WASHINGTON, D.C.— Maine State Librarian Linda Lord will serve as the voice of libraries to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on July 17, when it holds a hearing on strengthening the E-Rate program and expanding access to the latest digital technology and learning tools in our libraries and schools. The hearing, “E-Rate 2.0: Connecting Every Child to the Transformative Power of Technology,” will take place at 2:30 p.m. at the Russell Senate Office Building Room 253.
The E-rate program, established in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, has transformed libraries and the technology resources libraries offer across the nation. In 1996, only 28 percent of public libraries provided public Internet access, compared with over 99 percent who report this is the case today. Equally important, 70 percent of libraries now offer Internet connections speeds greater than 1.5 Mbps, compared with 15 percent only a decade earlier. High-speed Internet connections are vital to support interactive online programs for students like virtual field trips to Smithsonian museums or high-definition distance learning.
According to a 2013 Pew Internet Project report, the availability of computers and Internet access now rivals book lending and reference expertise as vital library services. Seventy-seven percent of Americans say free access to computers and the Internet is a “very important” service of libraries, compared with 80 percent who say borrowing books and access to reference librarians are “very important” services.
Lord will share data and examples from libraries in Maine and across the country in her testimony, which will be available at the hearing and by contacting Jazzy Wright at the American Library Association (ALA) at email@example.com.
Lord brings more than 30 years of experience working in the state library, in the Maine Department of Education, and as a school librarian. She also has worked with many commissions and taskforces dealing with technology, connectivity, and telecommunications, including serving as the chair of the ALA E-rate Task Force, where she has become familiar with E-rate issues and projects in other states.