Partnerships are at the core of the library’s links with the community and its innovative use of technology. The library offers all patrons networked access to about 35 databases on the main library’s CD-ROM network. Emphasizing community connections as well as information resources, the databases include such services as First Call for Help; the Health Index Online, sponsored through a partnership with Health Plan of Florida (HIP), a local health maintenance organization; a Public Access Pilot Project that provides direct access to local government records; the Florida Department of Labor Jobs and Benefits Employment Center, a pilot project that allows for direct follow-up on job leads by the user; and the Vanguard Chronicle Network, which facilitates local business bidding on various county-financed projects and other government contracts. The library, together with several corporate partners, is also implementing a plan for a Small Business Resource Center. Everything relating to business will be located on one floor. There will be an emphasis on small businesses, which are growing in the Broward area.
There are other examples of partnerships. The public library serves as the primary library for the downtown campuses of both the Florida Atlantic and the Florida International Universities. Remote dial-in electronic access is a key element in making information available to the students who attend these programs. In partnership with the state, the library has set up a freestanding kiosk terminal in its main building called Ask the Speaker, an electronic link (in English and Spanish) to state government information and services.
The library has led the efforts to form these partnerships. The library’s director has provided personal leadership and vision, while the county government has encouraged partnerships. The partnerships have brought the Broward community together–something that community leaders recognize and praise the library for accomplishing. The library, says Linda Kaufmann of the Broward County Resources Coordinating Council, is making people throughout the community feel powerful by giving them access to information that they need but never could obtain as easily before. Even though its kiosk project, mentioned earlier, is a demonstration, there is hope that it will lead to a proliferation of kiosks throughout the county with a wide array of partners providing the information from the community. “We don’t exactly know where the kiosk project is headed,” says Buchbinder. “But that’s part of the excitement.”