Only A Few Days Left to Apply for Texas Telehealth Funding!

Act now to take advantage of available funds set aside by TSLAC for Texas libraries to pursue telehealth projects.

Instructions for how to apply are here: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ldn/arpa/telehealth

Symbol of a library building embedded with a laptop displaying virtual doctor's visit

Want to set up a space at your library for your patrons to have virtual visits with doctors?  Funding from the Texas Telehealth Grant includes the following:

  • Networking equipment and cables
  • Computer hardware, software, and accessories
  • Furniture
  • Camera/video equipment/accessories
  • Portable ring lights/lamps
  • Sound baffles
  • Teleconferencing kiosk(s)
  • Mobile devices and related apps
  • Printers/scanners
  • IT support (computer/web)
  • Staff training
  • Medical supplies
  • Sanitation/infection prevention
  • Marketing and promotion

The maximum grant award will be $25,000 for a single library location and $50,000 for a multi-branch library. After notice of success, TSLAC will provide training to successful applicants to help finalize their grant budgets.

The deadline to submit applications is this Friday October 1, so APPLY NOW!

Check out these excellent resources to inform your applications:

Front cover of the SaferCareTX Pottsboro Playbook
Cover of Craig Settles' Library Telehealth Guide
First slide from "Establishing aTelehealth Center in Your Library" presentation

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

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.

Give TSLAC Feedback About Two New Tech Funding Opportunities

TSLAC is planning to launch two upcoming Texas library technology grant programs—telehealth and digital navigators—both made possible by emergency pandemic funding. If you are from a Texas library, we’d love to get your input!

Opportunity 1: Telehealth

TSLAC is planning to provide a grant opportunity that would provide awarded libraries the equipment and resources needed to implement a telehealth program at their library facilities. Telehealth at the library is when Internet networks and computers are used to help facilitate visits between health care providers and library patrons.

Opportunity 2: Digital Navigators

TSLAC is planning to provide training, funding, and resources to awarded libraries to implement a Digital Navigators program for their community. Digital Navigators are individuals who address the whole digital inclusion process—home connectivity, devices, and digital skills—with community members through repeated interactions. A trained Digital Navigator will be able to assess a community member’s need, and competently guide them towards resources that are suitable both for their skill level and lifestyle.


You can now watch a recording of TSLAC’s webinar last week describing the two programs in development. In addition to an overview provided by staff from TSLAC’s Continuing Education and Consulting Department, you’ll hear from two pioneers in these areas: Dianne Connery of Pottsboro Library (TX) discussing her telehealth pilot, and Shauna Edson and Justin Strange of Salt Lake City Public Library (UT) discussing their Digital Navigators project. Please note: Although you can watch the recording as a guest without logging in to our online course page, you’ll want to be sure to log in and enroll in the course if you’d like to receive 1 hour of Continuing Education (CE) credit.

Are you interested in one or both of these opportunities? Do you foresee any obstacles to taking advantage of them? Are there reasons why they wouldn’t be a good fit for your library right now? Please let us know your thoughts by taking the following survey (less than 10 minutes) by Tuesday, July 6.

Survey link: http://s.alchemer.com/s3/Funding-for-Telehealth-and-Digital-Navigators

Thank you! We look forward to getting your input to ensure these programs best meet your library’s needs.

For questions about the telehealth program, please contact Henry Stokes at hstokes@tsl.texas.gov. For questions about Digital Navigators, please contact Cindy Fisher at cfisher@tsl.texas.gov.

Upcoming Webinar: Tech Care of Your Community with Two TSLAC Tech Grant Programs!

Join TSLAC’s Digital Inclusion and Library Technology Consultants Cindy Fisher and Henry Stokes as they introduce two upcoming Texas library technology grant programs in development—telehealth and digital navigators—made possible by emergency pandemic funding.

Attendees will hear about a telehealth initiative from Dianne Connery of Pottsboro Library (TX) and a technology support and computer device access program called Digital Navigators from Shauna Edson and Justin Strange of Salt Lake City Public Library (UT). After learning about these programs, you’ll be invited to provide your interest and feedback on implementing these programs in your community.

Webinar Title: Funding for Telehealth and Digital Navigators, Two Programs In Development for Texas Libraries

When: Thursday, June 24, 11 am to 12 noon Central

CE Credit: 1 hour

Registration Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3978740470804071696

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:

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  libraryfreedom.org/crashcourse. BIPOC library workers are strongly encouraged to apply. Questions about the program can be directed to alison@libraryfreedom.org. Deadline to submit for Systems and Policies course is April 10, 2021. Deadline to submit for Programs and Training Course is August 10, 2021.