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School-Library Partnerships Could Improve Library Internet Access

As more schools are providing tablets or laptops to students and utilizing online educational tools, students without internet access at home may face difficulties in completing their homework. An innovative proposed project will test the feasibility of forming school-library partnerships to improve library internet access so that students can more easily complete their homework.

Public libraries are often the only source of public internet access in small, rural communities. However, many small and rural libraries do not have adequate internet speeds to service both the student population and patrons in the community. A survey of Nebraska libraries by the Nebraska Library Commission found that over 80% of the state’s rural and small libraries have internet access which does not meet the FCC’s 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up definition of broadband for households.

Public schools in Nebraska, however, are well connected through a statewide fiber network, Network Nebraska, which provides substantial internet speeds to public school buildings. A school’s scalable broadband could be shared with the local library, improving library internet access for their students and teachers.

The Nebraska Library Commission, in collaboration with the State Office of the Chief Information Officer, has submitted a Sparks grant application to the Institute of Museum and Library Services to partner with, and incentivize five rural public school districts and five rural public libraries to work together to increase the internet speeds at the public library. Participating schools and libraries interested in establishing a terrestrial connection between the school and library could file a mini-consortium E-rate filing in 2019-2020, leveraging available federal support through a novel model for E-rate filing.

The expected timeframe for this project will be from May 1, 2018-April 30, 2019, with pre-applications submitted and evaluated between January and March, 2018. Rural libraries, their patrons, students and teachers without home broadband access, and schools in five Nebraska communities will directly benefit from the project. Upon successful completion of the demonstration period, the project could be replicated, benefitting additional libraries, patrons, students, teachers, and schools. Additionally, the broader E-rate community will benefit from the innovative model for E-rate filing being demonstrated through this project.

For more information, contact Holly Woldt, Nebraska Library Commission,, 402 471-4871 or Tom Rolfes, Nebraska Information Technology Commission/Office of the Chief Information Officer,, 402 471-7969.

From the March 2018 issue (PDF) of Nebraska Broadband