foundation Invests in Digital Public Library Of America To Help Nation’s Public Libraries Serve Communities With Technology: https://knightfoundation.org/press/releases/knight-foundation-invests-in-digital-public-library-of-america-to-help-nations-public-libraries-serve-communities-with-technology/
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