Have you used your local library to learn about tech? Programming? Web site design and construction? If not, why not?

I haven’t been getting those materials from my local library, in Birmingham, AL. They didn’t have what I needed. I’ve bought my own books and training materials. Among them, off and on, was subscription access to Lynda.com.  I’ve used Lynda training materials (first for websites, then for ongoing design software training) for almost 20 years. Until the past few years, it was not easy to afford.

Two and a half years ago, while attending a WordPress conference in Toronto, one of my fellow attendees, Alex Sirota, told me that Lynda.com had a library program (He has a write-up on his professional blog.) It’s been a big success for the Toronto Public Library system, with city residents using it to learn needed skills quickly. This is a great example of the idea of “city-as-a-platform”, in which the city/region/state works to make it easier for more residents to pick up in-demand skills.

I’m currently using Lynda.com to learn about systems administration and security, and Windows 7 & 10 deployments. Since my last use three years ago, they’ve added more IT and programming related materials to their existing design-software core. Most of it is introductory through intermediate, but it’s enough to give me direction as to what I should be studying next. 

In Birmingham, we need more people to consider (and prepare for) tech-related employment. Most people move into the sector because they know someone working in it. If you don’t know someone, you don’t discover the options. Making more low-cost/self-training materials more widely available – in guided tracks – would help. It would help high school students exploring careers. It would help city residents preparing to change jobs or retooling to return to the workforce.

I talked to staff at the Birmingham Public Library Central Branch a couple of years ago regarding their plans for this kind of training, and was told that they would love to bring it in, but that the budget required was not approved by the City. If I recall correctly, the cost would have been $28,000. (the cost for an individual is $300/year basic subscription or $450/year with access to practice materials) They opted to bring in a lower-cost-package that focused mainly on office skills. That’s not what a bright young person interested in tech needs today. OK – they need that – but they also need a whole lot more – programming, understanding how IT hardware works and how it fits into a business and operations environment.

Locally, if you are working in tech, you have access to this or more advanced level courses from www.pluralsight.com through your employer. Employers bring it in because it helps their staff stay current – and get ready for new projects. If you are not working in the tech sector, but want to be, access to this kind of guided training is a key preparation stepping stone. However, it costs money. If you are on a tight budget, that $25/month (and the need for a credit card) can be a barrier.

Currently, within Alabama, the following libraries have purchased access to the Lynda.com learning materials:

  • Tuscaloosa Public Library
  • Decatur Public Library
  • North Shelby Library

Other libraries considering it:

  • Northwestern Regional Library System
  • Mobile Public Library
  • Huntsville – Madison County Public Library
  • Montgomery City County Public Library
  • Baldwin County Library Cooperative

Why do I care about all this? Because I had to make the transition into tech and know the work required. It wasn’t easy. If I had had access to something like this sooner, I would have been much further ahead faster. I want to ensure that all citizens and residents in the region have the same opportunity to prosper. I want this region to thrive.

Please ask your city councilor about approving funds for the library so that this work skills training tool to the library offerings. It could make a _huge_ difference for a lot of people.

City Council page – https://www.birminghamalcitycouncil.org/contact/

District 1: Councilor Lashunda Scales.
Ph – 205-254-2349
Email – vog.l1535982012amahg1535982012nimri1535982012b@sel1535982012acs.a1535982012dnuhs1535982012al1535982012

District 2: Councilor Hunter Williams
Ph – 205-254-2038
Email vog.l1535982012amahg1535982012nimri1535982012b@sma1535982012illiw1535982012.retn1535982012uh1535982012.

District 3: Councilor Valerie A. Abbot
Ph – 205-254-2355
Email vog.l1535982012amahg1535982012nimri1535982012b@tto1535982012bba.e1535982012irela1535982012v1535982012

District 4: Councilor William Parker
Ph – 205-254-2464
Email vog.l1535982012amahg1535982012nimri1535982012b@rek1535982012rap.m1535982012ailli1535982012w1535982012

District 5: Councilor Darrell O’Quinn
Ph – 205-254-2679
Email vog.l1535982012amahg1535982012nimri1535982012b@nni1535982012uqo.l1535982012lerra1535982012d1535982012

District 6: Councilor Sheila Tyson
Ph – 205-254-2358
Email vog.l1535982012amahg1535982012nimri1535982012b@nos1535982012yt.al1535982012iehs1535982012

District 7: Councilor Jay Robertson Jr.
Ph – 205-254-2418
Email vog.l1535982012amahg1535982012nimri1535982012b@nos1535982012rebor1535982012.yaj1535982012

District 8: Councilor Steven Hoyt
Ph – 205-254-2304
Email vog.l1535982012amahg1535982012nimri1535982012b@tyo1535982012h.nev1535982012ets1535982012

District 9: CouncilorJohn R. Hilliard
Ph – 205-254-2302
Email vog.l1535982012amahg1535982012nimri1535982012b@dra1535982012illih1535982012.nhoj1535982012