Google aims to transform US libraries into digital training hubs

Google will launch a nationwide tour in 2019 to help turn community libraries into tech-enhanced training hubs for entrepreneurs and job seekers looking to hone their digital skills for an edge in an increasingly competitive marketplace, FOX Business has learned.

Starting in January, the tech giant’s representatives will hold workshops at libraries in all 50 states, teaching local small business owners and job hunters of all ages how they can best use basic digital tools such as smartphones and spreadsheets. Google will also coach librarians, staff members and local nonprofit officials on tools and curriculum for year-round career training sessions.

As part of the initiative, Google worked with 30 libraries around the country to build “Libraries Ready to Code.” Launching Thursday, the online program provides staffers from the nation’s 120,000 libraries with a framework to teach coding and computational thinking skills to young people long before they look to enter the workforce.

“Libraries are just so critical to their communities. They’ve also been playing a huge role as digital community centers,” Stephen Brokaw, community engagement manager for the “Grow with Google” initiative, told FOX Business. “What we’ve decided to do is partner with libraries to really enhance that role.”

The partnership comes as more U.S. residents rely on public libraries to serve as digital hubs in their daily lives. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll found 94 percent of respondents said libraries should offer programs to teach people of all age groups, including senior citizens, to use digital tools, while a 2017 report found that millennials were more likely than any other generation to use libraries.

In addition to its nationwide tour, Google is donating $1 million to the American Libraries Association. The money will be dispersed in “micro-funds” to finance programs specifically tailored to local communities. An initial group of 250 libraries will receive funding toward coding programs.

Google’s workshops will cover a wide array of training topics, from teaching small business owners how to claim their listing on Google Maps, making it easier for customers to find their stores, to showing entrepreneurs how to use computer spreadsheets to organize data for a presentation or build a budget.

“With all of our workshops, whether they’re for small businesses or job seekers, we’re hoping that they come in for their first workshop, learn some useful skills and then continue on to our website to really dig deep,” Brokaw said.

Preliminary plans for the tour call for Google representatives to spend about a week in each state, visiting libraries in about three cities and holding one day of training sessions per city. Company officials will be on hand to host some workshops and for one-on-one counseling with attendees. Google will also stay in touch with the libraries to guide curriculum and training on an ongoing basis.

The “Grow with Google” website will be regularly updated with upcoming workshops and library stops as they are scheduled. Google launched a similar initiative last August to provide training and career support to U.S. military veterans.

“We want to try to get to as diverse a group of cities as we can. We want to go to communities small, medium and large,” Brokaw said.