Remember bookmobiles - the libraries on wheels that brought good reading material to your doorstep? Today, the Free Library of Philadelphia is introducing a digital learning meal-on-wheels called the Techmobile, to bring computers, internet access and trained assistance to the city's underserved neighborhoods.
Just the latest in a series of Library initiatives providing digital literacy and web connectivity, the Techmobile "Hot Spot on Wheels" is being unveiled this morning at 11:30 a.m. at Rowan House in West Philadelphia, with endorsements from Mayor Michael Nutter and the city's chief innovation officer Adel Ebeid.
Our Techmobile is a 25-foot van outfitted with mobile broadband service, six PC laptops and six iPads and, equally important, a trained staffer to provide computer training classes and one-on-one assistance to visitors who climb on-board.
Sessions will focus on computer and email basics, resume writing and job searching. Workshops also will share the power of computers for small business assistance, parenting resources, social networking and e-books. The latter has become a major Free Library priority, of course, with its growing library of loaner electronic books and pilot program of loaning Nook tablets (and teaching how to use them) through the Senior Center at the Logan Square main branch.
The Free Library also offers no-cost Hot Spot access at partner community organizations - including the Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, 1939 W. Venango St.; Audenried Charter High School, 3301 Tasker St.; Heavenly Hall Annex, 4015 Poplar St.; Institute for the Development of African-American Youth, 2221 N. Broad St.; Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, 2416 S. 7th St.; and the Village of Arts and Humanities, 2544 Germantown Ave. That project - like the Techmobile - is made possible with a Federal Broadband Technologies Opportunities grant and by funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
For the moment, there are no plans for the Techmobile to make regularly scheduled stops at specific locales, as ye old bookmobiles would do.