Kenai librarian Bethany McMilin demonstrates how to use Lynda.com, an online learning resource available for free through the public library system, at the Kenai Community Library on Wednesday. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai librarian Bethany McMilin demonstrates how to use Lynda.com, an online learning resource available for free through the public library system, at the Kenai Community Library on Wednesday. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Local libraries highlight free online resources

Local libraries are part of a cooperative effort to expand online learning resources for Alaskans

The peninsula’s local libraries are embracing the digital era. Rachel Nash of the Soldotna library and Mary Jo Joiner of the Kenai library gave a presentation at Wednesday’s Joint Kenai/Soldotna Chamber Luncheon where they demonstrated all of the online resources available to Alaskans through their public library system.

Nash first spoke about Lynda.com, which is an online learning platform with more than 5,000 videos and articles that are designed to train people in a wide variety of skills, from IT security to marketing to photojournalism. The website also offers “learning paths,” which are curated lists that Nash said “can take you from beginner to expert in a particular topic,” and an online certification is available after completing most learning paths.

Eight Alaskan libraries partnered to give anyone with a library card the ability to access Lynda.com for free.

“And the cards are free! All you have to do is come in,” said Joiner.

Joiner and Nash explained that people can follow the link to Lynda.com on their library’s homepage and enter their library card number and PIN number when prompted. For Soldotna and Homer residents, the PIN to login is the last four digits of the phone number associated with the library card. For Kenai residents, the PIN is the last four digits of the library card. Nash said that membership for all cardholders is funded until September through an interlibrary cooperation grant, and that the libraries are working with cities to ensure that membership is retained “in perpetuity.”

Joiner and Nash also spoke about the resources available through the Statewide Library Electronic Doorway (SLED), which is an online database of information resources. Also available for free with a library card, SLED gives Alaskans access to Alaska’s Digital Archives, academic journals, a database of do-it-yourself instructional resources and live 24/7 homework tutoring for students. SLED is made available through partnership with the Alaska State Library and the University of Alaska.

Joiner and Nash touched on the Alaska Digital Library, which is a statewide system that enables Alaskans to “borrow” e-books and audiobooks from the library network just like they would at the brick-and-mortar libraries. Nash said that borrowed books can be downloaded to any e-reader, smartphone, or tablet to be enjoyed offline. Alaskans can “borrow” up to seven e-books and five audiobooks at a time, and an app called “Libby” is available for smartphones and tablets that automatically connects to the Alaska Digital Library.

The libraries from Anchorage, Fairbanks, Homer, Juneau, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kodiak and Soldotna are part of a cooperative effort to expand the availability of online learning resources for Alaskans, and because of this they recently received a grant through the Alaska State Library and the Institute for Museum and Library Services for $49,000. Beyond just funding access to Lynda.com, the grant has been used to provide training to library staff and familiarize them with all of the community resources available online. The cooperative effort by the eight libraries also launched a pilot program entitled “Libraries Mean Business” that Joiner said will highlight how Alaskan libraries can help people start or grow their businesses.

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