Today, Ms. Margaret Conroy testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, stating the ALA’s interest in improving broadband deployment and sharing how residents of her home state benefit from broadband services offered in public libraries.
Some naysayers predicted that the rise of the Internet would lead to the demise of the public library. But as Missouri native Mark Twain wrote, “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” said Ms. Conroy.
After getting a good laugh from Committee members and the audience, Ms. Conroy provided greater detail on how broadband technologies play an increasingly vital role in enabling public libraries to provide a variety of essential Internet services.
By providing Internet access to the general public, public libraries have become the social and economic hubs of their communities, often times providing the only Internet access for many low-income and elderly people, students, job seekers, immigrants, travelers, and many others.
Ms. Conroy also shared several experiences from librarians in Missouri. One example emphasized how college students benefit from broadband services offered in public libraries.
From a librarian in Oregon County, MO:
What Internet access means to the Oregon County Library District and our patrons? It means that a 90-year-old great grandma can come into the library and read her e-mail, see a picture of a great granddaughter in Texas on her first day of kindergarten and print out the picture to show everyone. It means that our local college students can work on-line, communicate with their professors, e-mail their assignments, take on-line classes and compete on a level playing field with students from metropolitan areas. It means local citizens who can’t afford personal home computers and a fast Internet connection can come to the public library and use our resources. You must keep in mind; Oregon County is a rural, economically disadvantaged county. The Alton Public Library is located about “fifty miles from anywhere”. What does Internet access mean to us? It means everything!
During the question period, committee member Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) recognized Ms. Margaret as an outstanding librarian in the state of Missouri and asked several important question concerning broadband and its application to higher education. Additionally, Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) called for immediate passage of S. 1492, the Broadband Data Improvement Act. For additional information, read Ms. Conroy’s full testimony.