(Charleston, IL) -- Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity have announced that Booth Library on the campus of Eastern Illinois University was awarded a $50,000 grant to implement a digital literacy program in the Southeastern region of Illinois.
The grant is part of the Office of Broadband Regional Engagement for Adoption + Digital Equity (READY) program, through which $200,000 was awarded to four regional entities to accelerate progress toward eliminating the digital divide. In addition to EIU, READY grantees include awards of $50,000 for the following entities:
READY grantees may use funds to expand immediate broadband connectivity, conduct outreach and engagement to identify current digital inequities, and establish next steps toward creating a digital inclusion ecosystem through regional collaboration among institutions of higher education, planning councils, community and economic development organizations, schools, libraries, health care, and local leaders and other related stakeholders.
At EIU, the READY grant funding supports a digital literacy program being designed by staff members at Booth Library. Nate Carlson, digital literacy coordinator, is creating a digital literacy curriculum that includes topics such as digital citizenship, basic computing skills and social media. This information is being presented in a series of train-the-trainer workshops this summer in the library’s new Center for Student Innovation.
“We are so grateful to the Illinois DCEO for funding our proposal to implement a digital literacy program in Southeast Illinois. Many residents in our region lack not only reliable Internet access but also the skills necessary to be responsible digital citizens,” said Zach Newell, Dean of Library Services at EIU.
Several regional partners are participating in the digital literacy program, including Lake Land College Adult and Alternative Education, Charleston Carnegie Public Library, Mattoon Public Library, Effingham Public Library, Elizabeth Titus Memorial Library in Sullivan, and EIU's Academy of Lifelong Learning. After attending training at Booth Library, representatives of these groups will present workshops on digital literacy topics in their respective communities this fall.
In addition, Mattoon High School students and the EIU College of Education intend to participate in digital literacy training.
“We are thankful to our public library, school district and community college partners who are helping us to present basic computer and information literacy workshops throughout the region,” Newell said.
The program is one of an increasingly robust Digital Equity Package offered by the Illinois Office of Broadband to increase access, adoption and utilization of high-speed internet access – all through the lens of digital equity and inclusion.
“High-speed internet is an essential resource for Illinois communities to succeed in the 21st century economy, and this administration is laser-focused on expanding access across the state,” said Gov. Pritzker. “With more than 1 million households currently without reliable internet – the state is dedicating $420 million to enhance our broadband infrastructure. The READY grant program will help put the power of planning directly into the hands of our communities and complements our historic efforts to bring enhanced speed and access to every community in Illinois.”