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 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:

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.


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

Additional 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.

Apply for Free Library Privacy Crash Courses

Library Freedom Project (LFP) is now seeking applicants for our new Crash Courses program. LFP’s Crash Courses are free, two-month online training programs for library workers who want to learn practical ways to defend privacy in their libraries. 

Library workers can apply for two Crash Courses:

Systems and Policies (will run May – June 2021)

In this Crash Course, we’re focusing on privacy in library infrastructure. Topics will include: creating good privacy and data governance policies, conducting privacy audits, working with Library IT, understanding vendor agreements from a privacy perspective, and more. It will cover some technical stuff, but it’s intended for library workers without a formal technical background or role.

Programs and training (will run September – October 2021)

In this Crash Course, we’re learning how to teach privacy to patrons, fellow staff, and other stakeholders. We’ll cover some of the broader privacy landscape out in the world–things like consumer technologies, police surveillance, artificial intelligence–and discuss how the loss of privacy affects our communities. We’ll learn how to run effective and interesting privacy programs for various audiences.

Application questions, deadlines, and other details are available at BIPOC library workers are strongly encouraged to apply. Questions about the program can be directed to Deadline to submit for Systems and Policies course is April 10, 2021. Deadline to submit for Programs and Training Course is August 10, 2021.

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

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.

TSLAC’s Program to Get FREE E-rate Consultant Help Continues this Year!

E-rate is a federal discount program available to accredited public libraries that pays up to 90% of broadband costs, but we at TSLAC know the process to complete an application like this can be daunting. TSLAC is continuing its support of libraries this year in applying for E-rate. The project, called Libraries Connecting Texas (LCT), provides FREE, one-on-one support from a professional consulting firm, E-rate Central, to guide participating libraries successfully through the 2021 E-rate Funding Year. 

Sticker that reads "We offer highspeed internet made possible by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Last year, 157 libraries received the free expert help and successfully received E-rate funding. LCT applications now represent 67% of funded library applications in Texas, and the average bandwidth for LCT libraries has increased from around 70 Mbps to 450 Mbps.

If you’re interested in participating this year, please contact Henry Stokes at ASAP

On February 25, Let’s Talk Telehealth in Libraries

The Innovation & Technology Round Table (ITRT) of the Texas Library Association (TLA) is hosting a FREE half-hour Zoom chat about libraries and telehealth on Thursday, February 25 from 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. They’ve invited Dianne Connery of Pottsboro Area Library to speak about her telehealth pilot project and answer any questions you have.

If you’re interested in how libraries can offer telehealth services, come join us!


Learn how a small library launched a pilot program to provide access to quality health care through telehealth. In rural communities, libraries often have the fastest internet connection in town together with the digital literacy to assist users. How can information professionals create healthier communities?

Banner to advertise Pottsboro Area Library's telehealth pilot. "Check out telehealth at your local library!" with bullet points: Call to schedule your appointment, Complete your pre-vist check-in electronically, Show up at the library for your appointment;
Promotional banner for Pottsboro Area Library’s telehealth pilot


Thursday, February 25, 12-12:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

To attend:

Please contact Henry Stokes (2020-21 ITRT Chair) at to receive the TLA Zoom meeting link.

HHH: Ghastly Gadgets

Logo for Henry's Hightech Highlights

Not that long ago, gadgets were something we associated with a far-flung future straight out of science fiction. We imagined people in this distant time using special mechanical pocket-sized devices to perform their daily tasks, like wrist-watches with two-way tv/radio, or handheld computer scanners that could reveal the secret information embedded all around us.

And then it actually happened… The Age of Gadgets arrived.

I recently discovered a video clip from a 1947 French satirical film which predicted smartphones and the way we would use them.

Animated gif of 1947 footage of people on trains and walking around, staring down at small rectangular devices they hold in their hands.

People are shown walking around, never looking up from watching the tiny screens on their devices. This was a ridiculous, laughable scene at the time, played for comedy, but looking at it seventy years later, we don’t even bat an eye; it looks pretty normal to us.

Animated gif of 1947 footage of people staring down at small rectangular devices they hold in their hands, running into each other and almost getting hit by a car.

I feel like the people of 1947 were making fun of us futuristic folks from the 21st century, and I suppose the truth is, we deserve it.

Animated gif of 1947 footage of close-up of imagined handheld device. Its screen only takes up the top half of the rectangle.
The filmmakers couldn’t quite visualize how amazing the smartphone would turn out to be.

From Apple’s AirPods to myriad massage guns to Ring doorbell cameras to foldable phones to wireless charging pads to FitBits to smart-toothbrushes, gadgets are ubiquitous these days. But that doesn’t mean they can’t continue to surprise us with their almost supernatural capabilities.

Just in time for Halloween, I’m taking you on a terrifying tour of 13 diabolical devices designed to dumbfound and delight you.

Animated gif of black & white skeleton and the words "Prepare to be Scared!" zoom in.

Today’s Highlights: Ghastly Gadgets!

1) Interactive mirrors

Photo of a woman pressing a menu item on her interactive mirror.
Photo of a woman seeing a preview of her outfit in an interactive mirror.

Personally, I’m spooked by the idea that my mirror will start showing me reflections of things that aren’t already in the room, but I’ll have to get used to it. These smart mirrors can have touch-screen menus with familiar apps such as weather, stock market, news headlines—you name it.  Don’t bother trying anything on when you’re not sure what to wear; the mirror will show you previews of what your outfits will look like on your actual body. Whether it will confirm you’re the fairest in the land remains to be seen.

2) Digital frame with famous painting subscription

Photo of digital frame showing high-res image of Van Gogh's Starry, Starry Night, with superimposed info about the piece.

Sign up for a special subscription and you can get high-definition digital reproductions of famous works of art streamed straight to this fancy frame in your home. It’s like a personal magic art museum.

3) Polaroid Lab

Photo of Polaroid Lab device

Send your digital photos on a smartphone app to this little “desktop darkroom” which will process and print them as physical Polaroid pictures. We so often see things that convert the physical or analog into digital, but sometimes it’s refreshing to see the reverse. I miss the immediacy and tangibility of the Polaroid picture. The only thing I miss, however, with this gadget is you don’t have to shake the photo to get it developed.

Animated gif of dancers shaking a polaroid picture from the music video for the song "Hey Ya" by Andre 3000.
You know what to do.

4) Digital tattoo machine

Photo of Prinker S device with smartphone showing app with digital tattoo design next to woman's arm with printed design.

Another digital-to-analog device is this temporary tattoo printer called Prinker S hat lets you use a smartphone app to select a design or customize your own—then place it on your skin to physically print it where you want.

5) Face printer

Close-up of mans' face showing device scanning dark spot on skin.

And there’s this printer (opte) that can sense any dark spots on your skin and apply pigment over them. I feel like this gets us one step closer to Star Trek’s medical tricorder.

Animated gif showing clip from Star Trek The Next Generation where Riker is getting a cut healed by Dr. Crusher's medical tri-corder.

6) Text reader gadget

Illustration showing the OrCam Reader scanning a block of text with audio wave symbols emanating from it.

The OrCam Read device can be pointed at a block of text and will then begin reading it aloud. Great for people with reading difficulties such as dyslexia or reading fatigue.

7) Bosch Home Connect Fridge

Phot of smart fridge interior camera

This smart fridge from Bosch uses cameras to identify the food you’re keeping cool and suggests recipes based on the inventory of ingredients you have on hand. This would make me want to stock up on a hodge-podge of interesting things just to see what my attentive, invisible fridge chef thinks up for me.

8) Self-cleaning and self-purifying water bottles

Diagram that shows the various parts inside the self-cleaning bottle

I admit it, I am pretty lazy at times. But that’s no excuse for not cleaning my water bottle in between uses. This gadget has a built-in invisible servant who does the job for you. It also ensures your water’s purified. I would welcome such a device into my life.

Animated gif of a clip from the film Fantasia showing Mickey Mouse leading a walking broom carrying two wash buckets towards a part of a castle to clean.

9) Self-sealing and self-changing trash cans

Animation that shows the trash can device self-sealing and self-changing.

Also welcome is this trash can called townew which allows one to never have to risk touching gross trash more than one has to. It won a “2020 Innovation Award” from the recent Consumer Electronic Show (CES), and I can see why.

Animated gif of Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street looking disgruntled.
Oscar would disapprove.

10) Smart oven

Photo of the Amazon smart oven

This smart oven by Amazon is a 4-in-1 microwave, convection oven, food warmer, and air fryer with 30+ built-in presets. It’s integrated with voice-activated Alexa and has a “temperature probe” so it knows when your food is cooked the way you like it. No need to search in vain for the tiny printed instructions hidden somewhere on the box of your microwaveable food. Just scan certain packaged foods, and this smart oven will know how to cook them automatically. Now what I want to know is, does it bake “smart cookies”?

11) Smart garden

Photo of the Click And Grow countertop garden system.

Speaking of “smart,” this gadget, Click And Grow, is described as a “zero effort,” plug-and-pay, “set it and forget it” countertop garden system that uses Smart Soil inspired by NASA technology.

12) Throwable microphone

Animated gif of people at a table during a meeting. The camera pans as a participant in the foreground throws a blue ball to a person in the back.

This is an oldie, but a goodie: a throwable microphone (Qball). It’s a fun way to integrate technology in a playful and kinetic way, and helps ensure that participants in your in-person meetings don’t all talk at once.

13) Invisible keyboard

ANimated gif of someone's hands typing on a table with no keyboard in front of a smart phone.

Finally, my vote for the spookiest, ghastliest gadget is this keyboard that isn’t even there! SelfieType tracks your fingers using the front-facing selfie camera on your phone or tablet. The keyboard uses artificial intelligence (AI) to sense your tapping fingers and figure out what you’re pantomime typing.

Do you have a favorite “Ghastly Gadget”? Share in the comments!