OITP collaborates on new “Inclusive Gigabit Libraries” initiative

The ALA Office for Information Technology Policy’s Program on Networks is pleased to announce it will be working with the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and U.S. Ignite to promote access to and use of gigabit networks. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) recently funded GSLIS to convene library and broadband leaders in a series of national continuing education forums to enhance understanding of how libraries may adopt and use next-generation Internet networks and applications to benefit communities. The first forum will take place November 2 at the California Library Association conference.

Professor Jon Gant, director of the proposed Center for Digital Inclusion at GSLIS and the principal investigator on the grant, said, “The project aims to help libraries develop applications and services that will meet the needs of the public, particularly underserved populations. Case studies will examine efforts to leverage ultra-high-speed Internet service to deliver socially inclusive library experiences that meet critical human development needs. The forums will give library leaders an opportunity to shape the next generation of the Internet.”

The White House, with the National Science Foundation, announced U.S. Ignite in June 2012. Ignite is an initiative to jumpstart the development and testing of new broadband applications and help the nationwide adoption of gigabit networks. It will bring together high-speed broadband resources to create test beds across universities and cities nationwide. Twenty-five cities and 15 commercial entities currently are U.S. Ignite members.

“In a time of some scarcity — in terms of both bandwidth and funding to support library operations — this GSLIS project provides an important opportunity to consider broadband abundance. What is possible in this transformational technology space, and how can we maximize learnings from gigabit library pioneers to speed adoption?” asks OITP Program Director Larra Clark. “Libraries are uniquely positioned to enable community members to develop applications, as well as to test new applications with a broad and diverse range of community patrons. We look forward to exploring new library services that gigabit networks enable.”

GSLIS, with ALA and Ignite, will conduct research, create case studies, convene four national forums and develop a culminating white paper over the coming year. Case studies of applications and strategic issues will be based on activities using the Ignite’s network by libraries in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Cleveland, Ohio; Lafayette, La.; and Rutgers University. One example is provided by the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library, which is collaborating with Cleveland State University to connect one of its branches to the Ignite network for multimedia delivery of online education.

The first forum will be held at the California Library Association conference in San Jose on Friday, November 2, from 1 to 4 p.m. ALA webinars and conference programs also are under development and will be announced in coming months. Stay tuned!

About Larra Clark

As Deputy Director of the American Library Association's Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), Larra’s responsibilities include overall management of OITP’s telecommunications portfolio and day-to-day management of America’s Libraries for the 21st Century (AL21C) projects and those in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Previously, she served as the project manager in the ALA Office for Research & Statistics for three years.

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