Join us Friday for: TSLAC Update – Current status and future outlook for TSLAC and Texas libraries

On Friday morning, Nov. 20 at 10 a.m., I will be co-presenting a webinar with Assistant State Librarian Gloria Meraz and the members of the Library Development and Networking team to discuss the current state of library issues, programs, and opportunities.

We will be exploring statewide efforts to support communities during this time as well as upcoming opportunities, budget considerations, and how libraries can look to the future. Your questions and thoughts are most welcome!

Attendance at the LIVE program qualifies for 1 hour of Texas State Library Continuing Education credit (CPE eligible for Texas educators). Printed certificates will not be issued. A follow-up email will be sent within 5 days of the event to individuals who attended the live Webinar. Attendees are advised to save and/or print the follow-up email as it will serve as proof of attendance for CE purposes.

This webinar will be recorded; however for maximum benefit, including the ability to ask questions in real time, we strongly encourage you to attend the live session. If you use assistive technology and the format of any material related to this training event interferes with your ability to access the information, please email ld@tsl.texas.gov. To enable us to respond in a manner most helpful to you, please indicate the nature of your accessibility issue, the preferred format in which to receive the material, the date and title of the training event, and your contact information.

For more information and to register, visit: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/3822897886752260879

Libraries and the Statewide Plan for Broadband

Last week the Governor’s Broadband Council released their first report, “2020 Texas Report.” That plan makes three recommendations as follows:

  • Create a state broadband plan.
  • Establish a state broadband office.
  • Develop a state broadband funding program to incentivize deployment in unserved areas.

We applaud the work of the Governor’s Broadband Council in making these recommendations. The report points out that as of July 2020, 926,859 Texans do not have access to broadband at home. The report also points out that approximately 90% of all Texans without broadband live in rural areas.

The Council was made possible by the passage of HB 1960 by Rep. Four Price. That bill specifies the composition of the council and includes “one representative from a library association.” That representative for the library community is Edward Smith, Director of the Abilene Library Consortium. We are very fortunate to have Eddy as a voice for libraries on the council. Why is that important? Because while libraries are a key component of the solution to lack of broadband access, they are often overlooked when library representatives are not at the table.

Eddy Smith made sure that libraries were not overlooked in this report, which accurately points out that libraries are E-Rate eligible and, along with schools, have been anchor institutions bringing broadband infrastructure to many communities. The report also acknowledges the important role libraries can play in digital literacy training: “Libraries across the state could serve as anchors for this holistic approach by training and educating their communities in digital literacy.”

TSLAC has taken a lead role in state government in helping to bring broadband to Texas communities via library access. That work includes the following strategies:

  • Since a special appropriation of $1 million from the Legislature in 2017, TSLAC has helped more than 160 libraries across Texas acquire high-speed internet.
  • Through that program — Libraries Connecting Texas — we raised from 24% to 33% of public libraries participating in E-Rate discounts and brought the number of libraries meeting FCC standards for internet access from 6% to more than 30%.
  • Our Technology Consultant Henry Stokes provides technical assistance to libraries seeking E-Rate and Technology access across the state and we provide support in filing E-Rate applications to Texas libraries through our partners at E-Rate Central.
  • In FY 2021, we will complete a pilot project with the Lonestar Education and Research Network (LEARN) to bring 11 libraries across Texas into that network, providing 500 megabit or 1 gigabit connections. Another project with ESC 20 will bring several libraries in the San Antonio area into that high-speed network.
  • The Texas Free WiFi Map developed by TSLAC Digital Inclusion Consultant Cindy Fisher partners with three legal aid organizations to provide information on hundreds of locations across the state where the public can find access to free wifi, most often at the library.
  • TSLAC School Program Coordinator Liz Philippi represents the important role of K-12 libraries on the Operation Connectivity Taskforce Workgroup, a project of the Texas Education Agency to ensure broadband deployment and utilization on school campuses in Texas.

As the Broadband Council report suggests, libraries are where the public goes when they don’t have access to internet at home. In most communities it is the only source for free internet and that reality became especially apparent during the pandemic when we have seen crowds of people crowding into library parking lots to access the wifi even as the library was closed. And in some communities like Pottsboro in North Texas, the library proactively went into the community and stationed wifi locations to give the public more convenient access.

Congratulations to the Governor’s Broadband Council on its first report. Here’s hoping that it will be the first step to a more robust deployment of high-speed internet across the state of Texas. TSLAC and the Texas library community are standing by ready to assist.

Links in this post:
2020 Texas Report — https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/2020_Texas_Report_-_Governors_Broadband_Development_Council.pdf
HB 1960 — https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/billtext/pdf/HB01960F.pdf#navpanes=0
Texas Free Wifi Map — https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/tech/wifimap