Speaking of funding, how would you characterize the
current funding environment for libraries?
It’s getting better. At the peak of the Great Recession, libraries
experienced budget cuts that resulted in reduced hours, closed
doors, and staff reductions. Now, as the economy rebounds and
state budgets are coming back to normal levels, library budgets
are increasing as well.
In July, the Federal Communications Commission voted
to modernize the E-Rate program and expand libraries’
broadband capabilities. Can you talk about the importance of that decision?
The current E-Rate reform effort is incredibly momentous,
and important to the future of libraries and schools. At the
moment, ALA, along with our library and school partners, is
exploring funding and policy scenarios for ensuring all libraries can reach the high-capacity broadband targets that we have
outlined, and that the FCC adopted: that’s 100 Mbps for all
libraries and 1 Gbps for libraries serving communities larger
than 50,000 people.
The FCC’s July order represents a solid first step. A large
number of libraries and schools depend on E-Rate funding for
Internet access—some 90% of U.S. libraries have used E-Rate
at some point, according to the Institute of Museum and
Library Services. But action must be taken to improve high-capacity broadband to and within library and school buildings.
Better broadband speed is vital for supporting modern library
services, which include interactive homework help and digital
learning labs that demand powerful download and upload capabilities. And, of course, so much content is now digital and
networked, as collections rapidly transition from books on
shelves to bits in the cloud. I would encourage people to stay
tuned on this topic via the ALA District Dispatch, as ALA will
continue our E-Rate advocacy over the next several months.
The ALA Office for Information Technology Policy has also
developed a summary that distills the major changes and
impacts for libraries.
Check It Out
➤WITH MICHAEL KELLEY
Checking in with
of ALA’s Washington
Much of the media coverage of libraries in 2014 to date
has centered on the modest progress made on the e-book
issue. But 2014 has been a year of significant progress for
libraries in the public policy sphere, with a number of
library initiatives advancing. Among the most prominent achievements are an FCC plan to overhaul the federal E-Rate program (which funds library and school
Internet access), and the inclusion of libraries in legislation to help job seekers. I recently spoke with Emily
Sheketoff, the executive director of ALA’s Washington
office, about the library community’s legislative accomplishments thus far this year—and its goals for the coming months.
How is ALA approaching this year’s Congressional midterm elections?
As we move toward the midterm elections, we’re encouraging
librarians to use this time to educate policymakers about critical library issues, such as federal funding. And now that Congress is in recess, we are asking library advocates to invite all
legislators and candidates to visit their local libraries so that
they can see firsthand how libraries are supporting their constituents.
NEW FALL TITLES FROM