Special Report: Toward an Equitable Digital Future

March 1, 2022

Even as lockdowns have eased and most schools and libraries have reopened, the availability of reliable broadband, devices, and digital literacy training remains critical—whether for schoolwork, employment, public services, telehealth visits, social connections, or civic participation. And this need will grow exponentially as technology infrastructure continues to evolve. Library workers have been working to address … Continue reading Special Report: Toward an Equitable Digital Future


Libraries are turning to the Toward Gigabit Libraries Toolkit to improve and advocate for their broadband connections.

The Last Mile

March 1, 2022

Using a 2015 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), nonprofit consortium Internet2 and its Community Anchor Program (CAP) have worked with technology consultant Carson Block to develop a free, downloadable toolkit to help library staffers understand and improve their broadband services and technical knowledge, says CAP Director Stephanie Stenberg. Called the … Continue reading The Last Mile


The 411 on Funding

March 1, 2022

The pandemic threw the issue of unequal access to technology into sharp relief. Multiple funding bills have been proposed in the past few years—many with similar names—to alleviate this imbalance. However, staying on top of which bills have passed, what funding is available for libraries, and how librarians can get that funding can be a … Continue reading The 411 on Funding


Moving the Needle

March 1, 2022

1: Look around The first step is to take inventory of what digital programs, services, resources, and staffing already exist in your library and identify gaps and opportunities, says Larra Clark, deputy director of PLA and ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office. “That’s the number one thing—where are you today? No matter who you are, … Continue reading Moving the Needle


During the pandemic, Long Beach (Calif.) Public Library launched Tech To-Go, a Chromebook and hotspot lending service, while Digital Durham (in North Carolina) created fliers in English and Spanish that explain the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

Getting There Together

March 1, 2022

“During the pandemic, the number of place-based digital inclusion coalitions has more than tripled,” says Angela Siefer, director of the nonprofit National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), a community of digital inclusion practitioners and policymakers. “The sudden awareness of digital inequities and the need for coordinated solutions caused folks to come together, [and] libraries are often … Continue reading Getting There Together


A Broad Look at Broadband

March 1, 2022

Unlike most other types of infrastructure—such as roads, bridges, energy grids, water lines, and sewage systems—the nation’s digital infrastructure is largely corporate owned and generates revenues from paying subscribers. Why Access Is Important. During the pandemic, technology has been a lifeline: 9 in 10 Americans said the internet has been essential or important to them … Continue reading A Broad Look at Broadband


Image of ALA President Patricia "Patty" M. Wong

We Must Lead on Digital Equity

March 1, 2022

A Public Library Association study released in September 2021 provides a current picture of how libraries serve as digital equity hubs. The study found that more than 88% of all public libraries offer formal or informal digital literacy programming, more than one-third (36.7%) have dedicated digital literacy and technology programs and training staff, and more than … Continue reading We Must Lead on Digital Equity



Photo of Dispatches author Carson Block

Diagnose and Fix

November 1, 2021

The Toward Gigabit Libraries Toolkit is a free, open source learning, diagnostic, and advocacy resource funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The kit’s Creative Commons license allows users to remix, adapt, and build on the work, making it a powerful starting point for training in library organizations. The toolkit’s aim is to … Continue reading Diagnose and Fix


Headshots of panelists from "Social Justice Requires Broadband Access"

Social Justice Requires Broadband Access

June 26, 2021

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that 14.5 million Americans lack broadband internet access. Panel moderator Eldon R. James, a trustee of the Freedom to Read Foundation, opened the session by citing an independent research study that suggests the real numbers are likely closer to 42 million. Erin Hollingsworth is librarian at North Slope Borough … Continue reading Social Justice Requires Broadband Access


Emergency Broadband Benefit (text curved in the shape of a Wi-Fi signal)

FCC Opens Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

May 11, 2021

Program and application essentials, including eligibility, are outlined in a new FCC-American Library Association (ALA) fact sheet for libraries. A household is eligible if one of its members meets any of the following criteria: Has an income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as the Supplemental … Continue reading FCC Opens Emergency Broadband Benefit Program


2021 State of America's Libraries Special Report (graphic featuring illustrated figures wearing masks, buildings, and icons representing library services and community during the pandemic)

ALA Releases State of America’s Libraries Special Report: COVID-19

April 5, 2021

Like many public institutions forced to close their doors, libraries adapted to a new way of doing business. Closures did not prevent library workers and libraries from serving their communities. Instead, shuttered physical spaces fueled significant innovation and opportunities to assist and support patrons and students remotely. As most libraries were closed to in-person visits, … Continue reading ALA Releases State of America’s Libraries Special Report: COVID-19