Second Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) Window, Plus: Share Your ECF Thoughts With ALA

The second Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) Program Application Filing Window opens on September 28, 2021, and will close on October 13, 2021. This federal funding is for accredited public libraries to receive hotspots, lendable laptops, or Internet equipment and services for patron use outside of the library building.

Is ECF right for your library?

ECF does have requirements to be aware of:

  1. You must have an active FCC Registration Number, SAM.gov registration, and login to the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) to participate.
  2. To receive ECF funds on internet access, you must comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) which, among other things, requires filtering on all of the library-owned computers.
  3. If you want to avoid having to filter, however, libraries do not have to be CIPA-compliant to get ECF funding for hotspot hardware and computers as long as they aren’t receiving ECF for internet access. You would NOT be able to use ECF for hotspot service (cellular data plan), however, without filtering. Note: Patron-owned computers never have to be filtered.
  4. Patrons receiving a circulated hotspot/connected device purchased with ECF will need to receive an eligible use policy from you and must sign and return a statement that says they lack the connectivity support at home.
  5. You need to maintain inventories of devices and services purchased with ECF support. Examples of what the inventories must include are: (a) device type, and; (b) name of the person the device was loaned to and the dates the device was loaned and returned.
  6. You must also maintain a record of the services purchased including: (a) type of service (e.g.,cable, fiber, wireless), (b) upload and download speeds; and (c) name of the person who received the service.
  7. You must retain records for at least 10 years from the last date of service or delivery of equipment funded by the ECF. This appears to mean that the information collected in the above Certification of need (# 2 above) and Inventories sections must be retained for 10 years.
  8. You are prohibited from selling or transferring equipment for three years after its purchase. After this, equipment may be sold, transferred, disposed of, donated, or traded.

If you have additional questions or need assistance, please reach out to TSLAC’s library technology consultant Henry Stokes (hstokes@tsl.texas.gov).


What is your library’s experience with ECF so far?

The American Library Association is seeking information about the library experience with the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund program. If your library applied for ECF funding, strongly considered applying but did not apply, or is considering applying in the second application window (September 28- October 13) please fill out this short survey. Responses are anonymous and it should take less than 10 minutes to fill it out. ALA will use the aggregated data in their advocacy efforts with the FCC to seek improvements to the ECF program.

Please take a few minutes and fill out the survey. Deadline for responding is Wednesday, October 6.

Take ALA’s ECF Survey

FREE “Community Health Connections” Webinar Series on consumer health technology, marketing, and TexShare health databases

The Texas Woman’s University School of Library & Information Studies (TWU SLIS) has a free training opportunity for small rural public library staff in Texas. If you’re from an accredited Texas public library that serves a population of less than 25,000, and your job entails working with the public answering information needs (no MLS needed), then you are qualified to apply for participation in a FREE 5-part webinar series focused on consumer health, technology (e.g. telehealth) and community-based marketing. This includes training on the TexShare health databases!

As part of your participation in all five monthly webinars you will be supplied free of charge: webcams, a marketing text, and a poster to promote consumer health resources and support at your library.

Please apply for the webinar series by following the link below by the deadline of October 30. If you cannot participate yourself, feel free to recruit one of the library staff, assuming they meet the requirements listed above and can commit to participating in all five webinars. Participation will be limited to one staff member per library.

Link to application:  https://www.psychdata.com/s.asp?SID=193873

For questions, please contact Carol Perryman at cperryman@twu.edu.

The 2021 Summer Library Program Survey is now open!

It is the time of year to reflect on summer programming, and we are coming to you for feedback as we think about how we can best support you and your library next year. We recognize the ongoing pandemic  may have been affected your programming in a variety of ways and, we greatly appreciate your hard work and efforts. Your commitment directly impacts your communities, and we are thankful for your responsiveness and willingness to continually adjust to the times.

While everything is still fresh in your mind, please consider sharing your summer program experience with us. Tell us what surprised you and touched your heart and share how many people in your community participated in your program. Let us know how you liked the artwork and manuals and share your suggestions for future programs.

Approximately 500 Texas libraries received funding to purchase materials and participate in the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission for their summer programs. We ask that all participating libraries complete the 2021 Summer Program Survey to help inform our approach to next year’s program. The survey contatins19 questions which should take approximately 30 minutes to complete and will be available through Friday, October 8, 2021.

Here is a direct link to the CSLP/SRP 2021 Survey: https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/6515586/CSLP-SRP-2021-Survey We would love to highlight and showcase your library’s summer programming. Please send photos of your summer programs to Christina Taylor at ctaylor@tsltexas.gov with expressed written consent allowing us to use the images on our website and publications. We look forward to hearing from you!

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month!

It’s September, which means it’s Library Card Sign-up Month!

What is Library Card Sign-up Month?

According to the American Library Association (ALA)’s website, Library Card Sign-up Month is “a time when the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries nationwide join together to remind parents, caregivers and students that signing up for a library card is the first step towards academic achievement and lifelong learning.”

For resources, ideas and information, check out ALA’s Library Card Sign-up Month website or the Press Kit website.

September is Library Card Sign-Up Month! Celebrate by getting your very own library card. Visit your library’s website for more information.
September is Library Card Sign-Up Month! Celebrate by getting your very own library card. Visit your library’s website for more information.

¡Septiembre es el Mes de inscripción para la tarjeta de la biblioteca! Celébralo obteniendo tu propia tarjeta. Visita el sitio web de tu biblioteca para más información.
¡Septiembre es el Mes de inscripción para la tarjeta de la biblioteca! Celébralo obteniendo tu propia tarjeta. Visita el sitio web de tu biblioteca para más información.

2020 Texas Public Library Statistics Available

Thank you to all the Texas public library directors and library staff who completed and submitted the 2020 Texas Public Library Annual Report! The statistics gathered provide the best picture of library service and funding, which is vital for stakeholders to know! Additionally, we are building a picture of how libraries handled the pandemic crisis which may inform the future.

Libraries meeting the minimum criteria for accreditation will receive formal accreditation letters by email by the end of September. Accredited libraries have access to statewide interlibrary loan (ILL), the federal telecommunications discount program E-rate, TexShare Database and TexShare Card programs, and any funding opportunities through this agency. Any library submitting an Annual Report will be able to order Summer Reading Program materials at no cost. Smaller libraries of less than 100,000 users submitting a report also have access to E-Read Texas, a statewide e-book platform.

Reports are locked, and the data is publicly available on our website. The collected statistics from all libraries are available in downloadable Excel files.

Individual Library Statistics and Comparison Charts for 2020. This workbook/tool has a total of 55 charts so a library can view individual library information, its status compared to its population group and to statewide averages. In addition, the library can be compared to up to five other libraries to create a customized report using vertical bar graphs.

All of the data collected in the 2020 Annual Report is published here: 2020-All. Local statistics dating back to 1996 are available on this webpage also. All can be downloaded into an Excel format.

Texas Public Library Five-Year Trend Charts. These Excel workbooks contain charts of a library’s activity for a variety of measures during 2015-2020.

Statewide data summaries and five-year trends have been published as well.

The 2020 information has been submitted to the national Public Library Survey (PLS). The 2020 data release is expected to happen in spring 2022. Data files for fiscal year 2019 were released earlier this summer.

For assistance in creating or customizing library statistical reports, please contact Library Data Coordinator Valicia Greenwood (vgreenwood@tsl.texas.gov).

Apply Now for Federal ECF Funding for Hotspots and Devices

As previously announced in June, the window is now open for the next 44 days (June 29 to August 13)  for accredited public libraries to apply for the federal Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) in order to purchase hotspots, lendable laptops, or Internet equipment and services for patron use outside of the library building.

There is now an ECF official website that has training and a place to enter your email address to receive official announcements, including upcoming training opportunities.

Is ECF right for your library?

ECF does have requirements to be aware of:

  1. You must have an active FCC Registration Number, SAM.gov registration, and login to the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) to participate.
  2. To receive ECF funds on internet access, you must comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) which, among other things, requires filtering on all of the library-owned computers.
  3. If you want to avoid having to filter, however, libraries do not have to be CIPA-compliant to get ECF funding for hotspot hardware and computers as long as they aren’t receiving ECF for internet access. You would NOT be able to use ECF for hotspot service (cellular data plan), however, without filtering.  Note: Patron-owned computers never have to be filtered.
  4. Patrons receiving a circulated hotspot/connected device purchased with ECF will need to receive an eligible use policy from you and must sign and return a statement that says they lack the connectivity support at home.
  5. You need to maintain inventories of devices and services purchased with ECF support. Examples of what the inventories must include are: (a) device type, and; (b) name of the person the device was loaned to and the dates the device was loaned and returned.
  6. You must also maintain a record of the services purchased including: (a) type of service (e.g.,cable, fiber, wireless), (b) upload and download speeds; and (c) name of the person who received the service.
  7. You must retain records for at least 10 years from the last date of service or delivery of equipment funded by the ECF. This appears to mean that the information collected in the above Certification of need (# 2 above) and Inventories sections must be retained for 10 years.
  8. You are prohibited from selling or transferring equipment for three years after its purchase. After this, equipment may be sold, transferred, disposed of, donated, or traded.

If you have additional questions or need assistance, please reach out to TSLAC’s library technology consultant Henry Stokes (hstokes@tsl.texas.gov) who has begun an email list for any Texas libraries interested in ECF or future funding opportunities for hotspot/connected device lending (and there are more coming!). Let him know you’d like to be added so you can stay up to date with news and resources.

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: