New report outlines potential benefits of research and education networks for libraries

A new study commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation explores potential benefits of state research and education (R&E) networks for libraries. Titled “Connections, Capacity, Community,” the report was developed in response to national investments in state and regional fiber networks through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).

Currently, there are 38 active state R&E networks, of which 22 currently serve at least some of the libraries in their respective states. BTOP-funded infrastructure projects will facilitate the launch of three new R&E networks and expand seven R&E networks’ coverage of libraries.

The American Library Association (ALA) has supported a variety of approaches to improve broadband connectivity for our nation’s public libraries including the development of a Unified Community Anchor Network (UCAN).  Most recently, the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) announced Bob Bocher, technology consultant for the Wisconsin State Library and ALA OITP Fellow, will serve on a new U.S. UCAN task force.

OITP also has published reports on related topics, including Making Connections: Lessons from Five Shared Library Networks, Fiber to the Library and Regional Library Cooperatives and the Future of Broadband (PDFs).

The ALA supports the choice of individual libraries to determine the best broadband connectivity to meet their needs, and this new report provides additional information on how state R&E networks can provide one viable option to address library broadband needs.

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