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.

Help Your Community and Patrons Get Low-Cost Internet and Affordable Devices

Text reading Emergency Broadband Benefit FCC in the shape of a WiFi signal

The Federal Communications Commission has launched a temporary program to help families and households struggling to afford Internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) provides a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers.

Similar to the Lifeline program, the Emergency Broadband Benefit exists to ensure that individuals with low income can fully participate in civic life by connecting them with affordable internet service and access to devices, two of the principles of digital inclusion.

How can libraries help? 

  • Help get the word out to your patrons! This is a limited time benefit, so the sooner people apply, the better. The FCC has created a free downloadable multilingual Outreach toolkit complete with fact sheets, social media posts, flyers and more than can be used to spread the word. 
  • Coordinate with partner organizations to assist in reaching out to qualifying individuals. 
  • Become familiar with the offers available to your community so you’ll be able to connect people on a moment’s notice.

Program details:

The Fine Print:

  • The program will end as soon as funds run out or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency.
  • Only one monthly service discount and one device discount is allowed per household. Program rules acknowledge there may be more than one eligible household residing at the same address.

Contact:

  • For more information, the community can visit getemergencybroadband.org or call 833-511-0311. An application by mail can also be requested by calling the same number.

Additional resources:

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:


Free Webinar: The Library’s Role in Connecting Texans to Internet Access

County map of Texas depicting different percentages of broadband availability. Data collected and mapped by ConnectedTexas.

Almost one million Texans do not have access to high-speed internet access in their homes, but what role do libraries and library workers play in ensuring home connectivity? 

On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, at 2:00 p.m. (Central), join Mark Smith, State Librarian and Director of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and Eddy Smith, Executive Director of the Abilene Library Consortium and Texas Library Association representative to the Governor’s Broadband Development Council, for a free webinar. They will discuss the current landscape of internet access in Texas. You’ll learn why Texans do not have equitable access to high-speed internet (broadband), what potential solutions—including funding—may exist to level the playing field, and how libraries and library workers can play a role in ensuring a future of statewide connectivity.

Registration for this webinar can be found on our Continuing Education webinars page.

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.

Read Across Texas E-book Access Available in May and June

A couple of weeks ago, State Librarian Mark Smith announced the 2021 Read Across Texas program. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) and the Texas Center for the Book are thrilled to announce that any resident of Texas will be able to read three of the four book selections for free online, from May 3- June 25, 2021. The three books that will be available are: Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here by Nancy Wayson Dinan, All of a Sudden and Forever by Chris Barton, and We Fed an Island by José Andrés.

TSLAC is partnering with Biblioboard to make this and thousands of other e-books available to Texas residents. The Biblioboard website is geofenced so that any user located in Texas can access it, no login or password required. And there are no simultaneous user restrictions, so that means there are no holds or waitlists. A special web page will be available with links to the full text of the three available e-books, and can be accessed via the Read Across Texas website. The website also contains discussion guides and other supplemental resources. Participating libraries are encouraged to register for the program.

Read Across Texas: Recovery

Cross-posted from The Director’s Report, blog of TSLAC Director and State Librarian Mark Smith.

Read Across Texas title banner showing cartoon-style orange van driving down desert road, with books strapped to the top

This week, we at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission are excited to be launching our third Read Across Texas statewide reading program presented by our Texas Center for the Book. This year’s theme of Recovery provides an opportunity to use one or more of our four suggested books to spark challenging, probing, and renewing conversations about profound experiences, both shared and individual. We envision these conversations as a way for libraries to be at the center of important community dialogue about common concerns and values.

If “Recovery” sounds like a broad theme, that is intentional. We hope that communities will approach the theme as inclusive of many different aspects, from personal recovery from tragic or challenging individual circumstances, to recovery on a broad societal level. Some communities might explore recovery from a natural disaster, while others might consider recovery from traumatic events at the national or state levels. After a year like no other in our memory, engaging in a discussion of recovery seemed appropriate. We hope these conversations may provide a context to help individuals, families, and communities to find paths back to normalcy, stability, and relative tranquility.

The conversations might be difficult, maybe at times uncomfortable, but that is part of the process and should be embraced rather than feared. The books offer the starting point for discovery. I have read all four works and was moved by the power of each one:

  • Things You Would Know If You Grew Up Around Here by Central Texas author Nancy Wayson Dinan is a beautifully complex and nuanced novel about an extended Texas family caught up in the devastating Memorial Day floods of 2015.
  • All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing after the Oklahoma City Bombing is a children’s picture book by Chris Barton with illustrations by Nicole Xu that explores how to talk to children compassionately about difficult and disturbing events of our time.
  • We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time is the spirited, joyous, and hopeful story of Chef José Andrés and a movement that triumphed over bureaucracy to provide meals and emotional nourishment to thousands of battered residents of that island in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
  • In his thoughtful book of essays, What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, veteran news anchor and native Texan Dan Rather explores the democratic traditions that lie at the core of our American experience, a reminder of the enduring values of our nation and a path to recovering those values.

I hope you will consider participating in Read Across Texas: Recovery and use these inspiring books to start a process of civic dialogue in your community. Our Center for the Book Coordinator Rebekah Manley will be providing resources to help frame your local discussions and make this statewide read a success.

On March 25, I will be presenting the next #TXBookChat with Rebekah to discuss how to participate in Read Across Texas. Please join us for the inside scoop on how you can use this statewide read to put your library at the center of meaningful community discussions on the topic of Recovery. Click here to register for this great program: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJApcOGurDIqGNUTKfqkClHWbPMsJMwdVF8a 

Thank you for your work building strong Texas communities. I look forward to hearing your success stories as you participate in this unique program.

Mark Smith, State Librarian

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