Public Libraries Can Apply for New Summer-Only Federal Program – Special Funding for Lending Hotspots and Devices

To address the widening digital divide and Homework Gap, the FCC recently created the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF). Accredited public libraries are invited to apply for this special funding in the next couple of months (June to August – exact dates TBD).

Illustration of librarian looking patriotic and standing in front of a transmitting WiFi router

If you’re a public library considering purchasing hotspots, lendable laptops, or Internet equipment and services for patron use outside of the library building for the time frame of July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022, then this is a great opportunity to have most of your costs covered—but you’ll have to act soon. The window to apply will only last for 45 days and will start in mid- to late June.

What can you get with ECF?

  • WiFi hotspots (including on bookmobiles) at a maximum reimbursement of $250 per hotspot
  • WiFi hotspot service plans at 100% reimbursement
  • Modems, routers, and devices that combine a router and modem at 100% reimbursement
  • Connected devices (laptops, tablets) at a maximum reimbursement of $400 per device
  • Broadband connectivity to connect the otherwise unconnected (beyond the library building) at 100% reimbursement ( must be commercially available unless none is available)

Here are the major details to know:

  • Applications will be made using a version of the E-rate’s Form 471, and applicants must have an E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) account and a SAM registration to apply, but unlike E-rate, no competitive bidding is required.
  • Applicants must keep an inventory of devices provided to individuals, including who the device was loaned to and when it was returned (similar to other circulation records) and documentation must be retained for 10 years.
  • Libraries with higher E-rate discounts (plus a 5% bonus to those with rural status) will receive funding before those with lower discounts. This means that applicants in the lower discount bands may receive no funding. Contact Henry Stokes at hstokes@tsl.texas.gov to find out your library’s current E-rate discount.
  • The library applicant will likely have to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) to receive the funding for most reimbursement requests.
Graphic of an exasperated person peering at a long list

Come learn more

There will be a webinar for Texas public libraries conducted by the staff at E-rate Central (TSLAC’s Libraries Connecting Texas partner) on Thursday, June 10, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Tile: Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) and Public Libraries

Description: A webinar for Texas librarians who want to know more about the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) and its implication for libraries. During the webinar we will discuss the rules, the process and the timetable during which the ECF program will be implemented. Henry Stokes will be on the call to answer specific questions about implementation of the program in Texas libraries.

When: Jun 10, 2021 02:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for this webinar:

https://centraled.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_8S_SV0HXR1eFRSm_OX_vpA

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Other resources to check out

Illustration of a librarian holding ethernet cord in Word War 2 era style poster

Please contact Henry Stokes, State E-rate Coordinator for Texas Libraries at TSLAC for further questions and assistance

The Results Are In! – 2021 TSLAC Texas Public Library Speed Test

In March 2021, TSLAC conducted its fourth Texas Public Library Speed Test, which provided a snapshot of public library Internet speeds across Texas. As we had done in 2016, 2017, and 2019, we provided an online network speed test tool for public libraries throughout Texas to test the Internet speed at each of their locations on a wired public access computer. The results (download and upload speed in Megabits per second, or Mbps) were automatically recorded for TSLAC to compile. For the 2021 test, 62% of accredited public libraries in Texas participated. Network speeds from 444 locations were collected, representing 314 main libraries.  

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) outlined broadband targets for libraries and schools participating in the E-rate program in the E-rate Modernization Order. The Order adopted the following targets recommended by ALA (American Library Association):

  • 100 Mbps or greater – libraries serving fewer than 50,000 people
  • 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second) or greater – libraries serving more than 50,000 people

In a separate action, the FCC recommended a minimum speed of 25 Mbps per household in 2015.

At the conclusion of the Texas Public Library Speed Test, TSLAC cross-referenced the collected data to the FCC’s broadband targets based on respondents’ population size.

Significant findings

Since the last test in December 2019, there has been a:

  • 3% increase of libraries meeting the FCC standards for their population size
  • 5% increase of libraries now exceeding 25 Mbps download (the minimum FCC benchmark for households)
  • 7% increase of smaller libraries now meeting their benchmark of at least 100 Mbps download
  • 26% increase of larger libraries now higher than 100 Mbps and less than 1 Gbps

TSLAC’s efforts the last few years to promote high speed Internet and E-rate discounts to public libraries, as well as its successful Libraries Connecting Texas (LCT) program, have had a noticeable impact.

Badge that indicates TSLAC has provided library high-speed Internet
Displayable sticker for eligible participating libraries coming soon

But we still have a way to go. The test results indicate that as much two-thirds of Texas public libraries are below national broadband standards for libraries. In addition, 18% of reporting Texas public libraries did not meet the FCC’s minimum definition of broadband for individual households (25 Mbps). The 82 libraries that did not meet this minimum standard serve over 4 million Texans. Public libraries providing patron computers and Wi-Fi access face greater demands than household networks, requiring faster speeds for patrons to efficiently access distance learning, e-government information, and employment opportunities. The pandemic has only further put the disparities of access in stark relief.

Thank you to the public libraries for participating in TSLAC’s public library speed tests. We plan to conduct more in the future to measure impact and help us determine the current statewide needs for broadband. Collecting this data on regular basis benefits the entire Texas library community and will help us as we work to ensure that every Texan has the Internet access they need.

Summer Reading Tips and Tricks

In a few short weeks the school year will end and the lazy, hazy days of summer begin. Remember to take time this summer to encourage children to continue reading and learning. The summer slide in cognitive ability is real, and now more than ever we need to try and continue to stimulate the minds of children. There are many ways to do this; encourage reading of all kinds (print books, e-books , audio books, graphic novels, manga, anime, and even comic books), talk to children when doing everyday tasks (cooking, grocery shopping, house cleaning, and even screen time), and, finally, go to the library, museums, parks, and the many free events that happen during the summer months.

Logo for E-read Texas for Kids

One great resource for summer reading is E-Read Texas for Kids. E-Read Texas for Kids includes a collection of more than 600 e-books from Teacher Created Materials, including the TIME for Kids series. The majority of the titles are juvenile nonfiction for grade levels K-8, and cover subjects such as science, mathematics, sports, history, and art, in both English and Spanish. The site also includes juvenile fiction and craft and hobby books for kids. The website is geofenced so that any user located in Texas can access it, with no login nor password required! And there are no simultaneous user restrictions, so that means there are no holds and no waitlists.

Here is a list of other summer reading and learning ideas and resources:


Read Across Texas 2021: Free E-Books and Registration Call

Logo for Read Across Texas Recovery

The Texas Center for the Book (TCFB) invites libraries, community nonprofits, and readers statewide to join in its 2021 reading campaign, Read Across Texas: Recovery. This year, thanks to the E-Read Texas partnership with Biblioboard, access to the e-book versions of We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a TimeAll of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing after the Oklahoma City Bombing; and Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here will be available to all Texas residents in May and June by visiting www.tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexasebooks.

Libraries and organizations across Texas are invited to participate by using books to open dialogue and explore what “recovery” could mean within their communities. Visit the Read Across Texas website to register your library’s program, download discussion resources, and access free e-books for your program and your patrons in May and June. We hope libraries and organizations will register their participation for the good of the program. Each library or organization that registers will be entered to win a $100 BookPeople gift card. After your program, please share photos and stories. Please be sure to share photos and posts on social media (Facebook: Texas Center for the Book, Twitter: @TSLAC #ReadAcrossTexas).

The TCFB will also host a free, online author event on May 19. Libraries and organizations statewide can access an online step-by-step facilitator toolkit that includes materials such as a Read Across Texas how-to guide, additional recommended titles, digital resources and links to recovery specific discussion questions. The toolkit along with the program registration form and details are available at tsl.texas.gov/readacrosstexas.

Read Across Texas: Recovery offers libraries a broad canvas for convening individuals and groups to explore the unique questions, challenges and solidarity that can occur in communities throughout the state. During a period of extreme difficulties, isolation and loss, the TCFB recognizes the importance of sharing our stories to build understanding and support. Literature can be one of the many routes to recovery. This year’s campaign features four book selections that will give communities a platform to engage in challenging, insightful and transformative conversations.


banner for Things You Would Know

Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here  by Nancy Wayson Dinan considers questions of history and empathy and brings a pre-apocalyptic landscape both foreign and familiar to shockingly vivid life. This title will be available for Texans in e-book format in May and June.


Banner for All of a Sudden and Forever

All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing after the Oklahoma City Bombing by Chris Barton, illustrated by Nicole Xu, considers tragedy, hope and healing and was released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. This title will be available for Texans in e-book format in May and June.


Banner for We Fed an Island

We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time by José Andrés with Richard Wolfe describes how a network of community kitchens activated real change in the face of disasters both natural and man-made, offering suggestions for how to address a crisis like this in the future. This title will be available for Texans in e-book format in May and June.


Book cover for What Unites Us

What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner documents Rather’s witness to historical change, offering a map to trace where we have been and what might be a way forward to heal division.


Calling All Texas Public Libraries: Take the 2021 TSLAC Public Library Speed Test!

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is currently collecting data about Internet speeds from all Texas public libraries (both mains and branches) with an online speed test. The test measures how much Internet speed (how fast things load from the Internet) patrons can receive from their library location and automatically sends the results to us at the State Library. The data will be invaluable in our planning and help us determine further statewide needs for broadband.

Email invitations with the testing link were sent out Monday to all directors. Please use the link from the email and conduct your test at the library location(s) by next Friday, April 16. If you did not receive the invitation, please contact Henry Stokes at ld@tsl.texas.gov.

New Winter Storm Recovery Grants for Humanities Programming and Collections

Humanities Texas invites Texas cultural and educational institutions that suffered losses or damages to humanities collections as a result of the February 2021 winter storm, or incurred costs related to resuming humanities programming that was postponed or cancelled as a result of the storm, to apply for fast-track Recovery Grants.

For more information about eligibility, allowable costs, and the application process, visit the Humanities Texas website at https://www.humanitiestexas.org/recoverygrants

Humanities Texas will accept online applications through April 30, 2021. To apply, please use the online form at https://forms.humanitiestexas.org/winter-storm-2021-grant-application

Questions? Contact grants@humanitiestexas.org or 512-440-1991.

Humanities Texas Recovery Grants are made possible with a National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman’s Emergency Grant.

FY 2021 Interlibrary Loan Lending Reimbursement Program

While interlibrary loan activity and services have been touch and go over the last year, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission is glad to be able to make lending reimbursements available to participating Texas libraries again this year. 

The annual ILL Lending Reimbursement Program awards eligible and participating libraries a set amount per lend made to other Texas Navigator libraries between August 1, 2020, and July 31, 2021. You can find your library’s lending statistics in your NRE account by clicking “Reports” on the left-hand menu, selecting “Monthly ILL Statistics” with a start date of August 1, 2020, and an end date of the current date, and generating the report. The Responder – Shipped column will represent your eligible lends to date.

This year’s program will open for participation in the Grant Management system on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. TSLAC staff will host an informational and instructional webinar that day from 2:00 to 3:00 pm CST, any library staff may register and participate here, a recording will also be made available if you are not able to attend the live presentation:

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/6952096987429248268

It continues to remain a local decision whether your library offers ILL services to your patrons and fellow libraries. You can suspend or unsuspend your Navigator account as needed based on your available resources and designated safety measures.

For information on what services libraries across the state are currently offering to their communities, including ILL services, you can visit our COVID-19 Information and Resources for Library Workers page and explore the Library Status Project resources at the top of the page. Please feel free to update information for your library while you are there!

Please contact Sara Hayes, Statewide ILL Coordinator, by email at shayes@tsl.texas.gov with any questions.

Time for a TexShare ShoutOut

All around the state, libraries are promoting the TexShare databases to their students and patrons for research, homework help, genealogy, and more. We at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) think the TexShare databases are worth shouting about. And so are the libraries that are doing the shouting, helping give their community access to its amazing and life-changing suite of resources.  We want to give a big TexShare ShoutOut to all the great efforts.

Logo for "TexShare ShoutOut"

Hondo Public Library

Elsie Purcell, Library Director at Hondo Public Library, had a couple of people comment that they hadn’t known about the databases before, so Elsie wrote several articles about them.

In Hondo, all new members receive three brochures: a basic one about the library, memberships, fines, etc.; one about Libby/Overdrive; and one about the online resources (copy attached). This includes their county patrons who were recently added through COVID funding from their County Commissioners.

Before the pandemic, they used to hold an annual Teacher Appreciation event and share information about the resources available for them and their students. Library staff talk to them about the databases for their students including Learning Express for STAAR test practice but also about Teaching Books.net for the teachers to use in lesson planning.

Twice a year, Hondo holds a 7 week program called Hondo U; citizens apply to attend and each week they learn about one of the departments or divisions of the City.  Elsie’s portion of the presentation is limited to 15-20 minutes during our week but she does manage to make a brief mention of the databases to them.

Elsie has done two videos as part of their virtual programming – Friday Facts and Fun. These are posted to Facebook and then uploaded to YouTube.

October 23, 2020 – Learning Express – https://youtu.be/sV5dKqkVHrY

March 12, 2021 – Chilton Library – https://youtu.be/U7IcnJU05wQ


Bee Cave Public Library

While Bee Cave Public Library has been closed to the public, they’ve been working on online tutorials for their digital resources. They added a page to their website to explain their digital resources and a page that links to all of their video tutorials.  Topics include an overview of TexShare, Explora Elementary, Credo Reference, and Learning Express Library. 

They also created a fun video spoofing Dead Poets Society to highlight both TexShare and the work their reference librarians do. TexShare Society tells the story of a teen doing remote learning and his mom trying to find research help for a homework project. The librarian helps them “seize the database” and directs them to the many resources that TexShare offers. 

Here’s the link to the video on both Facebook and YouTube


Bastrop Public Library

Besides their web page devoted to TexShare, Bastrop Public Library highlights five topics/databases with the stacks:

  1. Home Improvement
  2. Hobbies and Crafts
  3. Chilton
  4. Small Engine Repair
  5. Medical

For the first three, they have the bookmarks provided by TSLAC in holders out in the stacks near the Dewey numbers. They did print on mailing labels the website and log-on information so that patrons can easily access.

For the Small Engine Repair database, they advertised it using a flyer.

For the medical databases, they created miniature brochures that they could easily slip into their pocket or purse in case patrons felt discomfort or embarrassment to discuss with staff.


Northeast Lakeview College Library

The Northeast Lakeview College Library, part of the Alamo Colleges District, has been making a huge push to let their students, faculty, and staff know about their databases and how to access them. They have been using weekly blog posts to let students, faculty, and staff know what databases they have access to through the library. In most cases, they are spotlighting a database, showing how to conduct searches, and narrowing results to get their visitors to the most useful information in their research. This has been a successful campaign with more than 450 views from June 2020 to January 2021.


Please send what you or another library are doing to promote the databases and any ideas for the “TexShare ShoutOuts” blog series to: texshare@tsl.texas.gov

Celebrating #TXBookChat Author Don Tate

In honor of Black History Month, we would like to continue the celebrations by recognizing the incredible work of author and illustrator Don Tate, one of our #TXBookChat spotlight authors. In his prolific career, Don has authored one book illustrated by someone else, authored-illustrated three published books (with two more on the way), and illustrated 80+ trade and educational picture books. Through his work, Don showcases narratives from Black history.

His words and illustrations provide children the opportunities to view history from a Black artists’ perspective, which is incredibly important when we consider the lack of representation in children’s literature. Don believes in the importance of telling children the truth and not sugar-coating history. His extensive research and incredible talent pair together to provide literary treasures.

We will highlight a handful of his powerful titles and encourage readers to check out the full list of his publications on his website: www.dontate.com/.


Book cover of William Still and His Freedom Stories: Father of the Underground Railroad

William Still, known as the Father of the Underground Railroad, collected the stories of thousands of other freedom seekers and reunited many formerly enslaved families, while building a remarkable collection of records. He worked with Harriet Tubman, Henry “Box” Brown, William and Ellen Craft, and many other key figures of the abolitionist movement from his base in Philadelphia.


Book cover of Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

George Moses Horton taught himself to read and earned money to purchase his time away from his master, though not his freedom. He became the first African American to be published in the South, protesting slavery in the form of verse.


Book cover of It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

A biography of outsider artist Bill Traylor, a formerly enslaved Alabama man who at the age of 83 began to draw pictures based on his memories and observations of rural and urban life.


Book cover of No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and his Kingdom in Kansas

An incredible, true story of how one of history’s most successful potato farmers began life enslaved, purchased farmland after emancipation, and worked until he was named the “Potato King of the World”!


Book cover of Hope's Gift

A poignant story celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.


Watch the recording of Don’s recent #TXBookChat discussion here!

HHH: Library Telehealth Visits Revisited

Logo for Henry's Hightech Highlights

In May 2019, I highlighted the topic of telehealth for my Henry’s High-Tech Highlights blog series. I think it’s high time we take another look. Before this year, telehealth was a fairly new technology that only a handful of folks were thinking about and exploring. With the pandemic, it’s risen to the forefront of people’s minds, becoming more relevant than ever. Suddenly we need telehealth implemented everywhere, on a massive scale, as communities, especially rural ones, are facing a worsening health crisis. Many lack local healthcare facilities to visit and the necessary Internet connectivity to make virtual doctor visits work. Libraries around the country are poised to be the perfect partners in these efforts to bring this critical need to the community, and we just happen to have a pioneer right here in Texas leading the charge. 

Today’s highlight: Telehealth at the library


The Facts

First off, why do folks need telehealth access, especially now?

  • Rural hospitals have been closing at a catastrophic rate.
  • Many people in rural areas are located far from any hospitals.
  • There’s also a lack of transportation options (no public transit) for folks to physically travel to the hospital.
  • Even when transportation is available, patients are often reluctant to travel outside of their area.
  • And most significantly, there is insufficient broadband access, a requirement for telehealth, in many residents’ homes.

Additionally, many of retirement age buy homes in rural areas to live, but when they find they need more healthcare, they end up selling their homes and returning to the cities due to the lack of access. Adding telehealth services to libraries means these seniors could receive the healthcare they need, thus allowing them to stay, age in place, and have the quality of life they desire. Libraries have the opportunity to be transformative, helping to maintain the vitality of their communities.

Why are libraries the perfect telehealth partners?

  1. It’s a place already in communities to serve people’s needs that people trust.
  2. It has friendly, helpful staff who respect privacy and are pros at teaching digital literacy skills.
  3. It often has free high speed Internet, faster than many might get at home.

I think libraries and telehealth go great together, so I decided to make another promotional poster based on ones from World War 2 to support telehealth services at libraries.

Poster depicts librarian (dressed as Rosie the Riveter) holding an ethernet cord and standing proud in front of a waving American flag. The words "Telehealth Saves Lives" are next to her. Below, the text reads: "High Speeds Meet People's Needs. See your local public library. Telehealth Services at participating locations."
The previous poster I designed is placed next to the original 1940s one that shows a Rosie the Riveter type with her husband standing proud in front of the American flag. The text below reads "I'm Proud... my husband wants me to do my part. See your U.S. Employment Service"
The original poster on the left, and my remix on the right.

I’ve created other library tech posters in a similar style if you want to check them out.


A Pioneering Pilot

Despite the great match-up of libraries and telehealth, there are very few examples in the U.S. I’m pleased to report that Texas is leading the pack in this regard. Pottsboro Area Library, a very small rural library an hour and a half north of Dallas, has a new telehealth pilot project in partnership with University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNT-HSC).

Last week, I invited Dianne Connery, former Director (now Special Projects Librarian) at Pottsboro Area Library and Jessica Rangell from UNT-HSC, to present during a monthly Zoom “TechChat” for TLA’s Innovation and Technology Round Table (ITRT) to discuss the facts I’ve outlined above and give a brief update on the pilot.

Here is a youtube recording of the 30 minute chat from 2/25/2021 if you want to watch the whole thing, but I’ve also highlighted the key points below.

During her talk, Dianne described how patrons would come into the library during the early days of the pandemic, reporting that their doctors wanted to talk to them but didn’t want them coming in for appointments for fear of contracting Covid. Unfortunately, a virtual visit wasn’t possible for these patrons since they didn’t have Internet access at home. What were these patrons supposed to do? 

Dianne had recently installed fiber at her library in order to support an innovative eSports program, so she knew the library’s Internet was up to snuff for a video-conferencing call. At first, she ended up setting up telehealth visits for these patrons in her office so they could have their doctors’ appointments. This was just a stopgap solution, however. A clear need was being articulated by the community, and Dianne wanted to do more to address the issue.

Investigating further, Dianne discovered a grant available from the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) – South Central Region (SCR). She applied and was awarded funding to pay for lighting (more on that later), health collection development, hardware (webcam, microphone, computer), signage, and marketing materials so that she could set up an innovative telehealth pilot with her partners at UNT-HSC.

Photograph that shows desktop computer in a designated telehealth room with good lighting.
A closer look at Pottsboro’s telehealth setup. Note the lighting.

How It Works

Step 1: If someone in the community has the need for telehealth, they make a call directly to the Health Science Center to make the reservation. This protects their privacy (library staff never knows the names, only the times of the appointments). This is especially important in a small town where everyone may know each other. 

Step 2: Once the reservation is made, the patient can come into the library to a special designated room that is staffed by healthcare professionals. Besides the registration, the payment process and screening for Covid is all handled through the Health Science Center.

Promotional banner that reads "Check out telehealth at your local library!" and a bullet point list of : "Call to schedule your appointment, Complete your pre-visit check-in electronically, Show up at the library for your appointment" Below that is the contact info for UNT-HSC.
Promotional banner for Pottsboro Area Library and UNT-HSC’s telehealth program

Here are a few more points made by the presenters:

  • Offering this kind of telehealth service is scalable to any size library.
  • A library doesn’t need to have a separate dedicated room.
  • It does, however, require good Internet like from a fiber connection.
  • It also requires good lighting to ensure clinicians can diagnose their patrons with the same visual information they would have in person. 
  • As mentioned in my intro, many are now abuzz about telehealth due to the pandemic’s highlighting of the ever-widening digital divide. Legislators and funding providers are eager to support projects like this and bring telehealth to communities. So keep on the look-out; funding is coming!

A Community of Practice

With her pilot, Dianne says she’s building the plane as she’s flying it, just winging it really. This is such new terrain we’re all in. We will all benefit from the lessons learned from her attempt, but let’s get the conversation going and develop a community of practice.

Some questions to explore:

  • What kind of training do library staff need to set up and implement telehealth services?
  • How should libraries advertise this new service and reach people where they are? 
  • How should libraries implement good workflows to deal with infection control issues?
  • What are considerations not thought of?
  • What more can be done in this space? For example, could it be made mobile to visit patients where they are  – such as in nursing homes and assisted living facilities?

Are you considering telehealth at your library, or are you already doing it? Want to learn more? Please email me with subject line “Telehealth” if you have stories, ideas, or resources to share – or if you just want to stay in the loop with regard to library telehealth in Texas.