America’s libraries honored by FCC with inaugural DOER award

For Immediate Release
Tue, 09/15/2020


Shawnda Hines

Assistant Director, Communications

Public Policy and Advocacy Office

American Library Association

(202) 628-8410, ext. 8208

WASHINGTON, DC - Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Geoffrey Starks has named “America’s libraries” as an honoree of the inaugural Digital Opportunity Equity Recognition (DOER) Program. Commissioner Starks established the award in 2020 “to acknowledge the tireless efforts of Americans working to close the digital divide in communities without access to affordable, reliable broadband.” 

“It is clear that our long-standing digital divide has morphed into a monstrous new COVID-19 divide,” said Commissioner Starks. “From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic through now, I have heard stories about the innovative and rapid ways individuals, non-profit organizations, and companies are responding to the connectivity needs of people across this country.”

“This award is not for an organization,” said American Library Association President Julius C. Jefferson, Jr. “ALA took the opportunity to nominate every single one of America’s libraries – not because broadband access through libraries is new, but because libraries and library workers deserve to be newly appreciated. They have been key to addressing digital inequities that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare – especially for Indigenous people and other people of color as well as individuals from low-income households.”

“Even as library doors had to close and staff had to consider everyone’s health and safety, libraries responded quickly and with creativity to keep their communities connected as we’ve all pivoted to learning, working, seeking healthcare, and many day-to-day tasks online,” said Michelle Jeske, president of the Public Library Association (PLA), whose survey and device distribution project was cited in the DOER award. “PLA is proud to serve America’s libraries.”

A press release issued by Commissioner Starks September 14 stated:

Libraries across the nation have consistently bridged the digital divide by providing essential access to the internet, devices, digital literacy training, rich content, and services to the disconnected. In response to COVID-19, 93% of public libraries surveyed by the Public Library Association said they provide (or plan to provide) free Wi-Fi access on their grounds even when their buildings are closed to the public; 44% of public libraries moved routers outdoors to improve public access; and 23% of libraries surveyed also provide Wi-Fi hotspots for patrons to check out and use at home. Additionally, at the time America’s libraries were nominated, the Public Library Association was in the process of providing 80 library systems with devices for over 160 branch and community locations.

According to the release, program honorees will be recognized at a virtual reception on Oct. 1, 2020, at Noon ET.

“ALA thanks the FCC and Commissioner Starks for taking the initiative to recognize how Americans around the country are responding to help others in this crisis,” Jefferson said.