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CHAPTER 7 - Jumpstarting the Future: A Blueprint for Action

“The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.” This memorable phrase uttered by the writer William Gibson captures the excitement of the new, while begging the question of how and how fast the future eventually arrives to everyone. This exploration of public libraries in California shines light on the steps the library community is undertaking to accelerate widespread dissemination of CENIC’s benefits. But it is not a job for the library community alone; it will take collaboration with leaders in communities and all levels of government. To create and maintain momentum for change, several recommendations emerged from the Aspen Institute’s “Beyond Connectivity” conference:

Libraries committed to integrating technology into how they serve their communities must undertake deliberate planning to make that happen effectively. Several California libraries said that strategic planning—sometimes by the library alone, other times by an entire county or region—helped identify how to use bandwidth to promote community goals and coordinate across institutions to carry out priorities.

Expanding collaboration can unfold in two ways for libraries. First, as they engage in programs relating to workforce development or pre-K, libraries will have to actively collaborate with stakeholders in those fields, and perhaps internet service providers to address patrons’ at-home broadband needs. The other way relates to “thinking inside the network” as libraries now are connected to other CENIC institutions throughout California. This gives public libraries a new relationship to other institutions and the content they create, which in turn makes digital content more valuable to citizens of California.

Measurement and outreach
Although mentioned only in the context of libraries and pre-K employment certification, libraries should broadly explore measuring the outcomes of what they do with CENIC connectivity in the areas discussed above. By doing this, they assemble evidence to communicate to policymakers and others how bandwidth-enabled programs impact their patrons and communities.

As this examination of California libraries and the CENIC network has shown, bandwidth can be a catalyst for change. When a community has a key anchor institution with gigabit-plus network speeds, new opportunities emerge. With appropriate planning, collaboration, and partnerships, California’s public libraries can help their communities seize these opportunities, close gaps, and ignite the imagination toward a brighter future for all.

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