A Message From Greg Lucas, California’s New State Librarian
I wanted to briefly introduce myself and say thanks for the welcome and encouragement I’ve received from California’s library community. I’m excited by the chance to help advance literacy and draw attention to the contributions of libraries and librarians throughout the state.
The State Library is an amazing, 164-year-old institution whose staff shares a commitment to California’s past and its future.
In the immediate future, my primary focus is approval of the governor’s $2.25 million budget proposal to link public libraries to the not-for-profit Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California. I’m not an acronym fan but the high-speed broadband system is routinely referred to as CENIC. Created by the University of California, CENIC’s other members include the state university system, California’s community colleges and public schools.
As someone said on a conference call the other day, hooking up to CENIC is a “game changer” for libraries. A State Library needs assessment on high-speed broadband finds that 70 percent of California’s public libraries have connectivity that is more limited than the typical American home– not exactly redefining lickety-split for the 21st Century.
If the response is sluggish for a handful of people, imagine what’s it like for dozens of simultaneous library users.
This status quo would be almost laughable in the state that’s home to the Silicon Valley and any number of telecommunications marvels, except it’s not funny.
In libraries all over the state, particularly in underserved communities and rural areas, those connections provide lifeline services like job applications, tax forms and medical information to countless Californians.
Over the last few days, I’ve heard various estimates that at least 40 percent and as many as 80 percent of public libraries would see improved Internet speed by hooking up to the network. By any yardstick, that’s way better than the current situation.
Hooking up to such a large broadband network also means CENIC takes care of a lot of the tedious, time-consuming activities that have led some short-staffed libraries to give up on navigating the labyrinth of existing Internet service discount programs. The governor also includes $1 million in his budget to help libraries upgrade their systems to better benefit from the high-speed connection.
The broadband proposal is being considered by legislative budget subcommittees during the week of April 21. Lawmakers send a budget to the governor on or before June 15.
An open book is an open mind.