HHH: Video Games & Esports

Logo for Henry's High-Tech Highlights

Hello! Henry here. I’m happy to highlight a new high-tech hot topic. It’s historically been a hobby, but now it’s headlong become a hardcore habit, heavily hitting the right buttons on people’s hearts. Today I’m talking about…

Video Games & Esports


NEWSFLASH!

Two weeks ago, Google announced it was getting into the gaming business with its own platform called Stadia to come out this year:

Logo for Google Stadia

A week later, Apple announced it was launching its own gaming platform this year called Apple Arcade (along with other new services such as a credit card and streaming TV channel).

Logo for Apple Arcade

What’s so special about these two tech giants’ gaming platforms? Typically video games require special hardware called consoles, but Google and Apple are each promising their platforms will remove the need for players to buy separate consoles and will instead put games on what people already own – their phones, tablets, laptops, computers, and TVs.

Google Stadia will actually run through the Google Chrome browser, which will stream the games live over your broadband. It will be integrated both with Google’s voice assistant so you can get help from the AI during challenging parts of the game you’re playing, and with YouTube (owned by Google) so you can easily share out a live stream of your gameplay.

Meanwhile, Apple Arcade will be an app that will run on Apple devices. It will be like a Netflix of games – an all-you-can-play service via a single subscription.

Details are still slim about both platforms, especially Google’s – but we do know Stadia will require an Internet connection, which means no playing offline. As for what internet speeds you’ll need to support Stadia, Google recommends 25 megabits per second – the same speed that Netflix has suggested to watch their streaming content. Most of the libraries in Texas don’t even reach this 25 Mbps download requirement for all patrons sharing their network WiFi bandwidth.

So why should I care?

What impact will two of the biggest industry names in the world entering the gaming market have on our communities and our libraries? What does gaming have to do with libraries anyway?

A lot actually. Both games and libraries are more connected than you might think. As ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries points out:

  • Both promote interest-driven learning and self-directed discovery.
  • Both help improve social skills. ALA writes, “Equally important, libraries as public gathering spaces can capitalize on the benefits of co-play, helping to improve players’ social skills by encouraging play together, in small groups, or large classes. The social setting of the library may also encourage users to be reflective in their play, building awareness, asking questions, and processing what is being learned through play.”
  • Both support digital literacy. Games help and encourage people to learn how systems (like interfaces and computers) work. These are crucial, next generation job skills, and libraries being in the business of assisting their communities with workforce development are wise to take notice.

For these reasons and many others, libraries – even here in Texas – have recently started offering esports programming.

Esports?

The Future Today Institute (FTI) publishes an annual report on emerging technology trends, and for the first time in 2019, they’ve included esports – competitive digital gaming with all the trappings of traditional sports. They write that, “advancements in both gaming technology and streaming capabilities have led to an astronomical rise in its popularity and perceived legitimacy in recent years.” And they predict it’s primed to continue as a major cultural phenomenon. According to a market report by Newzoo, global esports revenues have reached $906 million in 2018, a year-on-year growth of +38%. The ridiculously popular game Fortnite is a big reason for this. Viewership of esports tournaments may soon rival those for the NFL. FTI points out esports results in a more engaged audience because it’s so accessible – the skills needed to compete are more attainable than classic athletic sports, “closing the gulf between fans and competitors.

Screenshot from Simpsons episode featuring esports

What does the rise of esports mean for libraries?

I’m glad you asked! There’s a lot to explore here.

I’ve actually asked someone who successfully runs an esports program for their public library to conduct a free webinar for us on the topic of esports and libraries next month on April 25th . Hope you’ll join me! Here are the details and the link to register below:

Title: Get in the Game: Esports and Libraries

When: Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM CDT

Description:
Have you heard of esports but want to learn more? Ever wonder if esports could be featured in libraries? Interested in reaching and engaging more patrons through gaming and esports? Are you intrigued by a program offering which attracts a broad cross section of patrons of different ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic standing? Let’s take an in-depth look at esports and its community and discuss ways to build more games-related programming in libraries. Join our webinar with Tristan Wheeler (Outreach and Programming Services, Cleveland Public Library in Ohio) for an introduction to the Cleveland Public Library GAMING & ESPORTS event series. Discover how the world of libraries meets all things gaming and learn why a program like this is important to his library and could be for yours!

CE Credit: 1.5 hours

Register now for this free webinar from TSLAC!

Let’s play with the idea! See you April 25.

Libraries: Go Forth and Collect Your Wi-Fi Usage! (…OK, but how?)

The Texas Public Libraries Annual Report asks public libraries each year to provide their annual number of Wi-Fi sessions. In addition to some other information that you provide in your Annual Report, your library’s Wi-Fi statistics are given to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) where they are aggregated with information to illustrate the state of libraries in the United States.  Beyond this state and federal request, collecting your Wi-Fi statistics serve the library’s best interests. This information provides crucial data for decision-making on purchasing, as well as communicating the value of the library to your stakeholders. If you don’t know how many people are accessing your library’s Wi-Fi, then how will you know when to upgrade your bandwidth, install more Access Points, or develop programming to meet specific users needs?  As library staff, we know providing free wireless access to the community is a staple of what public libraries do; it’s a crucial, supportive service that improves quality of life and gives access to those the library serves who may lack it at home. It stands to reason we would want to be able to monitor our Wi-Fi network’s use over time so that we can show value to our stakeholders.

So how do libraries go about collecting those numbers?

It’s important to understand that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.  Many libraries have tackled the issue with a variety of methods, and one or more methods may simply not work for you depending on your library’s network setup or staff’s expertise/comfort level.

As a quick introduction to what’s involved with library Wi-Fi usage collection, here’s a rundown of the solutions out there:

1) Your Wi-Fi hardware has a built-in tool that collects statistics

Access Points (APs), modems and routers are the devices that connect your wireless devices to your wired network and Internet.

A photo that shows a wireless access point.
Wireless Access Point

These devices often have a web management interface that shows connection information.  You’ll need to log in manually using the information that came with the AP. If that’s long gone, you can often find this information with a quick Google Search for the model and make of the AP.  From there, look for the numbers; sometimes the section you need is referred to as “site survey” or “client information” in the interface.  To start collecting the data, periodically log in at each of your library’s individual access points at a predetermined schedule.

Screenshot of a router interface
Screenshot of a router interface

New to the settings interfaces of routers and access points? Check out our “You Can Do I.T.! Basic Network Technology for Libraries” course for a step-by-step router settings demo.

Some routers or firewalls collect usage in their logs, and you may be able to get access to these logs by contacting your County/City IT or your volunteers.  If you can control how it sets its logs, make sure it’s set to log a minimum of 12-24 hours.  If it can’t keep a whole year, you may have to take an average day or week and extrapolate the amount for the year (for example, multiplying by 52 if weekly). Be sure to account for holidays and other closures.

Have Meraki? Here are instructions for how to find the data on its dashboard.

2) The Captive Portal Solution

A captive portal (also called a splash page) is a web page that is shown before the user starts using the Internet when accessing the library’s Wi-Fi.  Many libraries use their splash screen to provide the library’s wireless and/or Internet usage guidelines (also known as terms of use). After the user accepts, it then redirects to the library’s website.

Screenshot that shows an example captive portal
A example of a Captive Portal with usage guidelines (Source: Brooklyn Public Library)

Libraries have found ways to count the number of successful acceptances of the terms of use, or they simply count the number of times someone has accessed that landing page.  Using a Web Analytics tool, one can monitor the number of page counts.  You can purchase a turn-key product, or use a free or open source tool.  Free, browser-based Google Analytics has become very popular.  Libraries can embed  tracking code on the splash page, and Google’s bots will begin tracking the page’s traffic for you.  The number of Wi-Fi sessions during the year can be extrapolated from its reports.

 3) Network Monitoring Utilities

Network scanners are software that scan your library’s wireless network and display the list of all computers and devices that are connected to your network. This option requires a dedicated computer or device running on your wireless network (laptop, tablet, phone). Run it periodically throughout the day based on your schedule for sample data, or run 24/7 to collect all the data for later analysis.  Set up a spreadsheet to record the sessions and extrapolate for the full year based on the schedule.

TIP: Does your library have its own devices connected to its Wi-Fi?  You will want to find a way to exclude them from your count. This could be done by setting up separate public and private wireless connections.

Graphic of a confused person

Confused?

The above may be new to you, and that’s okay! We’re here to help. If you have any questions, please get in touch with TSLAC’s Library Technology Consultants, Cindy Fisher or Henry Stokes, toll-free in TX: 800-252-9386.


Apply NOW for E-rate funding with help from FREE consultants

It’s E-rate Season!

 That means it’s time for accredited public libraries to apply for big discounts on their broadband services! Libraries are eligible to receive up to 90% on their monthly Internet access costs, plus equipment and cabling, through E-rate, the federal discount program which puts billions of dollars aside each year for schools and libraries.

The Filing Window to submit the second form, the Form 471, starts TODAY (January 16) and will close Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at 10:59 PM Central. This means that the first form, the Form 470, should be submitted asap in order to have time for the required 28 days of competitive bidding. The deadline for the Form 470 is February 27.

E-rate funding becomes essential in enabling libraries to afford attaining basic national standards of broadband for their communities and to continue providing patrons efficient access to distance learning, e-government information, and employment opportunities.

Take advantage of FREE consultants this year!

This year, as part of TSLAC’s Libraries Connecting Texas project, accredited public libraries in Texas can use the free expertise of E-rate Central who will help them file the forms correctly and on time. 

NOTE: Last chance to get free, E-rate consultant help is Friday, February 1!

For more information about E-rate and getting started with the free help with LCT, please see TSLAC’s E-rate page or contact TSLAC’s E-rate Coordinator, Henry Stokes, at 512-463-6624, hstokes@tsl.texas.gov.

Logo for Libraries Connecting Texas Project

Close the Homework Gap with a local Wi-Fi Map

The Homework Gap”

If you haven’t heard the phrase before, it refers to the fact that so many school-age children must now rely on Internet access to complete their homework. Even though access is provided within the school grounds, once the school day ends, homework can’t be completed by students with no Internet at home. There’s literally a disconnect between what’s expected and what they are actually capable of. These students are seriously disadvantaged and fall dangerously behind.  To illustrate this growing problem, watch this entertaining video:

The best solution for schools and public libraries is to check out Wi-Fi hotspots (See our post for more info). If you’re a school district, you can also put Wi-Fi on your school buses or even install Wi-Fi kiosks throughout your community.

But sometimes checking out hotspots is either not feasible (due to funding or network availability), or it is feasible, but demand is too high with many students left out and unable to take advantage of the service.  That’s why schools are trying out an additional solution: Community Wi-Fi maps and decals.

Maps & Decals

The homework gap can be further closed by leveraging the existing free Wi-Fi in the area.  Schools can reach out and partner with local businesses who become powerful allies, offering to share their Wi-Fi so students can complete their schoolwork. Or if the businesses don’t have Wi-Fi to share, schools can provide them hotspots to use for maximum benefit.  Maybe not every student without access at home can check out their own personal hotspot. But with this solution, they can go to places in town with a school-purchased hotspot or already free Wi-Fi in place. 

It then behooves schools to make their students aware of these safe spaces in the community to utilize this approved Internet access.   Businesses are asked to display a decal, usually with the school’s branding, that signals to students it’s a good place for homework to be completed. 

Decal example
Example of Decal (Source)

Then, using existing free Google Maps tools, schools can pinpoint exactly where these approved Wi-Fi spots are in their communities. By embedding the map on their web pages, it becomes easily shareable via mobile device. Students can then navigate to the most convenient safe space when needed.

Texas is on the map for being one of a few states with school districts creating community Wi-Fi maps and decals, and even supplying businesses the Wi-Fi hotspots to make it happen and help close the Gap. 

Here are a few examples I found:

1) El Paso ISD (El Paso, TX)

Map: Free WiFi sites in the El Paso TX area

Screenshot of El Paso ISD web page showing WiFi map

2) Weatherford ISD (Weatherford, TX)

 Wi-Fi “HopSpots” Program (their mascot is a kangaroo – get it?)

Weatherford’s HopSpot Decal

3) San Marcos ISD (San Marcos, TX)

News article and video from 8/27/2018: San Marcos CISD students encouraged to use WiFi at local businesses



Video of news report
Decal for local businesses
Photo of decal being applied

OK, but what about Public Libraries?

Public libraries need to be part of this community partnership if they aren’t already!  They need to ensure they are included on any local Wi-Fi maps and are displaying the decals their school districts are creating. Or, if map and decals don’t exist, they should make them!

Public libraries should be the first place schools partner with to help address the homework gap problem. Not only do they provide free Internet as part of their mission, they also have supportive staff available to assist students.   

Photo of Marathon Public Library's Internet sign
Sign in front of Marathon Public Library (Marathon, TX)

(And one is never obligated to buy anything like in a coffee shop or fast food place.)

Further reading

Need funding? Get your library on E-rate for up to 90% Internet discounts

E-rate is THE program for public libraries to get funding for technology.  Billions of dollars are put aside each year by the FCC for accredited public libraries to pay for faster Internet to their libraries. Not only does this mean happier patrons, it frees up funds so libraries can pay for other great things.

Free up funding graphic

And NOW is the perfect time to get started. For the next application cycle (for services starting in July 2019), you can get E-rate help from hired experts at E-rate Central entirely for free.

They’ll make the application process much easier and help ensure you submit the forms correctly and meet the deadlines.  It’s part of a special program that TSLAC provides called Libraries Connecting Texas (LCT).

We had tremendous success with LCT last year:  TSLAC helped 84 Texas libraries increase their bandwidth by an average of 927 percent.

Contact TSLAC now to get started: hstokes@tsl.texas.gov.  But hurry: time’s running out to participate!

 


Need a one-pager to explain E-rate and the LCT program to stakeholders? Download this pdf.

 

Internet Upgrade Success Stories from LCT Libraries

Logo for the Libraries Connecting Texas project

Last month, Texas public libraries that participated in TSLAC’s Libraries Connecting Texas (LCT) project began reaping the benefits. Their upgraded, discounted Internet service went into effect in July and already we’re hearing about the impact the faster speeds are making to their communities.  By joining up with LCT, these libraries received free consulting help from a leading E-rate consulting firm (E-rate Central) to apply for a federal telecommunications discount program (E-rate) to increase their library’s Internet connectivity.

Check out some of their success stories!


 

Quitman Public Library, serving population: 5,225
With LCT: 300% speed upgrade

I am thrilled that the Texas State Legislature has designated funding to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission for two years total in order to provide extra consulting help in securing E-rate discounted Internet connections at the library as part of the Libraries Connecting Texas (LCT) project.

Many residents in our rural and underserved communities lack access to high-speed Internet, and they depend on Internet connectivity from their local public library.

As one of the recipients, Quitman Public Library in Quitman TX is already seeing the benefit in the rural community it serves in Northeast Texas.

Here are a few things I have observed during this past month of increased speed:

  • There is an increase in students using the library’s computers to register for school, view course lectures and download educational videos.
  • Patrons needing online driver education can actually complete the course in a reasonable amount of time rather than sit through lengthy video buffering.
  • Patrons are able to complete online orders and banking transactions without being “timed out” because of sluggish Internet speed.
  • Patrons, many of whom do not own home computers, are finding information on health issues, government programs, and maintaining connections with family and friends who live or are stationed far away. Communication in real time is now an option thanks to increased Internet speed.
  • Adult education online literacy training is now possible. The library can now keep up with allowing multiple GED students to be online simultaneously rather than be forced to take turns as we have had to do in the past.
  • In our rural community, the public library provides community meeting space that serves as a disaster response center, and high-speed Internet is not a luxury – it is crucial!
  • On a personal note, I have experienced greater business function in managing my online day-to-day operations and correspondence.

On behalf of Quitman Public Library, I am grateful that our rural community will continue to benefit this upcoming year.

I encourage other Texas libraries to get on board right now and show the legislature how much we appreciate and need this funding!

Best regards,

Delene Allen

 


 

Brownwood Public Library, serving population: 38,271
With LCT: 233% speed upgrade

It’s so great to be able to triple our Internet speeds for our community! And for a small library like ours, the savings in cost means more funds we can use on books and other resources for our community.  I would encourage any library who is not part of E-rate to take advantage of this opportunity while it’s available!

Becky Isbell, Brownwood Public Library


 

Electra Public Library, serving population: 2,722
With LCT: 1,567% speed upgrade

I am so pleased with being apart of the LCT program.  I knew we needed more speed in the library but I also knew we couldn’t afford it.

When I started here in 2012 there were no children utilizing the computers in their section because of how slow the speed was.  I purchased 4 laptops for our teen section because there was no floor space to put a desk for computers in their section.  We then had to make the internet WiFi accessible so the teens could use the laptops.  At first, we had a pretty good response but after a while that even died off because of how slow the internet speed was.

We were operating on 6 Mbps and when too many people were on it, it just slowed so far down you would time out of whatever you were doing.

When I got the email about the LCT program I jumped at the chance to see what our options would be.  I got permission from the powers that be to go ahead.  Once you are approved for the program things move by very quickly and the consultants are so nice and patient with you.  They do all the heavy lifting with filling out the paperwork and helping you figure out what you want to include in getting bids for and then they will help you go through the bids and make your decision if you need them to.

We went from 6 Mbps to 100 Mbps and it will only cost us what we paid for the slower speed internet due to the Erate taking 80% of the cost.  We had to update some things with our internet equipment but if you know what you are going to need the consultants can help you include that in your paperwork.  We are still tweaking everything and making our WiFi signal stronger for the parking lot so people can use it when we are closed.

We went from having absolutely no children in here to having almost all computers full all day long this summer.  We have a fiber optic dedicated line ran to us from this companies server.  Having a dedicated line to us means no one else but us can drain our speed.

My I.T. guy has been able to do a lot of updates to our systems that he has not been able to do in the past because of how slow our speed was.  We don’t have problems when it is raining or cloudy outside anymore because that is not a factor with our new internet provider.

It has been a true life saver for our library.  It will open the door to so many new options.  Would I do it all over again if I had that option, you better believe it.  The consultants you got to help us are so amazing and make you feel so comfortable.

Stacy Nelson
Director
Electra Public Library


 

Palacios Library, serving population: 10,432
With LCT: 100% speed upgrade

We use our internet for so many reasons.  Just recently I have had people taking Defensive Driving online,  job requirements for counseling, and it is very important for high-speed internet so they do not get stopped in the middle of their test.

Vikijane Mosier, Palacios Library

 


 

Carnegie Library of Ballinger, serving population: 5,431
With LCT: 320% speed upgrade

The Carnegie Library of Ballinger has greatly benefited from having the 100 mg.  Takes no time to be in a program and no one has complained about how slow the internet is now.

Carolyn Kraatz, Librarian
Amber Self, Assistant Librarian

Carnegie Library


 

Atlanta Public Library, serving population: 5,638
With LCT: 1,583% speed upgrade

Getting E-rate has made a huge impact on my library.  Not only did the consultant help us get the paperwork in order, but the state is paying my portion of the costs of internet for one year.  I now think I am ready to tackle category 2 funding.

Jackie Icenhower, MLS
Library Director
Atlanta Public Library


 

Newark Public Library, serving population: 1,100
With LCT: 260% speed upgrade

We are a very small library serving a small rural town of approximately 1100 people. We are very limited on internet service in this area and therefore many of our community residents do not have access to internet. Many cannot afford the service.

We had AT&T internet and phone service for the three years I have been here as Director and the cost was very high. The upload and download speeds were 0.6mbps – 7.0mbps. One of the major improvements of the new internet service we have witnessed is that the patrons are not at the computers as long as they use to be. They are able to come in and do the work they need to do much faster than before. This frees up our computers for other patrons much quicker. It also allows our patrons to do other things in the library such as check out books, videos or spend time with their children in the children’s area.

Finally, previously we would have internet outages which would impact the entire library from checking out materials, administrative work, VoiP phone service as well as faxing capabilities. We would wait several days before an AT&T technician would come to check the problem for us. Of course, this impacted our ability to serve our patrons with the resources they expected. Our new service has a 100% up-time record to date and they are a local company that we were not aware of until they bid for our business with E-rate.

Because of the consultants provided by the State Library, the process of becoming an E-rate partner was made much less difficult and confusing. It is a process but the help provided was excellent and we now can consistently provide the service our patrons expect. We are also paying less for more service and better speed than we were previously.

Kind Regards,

Linda Ortberg MLA
Director, Newark Public Library


 

Nesbitt Memorial Library, serving population: 5,611
With LCT: 100% speed upgrade

With [E-rate Central’s] help, I started to overcome my “fear” of not being able to follow the [E-rate] process. This next year, I believe E-rate Central will give me the tools to be independent in the process so I will be able do the online forms when the grant ends.

Susan Chandler
Director
Nesbitt Memorial Library

 


 

Spots are available to participate this year in LCT.  Email Henry Stokes at TSLAC if you’d like to learn more!

Funding & support opportunity from Texas State Library

E-rate is a federal discount program available to accredited public libraries that pays up to 90 percent of broadband costs, but we know the process to complete an application like this can be daunting.

The Texas state legislature recently appropriated funds specifically to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) to support libraries in applying for E-rate. The project, called Libraries Connecting Texas (LCT), provides FREE, one-on-one support and training from a professional E-rate coaching firm to guide participating libraries successfully through the 2019 E-rate Funding Year.

Last year, 84 participating LCT libraries successfully applied for $660,070.25 of E-rate funding and increased their speeds by an average of 927%. 

How much will your library get this year?



To get started, contact Katherine Adelberg at kadelberg@tsl.texas.gov or 512-463-5475.

——————–

Need a more detailed one-pager to explain E-rate and LCT to your stakeholders, try this PDF.

 

 

How will your library spend its $avings from E-rate?

Did you know that the Texas State Library recently received $1,000,000 from the State Legislature to help public libraries save money and help improve their Internet speed?   We’re using those funds as part of our new Libraries Connecting Texas program.

We recently distributed informational flyers out to public libraries across the state.  Here are three samples that show how much funding each size of library (Small, Medium, Large) has saved based on recent Texas E-rate data (click to see bigger):

Small-sized Libraries
(25K or less)
Medium-sized Libraries
(26K to 99K)

Large-sized Libraries
(100K+)

When we could, we would send flyers with customized funding data that also took into account the library’s region of Texas.  In other words, libraries could see specifically what nearby libraries their size were getting from E-rate each year.

  • For small-sized libraries, the average savings is around $2,000 per year, with the exception being the South Texas region – which has an average of $7,000 per year.
  • For medium-sized libraries, the average savings is around $8,000 per year.  Central and Houston area libraries receive $3,000 and $6,000 per year, respectively – while Northeast libraries are receiving $10,500 and South Texas libraries are receiving $13,000 on average per year.
  • For large-sized libraries, the average savings is around $23,000 per year.  Central Texas libraries are getting an average of $20,000 per year, the Houston area is averaging $37,000 per year, and the Alamo area is averaging a whopping $44,000 per year.

If you are interested in receiving this kind of money each year, freeing up funding to support other projects and resources , now is the time to sign up!

Time’s running out if you’re interested in getting enrolled for the free help and funding opportunity – please contact Henry Stokes asap.

BTYBB: Distance Learning

Move over, books! Because high speed Internet, or broadband, will be doing a lot more heavy lifting in libraries where education and learning is involved. What happens when we’ll be able to transmit huge amounts of data in real-time between the library and another location with no lag?  The answer is: Crazy, Amazing Learning Opportunities!Image of library getting powered by broadband with words "Brought to you by Broadband"

For my third entry in the “Brought To You By Broadband”, or BTYBB series (I previously covered Job Search/Training and Consumer Health), I’m shining a spotlight on the distance education potential of providing broadband access at the library.

Logo representing Distance Learning

     Distance Learning

Here are some examples of how high speed Internet in libraries is contributing to distance learning in sometimes unexpected ways:

> Virtual Reference : With streaming videoconferencing technology (which relies on broadband), librarians can offer reference and information services to their patrons who are in remote locations.  Put the ‘home’ back in ‘homework help’ – a live librarian can help a student who is literally working from home

> Streaming Videos &  Software Tutorials in the Cloud  : Videos have become an often preferred vehicle for learners to receive instruction. Live webinars (like the ones TSLAC provides), pre-recorded/archived presentations, even quick how-to tutorials from YouTube, will not load without a fast connection. As part of the TexShare Databases program through TSLAC, public libraries can provide free access for their patrons to LearningExpress Library, a resource packed with interactive, self-paced, online tutorials on common business software applications, test prep tools, and job skills videos – which are even usable on patron’s mobile devices!

> Live Events : Libraries have often invited community partners to help them conduct live events at the library location. With video conferencing, guest speakers will no longer have to be present, but rather streamed in live, for an interactive talk, performance, training, or discussion.  This has a lot of potential to bring in speakers and trainers that wouldn’t normally visit less accessible communities in person.  Chattanooga Public Library, which has a gigabit connection, has been at the forefront in this area, showcasing what their high speeds allow them to do. They’ve had live musicians perform in their library accompanied via videoconferencing by other musicians in a whole other state, as well as  avant-garde art installations.

> Use of MOOCs and Learning Circle Model : Libraries are entering the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) world, creating actual physical spaces in the library for students to participate in MOOCs, and contributing to the development of local ones.  With increased bandwidth, these MOOCs can include more videos in their offerings, enriching the learning experience.  Kansas City Public Library, another library that is fiber-connected, received a 2017 IMLS grant to expand their Learning Circle Model which will be shared with the larger library community.  This kind of online group collaborative learning is only possible with high speed Internet connectivity.

 

> Virtual Reality: The technology of VR is about to hit it big, making a huge impact on our society. It has great potential to dramatically transform education for the better. For it to work, however, broadband needs to be the backbone. Libraries can be at the forefront of this new technology, introducing their patrons to VR and enhancing their educational programming. To jump-start this inevitable (and far from virtual) reality of the near-future, the California State Library recently partnered with one of the major VR hardware companies to launch the Virtual Reality Experience Project, which provides VR to public libraries across the state.  We’ll be seeing a lot more examples of libraries using VR for distance education very soon, so keep a look out – or alternatively, get on the ground floor yourself and start playing around with VR at your own library – as Arlington Public Library and others have done!

> Research-grade microscopes – and beyond! : Chattanooga utilized their gigabit bandwidth to live stream a research-grade microscope from 1,800 miles away in Los Angeles to a Tennessee high school.  The microscope in California has a 4K camera normally used to make Hollywood movies, and the students can literally control it from within their classroom, zooming in and out as they please, studying microscopic life in a firsthand, tactile and visceral way.  Such technology could be brought to the library. Libraries could ‘check out’ access to such a microscope to their patrons. They wouldn’t have to house the microscope themselves – only the access to the software to control and view it.  And, of course, they would have to provide a fast enough connection to make such a feat possible.

What other amazing feats are just around the corner? How will libraries leverage new and upcoming technologies to continue being the educational powerhouses they have reliably been for centuries?

The answer is : with broadband!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

In conclusion, it’s a pretty simple formula:

Libraries + Broadband + New learning tools  = A better educated community

So how can libraries keep their speeds up, particularly when demand is just going to get higher and higher? The federal discount program – E-rate – has been pivotal in connecting libraries and enabling them to afford broadband. It provides billions of dollars each year for libraries. Money is just put on the table for libraries to use – Don’t let it just sit there!

It’s understood that broadband in Texas libraries means better educated Texans. This year, the State of Texas Legislature appropriated $1 million to TSLAC to support Texas public libraries in using E-rate for the next two years to secure faster connectivity. The Libraries Connecting Texas project can help your library stay up to speed. But act now! The window is closing and we’re only accepting 100 libraries.

 

Logo for the Libraries Connecting Texas project

Free Webinar: Fast Forward Your Library – TSLAC’s New “Libraries Connecting Texas” Broadband Support Program

Libraries don’t just have books anymore; they also have broadband!

Faster Internet access is essential to a thriving community and integral to a library’s future.  Attend an upcoming webinar to learn all about “Libraries Connecting Texas” (LCT), a new TSLAC funding opportunity to support libraries in getting faster speeds. With LCT, you can work with the talented, nationally-renowned consulting firm, E-rate Central, as they act as your personal coach for two years, helping your library get up to a 90% discount on Internet costs via E-rate, the federal discount program set up specifically for libraries! In addition, the Texas State Library will pay for the remaining non-discounted portion of an upgrade for the first whole year. It’s an incredible opportunity and not one to pass up with only 100 libraries to be accepted.

Join us for a live webinar with the E-rate Central team on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, 2-3pm CST to get the scoop about E-rate and the “Libraries Connecting Texas” program, plus learn 1 hour CE credit. Find out how your library can stay up to speed!

Register for this free webinar!