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Data - June 2016

Libraries Teach Tech: Building Skills for a Digital World

This new data brief finds that NYC’s public libraries are playing an increasingly important role in helping New Yorkers develop the technology skills needed in today’s economy. It shows that the city’s libraries provided tech training to more than 150,000 New Yorkers in 2015, an 81 percent increase from just three years earlier.

by Jonathan Bowles

Tags: libraries tech

If New York City is going to succeed in reducing inequality and put more New Yorkers on the path to the middle class, it will need to significantly increase the number of city residents with digital skills. That’s because so many of the good-paying jobs being created in today’s economy require some level of technology skills. These jobs include the bulk of opportunities in the city’s soaring tech sector, but also a growing share of the positions in more traditional fields, from health care to manufacturing, which are adopting new technologies at a rapid clip. In fact, a recent report by Burning Glass found that 88 percent of middle-skill jobs in New York were digitally intensive. 

 

This data analysis is part of a series of research briefs on New York City public libraries that was generously funded by the Charles H. Revson Foundation.

General operating support for the Center for an Urban Future is provided by the Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation, with additional support from the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation and the M&T Charitable Foundation.

Although many of these technology jobs have the potential to boost New Yorkers into the middle class, alarmingly few residents from the city’s low-income communities are equipped with the tech skills that are in such high demand.

The de Blasio administration is attempting to address this skills gap through its promising Tech Talent Pipeline initiative. In addition, a number of nonprofit and for-profit entities across the city–from Girls Who Code and Access Code to the Flatiron School–are providing scores of New Yorkers from underserved communities with the coding, programming, and web-development skills that so many employers now require.

But some of the most important efforts to boost digital skills are coming from an unlikely source: the city’s public libraries.

As this data brief shows, the city’s three public library systems served more than 158,000 people with technology training programs in 2015. This represents an astounding 81 percent increase from just three years ago, when the libraries served 87,000 people.

Beyond simply serving tens of thousands of New Yorkers, the libraries are reaching many who aren’t being served by other digital training initiatives. One of the libraries’ advantages is that, with 217 branches, the systems have a physical presence in nearly every community throughout the five boroughs.

In 2015, 28 branches across the city served at least 1,000 people with tech training programs: 13 branches in Manhattan, 11 in Brooklyn, 10 in the Bronx, 4 in Queens, and 1 on Staten Island.

The massive Mid-Manhattan Library served the most people with tech training programs in 2015 (14,704 attendees). Surprisingly, the Parkchester branch in the southeast Bronx had the second highest attendance (9,462). It was followed by the Morningside Heights branch in Manhattan (7,454), the Castle Hill branch in the Bronx (5,980), the Countee Cullen branch in Harlem (4,486), the Brooklyn Central Library at Grand Army Plaza (3,908), the Stephen A. Schwarzman building in Midtown (3,835), the Chatham Square branch in Chinatown (3,770), and the Wakefield branch (3,630) in the north Bronx.

Much of the growth in the libraries’ tech training programs is occurring in neighborhoods whose residents are underrepresented in the city’s tech workforce. In fact, 38 of the 50 branches with the greatest growth in tech program attendance between 2012 and 2015 are located outside of Manhattan, with 15 in Brooklyn, 14 in the Bronx, 7 in Queens and 2 on Staten Island.1 And of the twelve Manhattan branches on the list, three are in Harlem, one is in Chinatown, and one is on Roosevelt Island. The following branches posted the largest growth in attendance for tech training programs:

  • Epiphany Library (Gramercy)   +4,259 percent, from 17 attendees in 2012 to 741 in 2015.
  • Queens Central–Children’s Library (Queens) +2,787 percent, from 23 in 2012 to 664 in 2015.
  • Queens Central (Queens)   +1,616 percent, from 193 to 3,312.
  • Richmondtown (Staten Island)   +1,546 percent, from 39 to 642.
  • Rochdale Village (Queens)   +1,504 percent, from 66 to 1,059.
  • Columbus Library (Hell’s Kitchen)  +1,394 percent, from 140 to 2,091
  • Parkchester (Bronx)    +1157 percent, from 753 to 9,462.
  • Castle Hill (Bronx)      +1096 percent, from 500 to 5,980.
  • Sheepshead Bay (Brooklyn)   +1,070 percent, from 74 to 866.
  • Laurelton (Queens)    +953 percent, from 115 to 1,211.
  • Saratoga (Bed Stuy)    +897 percent, from 70 to 698.
  • Kings Bay (Brooklyn)    +757 percent, from 192 to 1,646.
  • Wakefield (Bronx)     +733 percent, from 436 to 3,630.
  • New Amsterdam (Lower Manhattan)  +687 percent, from 68 to 535.
  • Countee Cullen Library (Harlem)    +633 percent, from 612 to 4,486.

The libraries’ technology programs run the gamut from high-level coding courses to more basic computer classes. While some are more in-demand than others–New York Public Library’s Project Code program currently serves just 400 people and has a wait-list of 5,000–they are all contributing to a more digitally literate workforce.

The importance of these programs is hard to understate. Employment in the city’s tech sector grew by 71 percent from 2004 to 2014 (from 68,571 to 117,147 jobs), far outpacing the overall job growth in the city’s economy.2 Yet, many of the city’s tech companies struggle to attract workers with the technology skills they need. At the same time, although many low-income New Yorkers would jump at the chance to get a decent-paying tech job, too few of these residents have the digital skills that employers require. One consequence is that tech companies do not resemble New York City as a whole: African Americans make up just 9 percent of the city’s tech workforce, while Hispanics account for only 11 percent.3

As city policymakers continue to develop strategies for addressing the tech talent gap and creating pathways to the middle class, libraries should be seen as a crucial part of the equation.

 

 
 
NYC Library Branches Where Attendance in
Tech Training Programs Topped 1,000 in FY 2015
Branch Attendance in Tech
Training Programs, 2015
Borough
St. George Library Center 1,350 Staten Island
Mid-Manhattan Library 14,704 Manhattan
Morningside Heights 7,454 Manhattan
Countee Cullen Branch 4,486 Manhattan
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building 3,835 Manhattan
Chatham Square Branch 3,770 Manhattan
67th Street Branch 3,013 Manhattan
58th Street Branch 2,323 Manhattan
Columbus Branch 2,091 Manhattan
Seward Park Branch 1,749 Manhattan
Washington Heights Branch 1,675 Manhattan
Yorkville Branch 1,109 Manhattan
Inwood Branch 1,058 Manhattan
Queens Central 3,312 Queens
Laurelton 1,211 Queens
Rochdale Village 1,059 Queens
Flushing 1,028 Queens
Brooklyn Central Library 3,908 Brooklyn
Kings Highway 2,858 Brooklyn
Central Library Learning Center 2,656 Brooklyn
Stone Avenue 1,800 Brooklyn
Kings Bay 1,646 Brooklyn
Cortelyou 1,382 Brooklyn
Washington Irving 1,346 Brooklyn
Clarendon 1,137 Brooklyn
Cypress Hills 1,118 Brooklyn
Eastern Parkway Learning Center 1,065 Brooklyn
Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library 1,031 Brooklyn
Coney Island 1,003 Brooklyn
Parkchester Branch 9,462 Bronx
Castle Hill Branch 5,980 Bronx
Wakefield Branch 3,630 Bronx
Bronx Library Center 3,018 Bronx
High Bridge Branch 1,832 Bronx
West Farms Branch 1,788 Bronx
Melrose Branch 1,531 Bronx
Hunts Point Branch 1,293 Bronx
Edenwald Branch 1,059 Bronx
Baychester Branch 1,039 Bronx
50 NYC Library Branches With the Highest Percentage Increases in Tech Training Attendance, 2012–2015
Branch FY12 FY15 Change FY12–FY15 % Change FY12–FY15 Borough
Sheepshead Bay 74 866 792 1070% Brooklyn
Saratoga 70 698 628 897% Brooklyn
Kings Bay 192 1646 1454 757% Brooklyn
Red Hook 64 469 405 633% Brooklyn
Central Library Learning Center 379 2656 2277 601% Brooklyn
Bedford 74 487 413 558% Brooklyn
Eastern Parkway Learning Center 222 1065 843 380% Brooklyn
Bedford Learning Center 183 846 663 362% Brooklyn
Crown Heights 164 652 488 298% Brooklyn
Kings Highway 944 2975 2031 215% Brooklyn
Sunset Park 253 717 464 183% Brooklyn
Brooklyn Central 1685 3967 2282 135% Brooklyn
East Flatbush 357 832 475 133% Brooklyn
Bay Ridge 274 609 335 122% Brooklyn
Cortelyou 664 1382 718 108% Brooklyn
Parkchester Branch 753 9462 8709 1157% Bronx
Castle Hill Branch 500 5980 5480 1096% Bronx
Wakefield Branch 436 3630 3194 733% Bronx
Melrose Branch 278 1531 1253 451% Bronx
West Farms Branch 342 1788 1446 423% Bronx
Hunts Point Branch 272 1293 1021 375% Bronx
Morris Park Branch 212 908 696 328% Bronx
Edenwald Branch 261 1059 798 306% Bronx
Baychester Branch 270 1039 769 285% Bronx
Westchester Square Branch 240 863 623 260% Bronx
High Bridge Branch 588 1832 1244 212% Bronx
Mosholu Branch 301 791 490 163% Bronx
Throgs Neck Branch 213 481 268 126% Bronx
Mott Haven Branch 440 928 488 111% Bronx
Richmondtown Branch 39 642 603 1546% Staten Island
St. George Library Center 461 1350 889 193% Staten Island
Epiphany Branch 17 741 724 4259% Manhattan
Columbus Branch 140 2091 1951 1394% Manhattan
New Amsterdam Branch 68 535 467 687% Manhattan
Countee Cullen Branch 612 4486 3874 633% Manhattan
Chatham Square Branch 652 3770 3118 478% Manhattan
Roosevelt Island Branch 105 508 403 384% Manhattan
Morningside Heights 1750 7454 5704 326% Manhattan
Yorkville Branch 261 1109 848 325% Manhattan
Harlem Branch 128 507 379 296% Manhattan
Inwood Branch 283 1058 775 274% Manhattan
Seward Park Branch 504 1749 1245 247% Manhattan
Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library 339 1031 692 204% Manhattan
Queens Central–Children's Library 23 664 641 2787% Queens
Queens Central 193 3312 3119 1616% Queens
Rochdale Village Branch 66 1059 993 1505% Queens
Laurelton Branch 115 1211 1096 953% Queens
Woodside Branch 166 685 519 313% Queens
Far Rockway Branch 141 523 382 271% Queens
Forest Hills Branch 278 920 642 231% Queens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. This analysis includes only those branches whose tech training programs had at least 500 attendees in 2015.
  2. "NYC's Tech Profile," Center for an Urban Future, August 2015.
  3. Ibid.