One of the communities I’m honored to partner with on my project is the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, particularly the Bezhigoogahbow Library at Leech Lake Tribal College. The band has an enrollment of just over 9,500 members and is located in north central Minnesota. In addition to Leech Lake, the bands of Bois Forte, Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Mille Lacs, and White Earth comprise the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.
Leech Lake Tribal College, established in July 1990, awarded its first Associate of Arts degree in Anishinaabe Language and Culture in spring 1993. The following year, the college received status as a Land Grant Institution. The college currently enrolls around 350 students.
The Bezhigoogahbow Library serves the entire community in addition to students at the college. While funding tends to be an issue for all libraries, it’s a particular challenge for the tribal community libraries because they’re not statutorily defined as public libraries and don’t have access to much of the funding available to public libraries that meet that definition. As a result, tribal community libraries depend on a variety of grants to provide services, resources, and facilities.
The Bezhigoogahbow Library leveraged grant funding for a new building that opened in spring 2015. The project increased the library’s space from 800 to 8,000 square feet and expanded digital access. The library has a smart classroom and offers public access to computers and iPad stations as well as a variety of digital resources.
Currently they are offering a series of computer classes; digital literacy has been identified as a priority by employers and employees in the community. My work with the community will help support their digital inclusion efforts.