Today, the American Library Association participated in an E-rate press call moderated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and was joined by several education and digital learning advocates. More than 4 million people visit America’s public libraries each day, and high-capacity broadband and WiFi-enabled connections are at the center of what our communities need to connect with a world of online resources. Libraries complete Education, jumpstart Employment and Entrepreneurship, Empower people of all ages and backgrounds and foster community Engagement—“The E’s of Libraries™.”
The American Library Association just completed its national conference, drawing 19,000 people and the sharing of at least that many experiences of modern library services,” said American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office executive director Emily Sheketoff. “Two stand out: A foster mom in Sitka, Alaska, that received more than six hours of videoconferenced medical training to help her son live safely with Type I diabetes. In this case, the library is literally a life-saver. On the other hand, a Georgia librarian had to stop a library event encouraging people to bring their mobile devices and learn how to download and stream new ebooks and digital magazines because internet speeds were too slow.
“The pressure for high-capacity broadband in libraries grows every year, as more essential employment and government services move online and libraries add interactive and streaming multimedia. The needs are urgent, and the time for action is now. ALA sees the FCC’s efforts as a solid first step in reforms to immediately support investments in Wi-Fi and to simplify the E-rate program.”
Virtually all libraries now offer free public WiFi, and this use is accelerating rapidly. One Oregon library recently topped 1 million Wi-Fi sessions in one year. Many patrons bring one, two or even three devices, and the K-12 trend toward supplying students with tablets and laptops is dramatically impacting library networks after school bells ring.
This Wi-Fi access depends on affordable, scalable high-capacity connections to the building. “With more than half of libraries with speeds of less than 10Mbps, we have a long way to go before we can claim victory toward the 1 gigabit goal, and the FCC must also address this concern. This is a first, not last step, to supporting digital learning and digital opportunity for our students and communities,” Sheketoff added.
About the American Library Association
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 57,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.