Letters from the Road - Day 9

ALA Holding Space, a national conversation with libraries. August 6: Learn and Earn: Nevada Libraries Harness Virtual 3-D for Education and Careers, Carson City, NV

Hello, from Carson City, Nevada.

Our bus traveled to the Nevada State Library, where we took a deep dive into the world of virtual reality and how libraries are using this technology to train the workforce of tomorrow.

I met with librarians across institutions as well as partners and stakeholders to illustrate the importance of partnerships as libraries confront the current economic challenges faced by so many Nevada residents.  

Libraries are about more than books. They can help you find your future, and I can think of no better example than the Nevada State Library’s innovative, collaborative workforce development pilot project, Nevada Career Explorer.

Through 3-D virtual reality, STEM and data analysis modules, participants can research career paths and pursue job certification.

During our discussion, entitled “Learn and Earn: Nevada Libraries Harness Virtual 3-D for Education and Careers2,” we learned how it is used to help people find jobs as dialysis technicians. We heard from several major players involved in this extraordinary collaborative effort.

One of them was Nevada State Librarian Tammy Westergard, who called Nevada Career Explorer a job coach on steroids. Using a career information database powered by Lifeliqe, it employs 360-degree video technology, basically acting as a “match.com” for people interested in exploring STEM fields.

The Nevada Career Explorer offers self-assessment tools that show the job explorer whether a field meets their talents and passions. As Westergard pointed out, if you are squeamish about blood, you might not want to pursue a career as a dialysis technician. But if you are interested, it can point you to programs that will help pave the way for your future career.

Student using virtual reality headset

Mark Andersen, Cofounder and President, Lifeliqe, reminded us how important a program like this is during the current economic crisis. Being a dialysis technician has gone from high demand to acute demand, since COVID-19 especially targets the kidneys. 

We were honored to have Senator Moises "Mo" Denis, who represents the second district of Nevada, join us. He was instrumental in getting the funding for the project. As a former library trustee, he has a unique knowledge of the issue of technology in libraries. He said projects like this are an equalizer for his community. He represents an older part of Las Vegas that has a large low-income population.

Forrest Lewis, President, Nevada Library Association and Director, North Las Vegas Library District, reminded us of the importance of partnerships. He shared how a number of library districts in Southern Nevada have partnered with Nevada’s Workforce Connections to put one-stop career centers in these libraries. Libraries add a special dimension to the partnership. They have the ability to connect people with multiple agencies to meet their needs, whether it’s a job or a place to stay.

One of the state library’s partners is the College of Southern Nevada, which uses the technology in its dialysis technician program.

Sue Holligan-Folds, RN, MA, Retired Coordinator and Strategic Advisor, Dept. of Workforce and Economic Development, College of Southern Nevada, spoke about a pilot program for prospective dialysis technicians. For $7,900, she said, the students receive their uniforms, shoes, textbook, and stethoscope. The five-week program includes lectures and a clinical application. Students are then qualified to take a national certification exam. Many are offered jobs before they even graduate.

College of Southern Nevada kick-off celebration

Natasha Dackota York, Student, College of Southern Nevada, and Library Assistant, McDermitt Branch Library, Humboldt County, has just completed the program, which she heard about at the library. We heard how she has an internship and plans to bring her class experience and training to her small community that includes a majority of Native Americans. She also plans to spread the word that others, with the assistance of the library, can achieve their dreams.

Karsten Heise, Director, Strategic Programs, Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development, provided some perspective on how pandemics have created significant change. The Spanish flu, he said, eventually led to globalization. COVID-19 might well mark the end of the analog age and put us on the fast track for such advanced forms of technology as virtual and augmented reality, as well as an increase in decentralized learning and a geographically dispersed workforce.

He made a significant point about the ability of libraries to reach deeply into disadvantaged communities.

In our discussion, we left with some amazing takeaways. One was that libraries are going beyond games and using virtual reality for training. Another is that libraries offer a path of opportunity for those looking for career opportunities or a career change.

And a program like the dialysis tech program in Nevada can make it possible for someone in a lower paying job to move into a career with a starting salary roughly twice what they would earn as a fast-food worker.

This was my ninth stop on an exciting 12-stop virtual tour, Holding Space: A national conversation series with libraries. My goal is to spotlight how libraries of all kinds across the country are addressing the needs of their diverse communities and engaging stakeholders to advocate for libraries.

Support America’s libraries by urging Congress to support the Library Stabilization Fund Act. Take action to keep #LibrariesStrong.

Join us as we wrap up the the Holding Space tour with visits to California and Hawaii on Friday and follow #ALAHoldingSpace on social media for updates.