OITP hosts lunch discussion with Google Policy Fellows

Google Policy Fellows

Find more photos of the 2014 Google Policy Fellows lunch on flickr.

Last week, the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) hosted a lunch and discussion for the 2014 Google Policy Fellows. Members from various policy organizations including the Center for Democracy and Technology, the National Consumers League, and Public Knowledge attended to learn more about ALA’s role in shaping technology policy and addressing library needs. Alan Inouye, Larra Clark, Marijke Visser and Charlie Wapner all shared their role and policy focus at OITP, and Jessica McGilvray and Jeffrey Kratz represented the Office for Government Relations (OGR), along with Communications Specialist Jacob Roberts. The lunch also gave the fellows a chance to ask questions and share their research interests at their respective host organizations in further detail. In many cases, interests and positions overlapped, and it was a good opportunity for sharing resources and perspectives on such topics as copyright, 3D printing, and net-neutrality in the non-commercial sphere.

The Google Policy Fellowship program is a great way to bring together passionate people engaged with aspects of technology policy ranging from privacy and disruptive innovation to E-rate and digital inclusion. One thing that was clear from the discussion around the lunch table was that the policy implications of information technology are complex, and organizations’ interests often converge and diverge on a case by case basis. The informal question-and-answer format also provided a good platform for addressing libraries’ roles and interests in technology and innovation. Although deeply involved in the policy world, many attendees were not aware of key aspects of the library’s evolution in the digital age, such as increasingly offering ebooks and makerspaces, which require close involvement with policies governing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and First Sale Doctrine. Overall, it was a good opportunity to expand the conversation, reflect on recent Federal Communications Commission decisions, and consider the future of libraries and other tech-related fields in the spectrum of current policy.

Posted in Washington Office News Tagged with:

176 pages and many hours distilled into a summary of the July 11 E-rate Order

After checking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website several times each day between July 11 when the Commission adopted an Order in the E-rate Modernization proceeding and when it was released to the public on July 23, things have been remarkably quiet in E-rate land while we are all nose deep reading the 117 pages of changes to the program (176 total pages). In the Washington Office our copies are dog-eared with ink in the margins, and many phrases underlined or marked “?” but we have started to pull themes together to understand how the changes will impact libraries. We are pleased to see that many of ALA’s recommendations have indeed been adopted—testament to the hard work we asked of our members, especially the E-rate Task Force, as well as those of the Public Library Association (PLA) and the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL). We also gained valuable insight from the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) and the Urban Libraries Council (ULC). The Order represents a full year of consistent effort on the part of the Commission and stakeholders alike, hours of discussions and negotiations, but it is not the end of the modernization efforts.

The Order includes a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) which asks for specific input on issues the Commission feels could benefit from additional detailed information from the public. Most importantly for ALA’s ongoing effort to address the continued lack of high-capacity broadband are the questions in the FNPRM that discuss the future funding needs for the E-rate program. The Commission opened the door for a full investigation into the gap between the current level of connectivity to libraries and schools and the capacity goals adopted in the Order. This will, in part, determine realistic costs on which to base the “right size” of the fund. At the same time we plan to continue our call for specific emphasis on those libraries that are furthest behind the gigabit goals as we continue to see the modernization effort as an opportunity to make a significant dent in the broadband shortfall 66% of libraries still report.

In the meantime while we prepare for the FNPRM, the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) Fellow, Bob Bocher, prepared a summary (pdf) of the Order which gives an overview of the major changes to the program and references the relevant paragraphs in the Order to provide necessary context for each change or modification. In addition to the summary, we encourage you to go to the USAC website where there is a dedicated page to the most up to date information concerning the E-rate modernization proceeding.

FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, called on ALA to stay engaged in the coming months of the modernization effort. We plan to do just that. The Washington Office will continue its work at the Commission and with the library community as we begin the next phase.

Posted in E-Rate, OITP, Public Libraries, School Libraries, Telecommunications Tagged with: , , , ,

Macmillan opens full ebook catalog for library lending

Today Macmillan announces that its frontlist ebooks will be available through its public library e-lending program. ALA President Courtney Young released a statement welcoming this important development for improving the ability of libraries to connect authors and readers in our communities.

Posted in e-books Tagged with: ,

Take the (library broadband speed) test by August 8!


The American Library Association (ALA) and the Information Policy & Access Center (iPAC) at the University of Maryland College Park are extending the deadline for public libraries to gauge the quality of public access to the internet until August 8. The speed test study is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and is supported by the Association of Rural and Small Libraries, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, the Public Library Association, and the Urban Libraries Council.

The new study will complement findings from the 2013-2014 Digital Inclusion Survey released last week, providing a snapshot of the broadband speed a library patron experiences at the device level (pdf or png). Taken together, the data will help inform the Federal Communications Commission’s current E-rate proceeding, including questions about future funding needs.

This new data collection effort will seek responses from a sample of about 1,000 libraries, while allowing any library to capture the broadband speed data for their advocacy use. No software needs to be downloaded, and libraries will be asked to run the speed test at least twice during open hours.

Libraries can log on at digitalinclusion.pnmi.com/speedtest before August 8 to capture data. Results from the speed test study will be published in September 2014.

Posted in E-Rate, Public Libraries, School Libraries, Telecommunications Tagged with: ,

Rep Holt praises library’s efforts

holt_sheketoffRepresentative Rush Holt (D, NJ) joined New Jersey State Librarian, Mary Chute and me at the East Brunswick Public Library.  We were celebrating the new law which opens up federal funding for libraries’ work to assist the unemployed.  We talked about all the things libraries are doing to assist their patrons in looking for a job and getting 21st century employment skills to get a better job.  I explained how the newly signed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will give libraries the resources to do more for the public.  Library Director Mary Ellen Firestone talked about all the additional classes they could offer in their computer lab with just a little additional funding to hire a trainer full-time.

Representative Holt had been to the East Brunswick library a few years ago to see their job training activities and used the examples of what he saw at East Brunswick in the Education and Workforce Committee meetings when he fought to have libraries included in the bill, which President Obama signed into law July 22.

Posted in Legislation Tagged with:


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