The Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study (PLFTAS) data offer a remarkable resource to assist public libraries better exploit broadband for their community residents. With the forthcoming release of the 2011-2012 PLFTAS data just prior to the American Library Association Annual Conference (June 21-26), we will have the next installment of this dataset.
Augmenting this dataset are a number of resources, such as the broadband needs assessment studies that the Information Use Management and Policy Institute at Florida State University recently completed. Selected findings from the Florida Rural Broadband Alliance (FRBA) needs assessment and the North Florida Broadband Authority (NFBA) needs assessment offer suggestions that may assist public librarians in leveraging the forthcoming PLFTAS data.
A first finding showed that many rural public libraries are community leaders in broadband public access, use, training, and one-on-one instruction – for both the broadband technology and for accessing broadband resources. Public libraries have great visibility and credibility in their communities… and residents know that they can rely on public libraries for broadband access, training, and assistance.
A second finding was that many community residents and anchor institutions did not understand the importance, uses, and applications of high-speed broadband at their jobs, homes, or in their communities – nor did they understand how high-speed broadband could improve community members’ overall quality of life. The public library can build on its broadband community leadership to help educate and instruct community residents about the basics and importance of the Internet and high-speed broadband.
A third interesting finding was that while some public libraries had a technology plan there were few engaged in community-based broadband planning efforts. The needs assessment showed that it was possible for anchor institutions, (e.g., schools, libraries, county health departments, law enforcement, emergency management agencies, and others) to better coordinate their broadband deployment, training, and applications to leverage broadband services for their local communities.
So, to leverage the 2011-2012 PLFTAS data, public libraries may wish to review two instructional modules on “The Importance of Broadband” and “Community-Based Broadband Planning.” Both of these self-paced tutorials are freely available with supplemental information in the form of a glossary and access to additional broadband resources. These instructional modules can be used on their own and they can be used to leverage and use the forthcoming 2011-2012 PLFTAS data in working with trustees, library staff members, residents, and other anchor institutions.
Dr. McClure is the President of Information Management Consultant Services, LLC, firstname.lastname@example.org