Driving Learning & Community Design with CENIC Broadband in California

Posted by Amy Garmer on June 11, 2019 at 9:53 AM

The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries is pleased to announce the publication of Beyond Connectivity: How California Libraries Can Leverage Bandwidth to Advance Community Goals, a new report that calls on California policymakers and community leaders to work with public libraries and the state’s CENIC network to develop state-of-the-art uses of library bandwidth to advance equity, learning and opportunity in their communities. The report is available at http://as.pn/beyondconnectivity.

High-speed networks like CENIC can extend libraries’ work to activate the human imagination in new ways and provide new platforms for innovation and entrepreneurial activity.

Beyond Connectivity: How California Libraries Can Leverage Bandwidth to Advance Community Goals unveils a set of opportunities and recommendations for strengthening local innovation and resetting community expectations, using public libraries and their gigabit-plus broadband capacity as a fulcrum. These include:

  • Preparing for the 2020 Census and Elections by building out the concept of libraries as key partners in Census outreach and as voting centers as California transitions to vote-by-mail elections;
  • Using library broadband to train and certify professionals to provide early learning services toward the goal of universal pre-kindergarten for all California children—the CENIC network is a vehicle for reaching all 1,133 public libraries in California;
  • Adopting a greater role for public libraries to work with other entities, such as the California Emerging Technology Fund, to close the digital divide and achieve the goal of having 98% of California homes connected to broadband by 2023.
  • Expanding programs for writing, creativity and digital production to create new pathways for youth learning and engagement.

The report and its recommendations stem from the Aspen Institute conference, “Beyond Connectivity: Gigabit Network Use in California Public Libraries,” that took place at the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building in Sacramento, California on December 4-5, 2018.

Twenty-six technology and library experts and entrepreneurs explored how California communities can get more out of their libraries’ high-bandwidth connectivity through CENIC, a nonprofit established 20 years ago to provide reliable, cost-effective broadband to California’s research and education institutions.

These tech innovators and social entrepreneurs from California and the nation shared promising new practices using virtual reality and augmented reality technology, gaming and streaming technologies already in use in some California libraries and explored the partnerships and additional resources that are needed to build out these innovations statewide.

A list of conference participants is available here.

The CENIC organization, which stands for Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, has been highly supportive of this initiative since its inception. In the news release announcing the report, CENIC President and CEO Louis Fox said, “The ability to access digital information is essential to every Californian and our remarkable libraries are places where access, the expertise of librarians, and a wealth of opportunities are available to all. Bandwidth should never constrain access and innovation in our libraries.”

CENIC’s 2019 Annual Conference in La Jolla, California included a panel of several leading library innovators from the Beyond Connectivity conference discussing innovation and uptake of the high-speed broadband network in their communities and the potential to advance even more innovation in library and community broadband. Video of the session was recorded and posted on YouTube. CENIC's blog also includes articles on the evolving library discussion and the use of virtual reality (VR/XR) technologies for immersive learning California libraries.

The conference and this report were made possible by a grant from the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation. This report concludes a series of California Library Dialogues convened by the Dialogue on Public Libraries in 2018.


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