On May 6-8, ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) hosted a training session for state library E-rate coordinators in Chicago. Forty-three states and territories sent a representative to the training, which is part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded “Improving Library E-rate Participation” project.
Training is a central activity of OITP’s E-rate project. OITP provides two training sessions per year, one in the fall at the opening of the E-rate application window, and the other in the spring. The goal of the fall session is to prepare state E-rate coordinators for the questions they will receive from applicants during the window. The spring session focuses on the E-rate disbursement process, which can be full of “gotchas” that may prevent E-rate applicants from receiving their requested funding.
Last week’s workshop opened with a one-day special session for new state E-rate coordinators. The regular session focused on the process for obtaining discounts on Internet and telecommunications services based on approved requests. This meeting also featured a panel presentation from several of the state E-rate coordinators, who presented what they have been doing in their states with the information they learned from the training sessions. It was fascinating to hear the range of activities in the states – from targeted advocacy to innovative training strategies to one-on-one consultation with applicants. Many of the E-rate coordinators are doing a terrific job helping local libraries in their states benefit from the E-rate program.