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Libraries need to Grow2Gig+

John Windhausen, SHLB members launch the #Grow2Gig campaign.
SHLB Director John Windhausen (upper far right), SHLB members and allies launch the #Grow2Gig campaign.

As many of you know, the ALA is a founding member of the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, which was created in 2009 to advocate for community anchor institutions as part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. I also am proud to serve on the SHLB board of directors and to share the new “Connecting Anchor Institutions: A Vision of our Future” report and Grow2Gig+ campaign.

While public library broadband speeds have steadily improved over the last five years, less than 5 percent of libraries have yet reached the 2020 gigabit goal outlined for community anchor institutions in the National Broadband Plan. With growth in digital media labs that enable creation and sharing of content, video teleconferencing that collapse geographical distances, and the proliferation of mobile devices streaming more and more digital content from our virtual shelves, libraries need to Grow2Gig+.

The new vision paper includes a section dedicated to library broadband that features insights from ALA President Sari Feldman, Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) Executive Director Dan Cohen and Bibliotech author John Palfrey (among others) talking about emerging roles and demands to meet the library mission and community needs.

“Libraries are transforming into community hubs for digital content creation and collaboration,” Feldman said. “Having a high-speed and resilient Internet connection at each and every library is essential to ensuring a full range of services related to education, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment and community engagement for all.”

Importantly, this paper is only the first of many that will make up a broadband action plan for connecting community anchor institutions. Ten papers will follow that make recommendations for federal, state, and local policy changes on issues ranging from wireless networking to broadband funding to digital equity.

Ensuring and leveraging affordable, high-capacity broadband connections for libraries and our communities is central to meeting the ALA and library mission of advancing access to online information and resources for everyone. A commitment to digital equity and opportunity drives our advocacy on E-rate, Lifeline, network neutrality and the need for unlicensed spectrum – as well as the larger Policy Revolution! initiative.

SHLB’s new #Grow2Gig campaign and “Connecting Anchor Institutions: A Broadband Action Plan” provide new and needed resources to make the case for the robust broadband capacity needed to best serve our communities. The ALA will use these documents as a foundation for our work preparing for the upcoming Presidential transition, and we look forward to our continued collaboration with SHLB and its diverse members around the nation to achieve our common goals and vision.

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Larra Clark

Larra Clark is the deputy director of both the Public Library Association and Washington Office’s public policy team. Larra received her bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Arizona and has a M.S. in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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