page image

CHAPTER 6 - Initiatives to Advance Library Uses of CENIC

Although participants identified ways in which libraries are taking advantage of CENIC connectivity, there was also a clear sense that libraries have to do more to shift the aspirations and engagement of the public and key stakeholder groups for libraries in California. Libraries have roles in cross-cutting areas such as workforce development, career readiness, and improving literacy. In a world where local media in many places are having difficulty sustaining themselves, libraries can even serve as local content repositories for community members to share and store local content in lieu of traditional media. CENIC gives them greater capacity to fulfill these roles.

To move beyond aspirations, participants proposed that stakeholders explore specific initiatives that can put into focus how libraries can leverage CENIC bandwidth to align with key priorities across the state. The issues they identified were:

  • Universal pre-kindergarten
  • Youth programs
  • Civic engagement

Universal Pre-K
Participants noted that universal pre-kindergarten (pre-K) in California is a priority for Governor Gavin Newsom and discussed how libraries can play a part. In particular, libraries can use broadband to train and certify professionals to provide pre-K services; the CENIC network could help libraries to do this at scale. Should libraries undertake such certification programs on a large scale, it is critical for them to document and communicate the number of jobs their pre-K certification efforts create. To think through a replicable model for libraries across the state to use for being a fulcrum for universal pre-K, participants suggested hearings across the state—perhaps convened by the State Library—to highlight innovative pre-K training models and libraries’ role in developing them.

Youth programs
Participants noted that the CENIC network can be used to re-imagine programs that develop reading, writing, and creative skills for youth. A vehicle for libraries to address this is visual storytelling developed by kids. In turn, this can build kids’ writing skills, creativity, and facility with digital tools—all of which can build citizenship and career-readiness skills. The CENIC network can serve as a tool for creation, production, and distribution of the stories created by youth, and bandwidth allows kids to use video and animation to tell stories. The non-profit organization 826 National is an example of how this can be done. Some libraries have already embarked on digital story-telling programs. As a participant in the state library’s Libraries Illuminated grant program, Marin County Free Library used CENIC bandwidth to allow kids to produce high definition video and virtual reality to convey to grandparents their experience on a farm. Going forward, libraries should seek partnerships with entities like 826 National to maximize the reach of digital story-telling that engages youth. These partnerships may also include K-12 schools in the state, a natural connection given libraries’ relationships with schools. The added capacity of CENIC bandwidth can provide opportunities to learn from new partners and explore how to create new pathways for youth learning and engagement.

Using technology to improve youth writing skills is a natural priority for libraries. 826 National is an enterprise that runs a national network of youth writing and publishing centers that includes a strong presence in California. The organization is using digital technology to help spark creativity for young people. 826 formed a partnership with the Cartoon Network to combat bullying. Kids often do not intervene when they see bullying because they have not witnessed such interventions done effectively. Working with the Cartoon Network, 826 had kids tell stories using writing and animation of bullying and how they intervened, which the Cartoon Network turned into public service announcements.

Civic engagement
Participants felt that libraries could use CENIC connectivity in three ways to improve civic engagement in the communities they serve:

  • Voting: In 2020, all California counties will have the option of all-mail elections, which means that voters will have ballots mailed to them, which they will return to specified voting centers for tabulation. In 2018, a number of library systems in California served as ballot drop-off sites and more will serve that function in 2020. Libraries are ideal for this task because people trust them, but the CENIC network makes them even more ideal. The network can handle the capacity of dealing with tabulating votes and may have security advantages as well.
  • The 2020 Census: Low-income and minority communities are at higher risk than others to being undercounted in the Census and that can have significant consequences for localities and the state, including the potential loss of millions of dollars in federal funding over the next decade. Libraries can play a role in educating people to participate in the Census, which is crucial given that the Census Bureau will encourage people to fill out the 2020 Census online. Already Marin County has received a state grant for pre-Census outreach. Since many population segments at risk of being undercounted have fewer digital access tools, and since the library is already a place where these groups turn for online access, the library’s role here is a natural one.
  • Public safety and disaster recovery: A number of examples showed the role the library can play in having a resilient network in the face of disasters. In Nevada County, the library lent hotspots for people displaced because of the Oroville Dam breach. In Los Angeles, the library is part of neighborhood resilience in the face of wildfires, offering a place for connectivity and community during times of emergency. In Sutter County, many reporters gathered at the fire station looking for Wi-Fi during the recent wildfires when a gigabit connection was available down the street at the library.

Libraries can help with civic engagement in more basic ways as well. Some local governments are moving away from providing paper forms for citizen transactions, instead making access available in digital formats. This may penalize those without the means to access the internet, making libraries and their online access tools the face of e-government for some population segments. All in all, the public’s trust in the library is the foundation for the public library having a role in civic engagement, and the CENIC network offers a tool to help the library execute in these areas.

Title Goes Here
Close [X]