Seventy percent of Idaho’s 143 public libraries are the only source of free interstate access in their communities, Idaho Commission for Libraries Director Ann Joslin told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning. “In Idaho, residential broadband continues to lag the national average,” she said. “Our public libraries play a very significant role in filling that gap.”
Currently, no state funds go into providing internet service at libraries; Joslin proposed that the state kick in $200,000 next year to pay the local match portion of federal “e-rate” funds for library broadband service. Those federal funds, from a telephone service fee, cover three-quarters of the cost of the service for the libraries, while local property taxpayers pick up the balance; a third of Idaho’s libraries now don’t apply for e-rate funding. Gov. Butch Otter, however, didn’t recommend any state funding for the request next year. Joslin said the hope was that state funds could help more libraries apply for the funds, while also helping those already getting them make their match.
The Commission for Libraries requested a 6.4 percent increase in state funding for next year; Otter recommended 5.4 percent. That’s largely due to increased benefit costs, $26,000 in replacement items, and the governor’s recommendation to grant a $110,000 request for software licensing for programs libraries provide for workforce and career development, digital literacy, K-16 education, informal education and training and college and career readiness.
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Hat Tip: Matt R. Weaver