Yesterday, the Kansas State Library and the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) sponsored a meeting on broadband deployment to libraries in Kansas. Christie Brandau, State Librarian of Kansas, started the day-long summit by discussing the problem that Kansas libraries face by not having sufficient broadband to meet demand. The honorable John Carlin, Former Governor and Archivist of the United States, welcomed participants to Manhattan by discussing the importance of broadband to the future of Kansas and reminding participants that libraries will remain vital to society as a ‘hub of information access.’ To set the stage for discussion throughout the day, John Windhausen, President of Telepoly and consultant to ALA/OITP, called upon participants to be active in the development and implementation of a state broadband policy that includes libraries.
Marc Galbraith, Deputy State Librarian of Kansas, continued the summit by leading two discussion panels. The first featured several Kansans discussing their experiences with broadband deployment including:
- Ruby Martin, of Lane County Library, discussing the collaboration she formed to ensure the operation of high definition video conferencing equipment she received from a grant;
- Charlene McGuire from Southwest Kansas Library System covered how many patrons are returning to use library services, due to broadband, and the difficulties associated with ensuring libraries have sufficient connectivity;
- To compliment the first two, Marianne Eichleberger of the Newton Public Library discussed her successes and challenges in obtaining sufficient broadband;
- Don Moler, Executive Director League of Kansas Municipalities covered the importance of broadband to municipalities and using the Internet to communicate with members of his organization;
- The Kansas Division of Information Systems and Communications, led by Denise Moore, connects 625 sites throughout the state via a network, and Denise shared the experiences of the agency;
- Doug Heacock discussed the Kansas Research and Education Network (Kan-Ren) and how it helps connect libraries in Kansas and how they could help with broadband deployment.
The second panel contained a summary from the OITP research into improving broadband connectivity to public libraries by Nancy Bolt. Representative Tom Sloan discussed a summit he held on rural broadband. How Kan-ed serves libraries was the topic of Charmine Chambers. To wrap up the panel, Linda Schatz discussed various forms of funding available to libraries to connect, including E-rate discounts.
In a discussion with an Internet provider, he indicated that the discussion allows him to view broadband deployment to libraries differently. This and other important topics came up during a session after lunch where the participants were placed in groups to discuss how to improve broadband. By working together in multi-disciplinary teams, individual ideas were able to come to light. Further, it gave the diverse participants a chance to share their experiences and points of view.
During discussions, Representative Sloan stressed the importance that librarians represent to the broadband issue, not only emphasizing their need for continued funding, but also providing evidence demonstrating that need in addition to outlining a solid plan for deployment to their Kansas legislators. This brought up one of the key findings from our research, where the research team identified the need for librarians to better advocate for broadband. Other key findings from our research came up throughout the day’s discussion, including the need for leadership from state policy makers. Senator Karin Brownlee and Representative Tom Sloan have both been essential to the effort, working hard to formulate ideas and contribute suggestions for deploying broadband to Kansas homes and libraries. The need for collaboration between libraries to ensure broadband deployment also came up frequently.
Congratulations to Christie Brandau, Marc Galbraith, Cindi Hickey and the Kansas state library staff for organizing this summit. Returning to Kansas with the team from our visit in March gave us all a chance to re-connect with participants and to continue the discussion in a public forum As with leadership from state policy makers, leadership from the State Library is also essential when ensuring broadband deployment to libraries and they are to be applauded.