November 23, 2020

FCC Chairman Talks Libraries and Digital Literacy in Speech About Public-Private Broadband Adoption Initiative

The positive comments about libraries were made today by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski during a speech at the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington DC.

The speech was specifically about the Public-Private Broadband Adoption Initiative.

Genachowski’s Comments About Libraries:

In the coming weeks and months, we are going to work with schools and libraries and tap their experience and wisdom to develop the best ways those institutions can help to close America’s digital skills gap.

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For millions of Americans, libraries are the only place where they can get online. For millions more, libraries are an important complement to at-home connectivity, and they remain, as they always have been, a trusted resource in communities.

During the day, libraries have become job centers and librarians career counselors – and after school a place where many students go to do homework online. Last year, more than 30 million Americans used library connections to seek and apply for jobs, and 12 million children used them to do homework. Millions of others are using library connections for health information. Many – but not enough – of America’s 16,000 public libraries have become vital centers for digital literacy.

Librarians are helping meet some of the vast need — and I applaud them. But according to a recent Gates Foundation-funded survey, only 38% of all libraries offer a basic digital literacy class. In rural areas, in places like West Virginia, it’s only 25% of libraries. That’s a big missed opportunity. We should aim to double those numbers.

The E-Rate program – one of our most successful programs – connects schools and libraries to the Internet. Senator Jay Rockefeller, the great champion of E-Rate who, along with Senator Olympia Snowe and others, created the program, once said, “Our classrooms and our libraries are often the only way that our children and citizens can tap into the wonders of computers and the links to a vast world of information and knowledge. We want schools to be a place where children delve into computers. We want libraries to be vibrant centers of learning for families.”

In that spirit, we plan to launch a proceeding to explore how the E-Rate program can expand access to digital literacy training at more public libraries and schools across the country and, ultimately, forming a Digital Literacy Corps.

Working with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), including its Director Susan Hildreth, who’s here with us today, a Digital Literacy Corps could help Americans, young or old, English- or Spanish-speaking, get the skills they need to find and apply for a job, to access educational classes, find health care information, and utilize e-government resources, helping accelerate e-government and reduce spending on paper.

The Best Buy “Geek Squad” and Microsoft will also take part in providing digital literacy training.

Direct to Full Text of Genachowski’s Remarks (6 page; PDF)

Hat Tip: Thanks to the ALA Office for Research and Statistics for the Tweet / Hat Tip @ala_ors

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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