IMAG1790St. Thomas USVI, June 27, 2015 – The Friends of St. Thomas Public Libraries rejuvenated its ranks at its first General Meeting of 2015 at the Library at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School, electing a new slate of Board members and officers. The guest speaker for the evening was FOSTPL member Anita Davis, who serves as Community Program Manager for the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN). Davis shared the mission and vision of viNGN, the nationwide broadband initiative and its many benefits to the territory.

Following the reading of the minutes by Bonnie Braga and the financial report by Cynthia Richards, President Judy King-Edmeade provided an overview of the Friends of St. Thomas Public Libraries and mentioned the need for volunteers for the Hospital Book Cart, Fund Raising, the Day Care Literacy Project (which continues under Carol Lotz) and a number of other initiatives.

King-Edmeade expressed the organization’s concerns over the state of our libraries and drew appreciative agreements from those gathered. On St. Thomas, the Charles Wesley Turnbull Regional Library continues under a “soft opening,” and members of the audience expressed their distress with the limited hours and short staffing; the need for computers, printers and other technological equipment for library staff; the lack of transportation up the hill to the new library; lack of security and the inability to fully utilize the facility as a hub of community activity due to these and other factors. The body vowed to renew its efforts and pool its talents to assist with creating the regional library that we all deserve.

Guest speaker Anita Davis of The Virgin Islands Next Generation Network explained the history of the Nationwide Broadband Plan and the four grants for which the territory qualified through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) – The USVI was the only municipality to be granted the full complement:

State Broadband Data Development (SBDD) – the first award made to the Territory for the Broadband Program. In 2009, an award was made for performing mapping and planning as part of the United States-wide SBDD grant program.

Comprehensive Community Infrastructure (CCI) – a highspeed fiber network to the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John, creating a territory-wide middle mile network and connecting community anchor institutions with reliable high-speed Internet services.
Public Computer Centers (PCC) – free access to computers, peripherals, and contemporary software in libraries and community centers.
Sustainable Broadband Adoption (SBA) – a multifaceted outreach campaign to increase broadband subscribership and stimulate job growth in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“What’s important,” Davis explained, “is that we were able to help thousands of individuals to learn to use computers, improve their skills, get jobs and participate in activities like learning to code, online banking, using the online tools of government agencies, get naturalized and communicate over social media, using their smartphones and other devices, and email.”

“We are finding that digital literacy is just as critical as reading literacy in our ability to be a part of society, educate ourselves, gain employment and become entrepreneurs. And it is appropriate that the best tool we found to use at our PCC for someone who had never even used a computer, was discovered at www.DigitalLiteracy.gov via The Library Network!” The Library Network New User Tutorial is available in both online and offline versions, and there is also a Spanish version.

The audience was most appreciative and a lively question and answer session followed, after which Davis went on to share that there are lots of opportunities for people to volunteer, adopt a Public Computer Center, offer outreach services, tutor, and provide specialized training at any of the 33 free Public Computer Centers throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands. Those interested in contributing to our Technological Revolution may contact Ms. Davis at viNGN via telephone, 340-715-8581 x2244 or email, adavis@vingn.com.

The body signed up several new members and then went on to hold elections for Board Members; the newly elected Board then selected its officers. The current slate is as follows:

BOARD MEMBERS:

Bonnie Braga
Stephen Cheslik
Patricia Harkins-Pierre
Cynthia Richards
Judy King-Edmeade
Carol Lotz-Felix
Khadija Blyden
Tonia Garnett-Stapleton
Kathy Schlesinger
Carmen Hamilton

OFFICERS:

Judy King-Edmeade (President)
Patricia Harkins-Pierre (V. President)
Stephen Cheslik (Secretary)
Kathy Schlesinger (Assistant Secretary)
Cynthia Richards (Treasurer)
Carmen Hamilton (Assistant Treasurer)

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