Finalist: Shannon Bland, University of Maryland-College Park
Vision Center at Waldorf West
In 2016 United Way conducted a study of affordability and standard of life within the state of Maryland. This study examines a previously unrecognized, yet fairly common, group of people known as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). Individuals identified as ALICE are those who have income above the Federal Poverty Level, but not high enough to afford a basic household budget that includes housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care. The ALICE Report shows just how prominent income inequality is. The study found that of the 54,600 households in Charles County 32 percent are ALICE, or worse in poverty. The ALICE report shows economic conditions of all counties in Maryland, making it easy to compare similarities and disparities among counties. The ALICE figure is determined by three index factors: housing affordability, job opportunities, and community resources. Charles County scored a “poor” in housing affordability, but “good” in the job opportunities and community resources categories. This would imply that there are jobs available if potential employees get the proper training and that Charles County citizens have come to rely on their community resources. Many of the training needs stem from lack of computer skills, which can be attributed to the digital divide. The ALICE report also found that, “While short-term strategies can make conditions less severe, only structural economic changes will significantly improve the prospects for ALICE and enable hardworking households to support themselves. Strengthening the Maryland economy and meeting ALICE’s challenges are linked: Improvement for one would directly benefit the other.” The Charles County Department of Economic Development’s Survey of Business Owners 2012 found that there are a total of 10,920 businesses in the county, with sales of only $597,392. Many of these businesses are not in the position yet to be able to afford a lot of the equipment and resources needed to help them grow and succeed.
The Vision Center @ Waldorf West’s aim is to combat the aforementioned issues of the digital divide, unemployment/low employment, income inequality, business growth, and growth of nonprofits as they contribute to economic development as well. The Vision Center is an engaging, explorative space of the Waldorf West branch of Charles County Public Library designed to encourage creativity, innovation, collaboration, entrepreneurship, employment and lifelong learning. The mission of the Vision Center is to educate, empower, and transform its users’ visions into reality. Whether that vision be a new career, dream of starting a business or nonprofit, or simply learning a new skill; the Vision Center is a one-stop innovation shop to meet the needs of diverse users. The Vision Center will achieve this mission by providing access to new and emerging technologies, diverse training opportunities, and one-on-one assistance.
Technology that will be available in the Vision Center includes the following equipment and software:
- Canon 70D DSLR Camera & Accessories
- Databases (lynda.com, Reference USA, Foundation Center, Census Bureau, Business Source Premier, Encyclopedia of Small Business, Regional Business News, LearningExpress Library, Career Help)
- Hp Designjet T520 Wireless 24-in E-printer (large scale printer)
- Dell Desktop Computer
- iMac Desktop Computer
- Headsets w/ Mics
- Free Standing Mics & Audio Recording Equipment
- Adobe Creative Suite
Proposed Vision Center capabilities and training will include:
- One-on-One Computer Tutoring
- Job Seeking Assistance
- Grant/Scholarship Seeking Assistance
- Multi Media (podcast recording, music recording)
- Digital Art & Media (animation, graphic design, photography, cinematography)
- Web/Video Conferencing & Interviewing
- Nonprofit and Small Business literature and workshops (business planning, marketing, starting a business, budgeting, etc)
The Vision Center @ Waldorf West will be a place where individuals and groups of the community will have equal access to the services and resources to realize their vision. In addition to providing services and resources to help users work towards their own individual goals, The Vision Center will simultaneously be working towards its own goals of bridging gaps created by socio-economic issues such as the digital divide and income inequality. This project focuses on educating users so that they may be empowered by the knowledge they gain, then go out and enhance their community. The space offers room for not only individual growth, but collaborative learning as well. The space is really for the community to build a better community. The successful implementation of the Vision Center @ Waldorf West would greatly impact the communities of Charles County, and would be a model of replication for libraries across the world looking to redesign and create new services to meet the needs of their communities. The public library is one of the greatest resources to any community, making it prime real estate to provide a state-of-the-art learning, creation, innovation and business center that its community not only deserves but desperately needs.