EL CENTRO – Connie Barrington, county librarian, spoke before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning, requesting approval of a letter to California Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, Chairman of the Budget subcommittee, to support a program that would provide essential broadband services for all of California’s public libraries.
The budget item would provide $2.25 million in ongoing General Fund money for public libraries to allow them to join a major high-speed broadband network, operated by the corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC).
An additional $1 million in one-time funding would be provided for the purpose of providing grants to libraries that may need additional assistance with the purchase of circuits or other augmentations, in order to join the CENIC network.
According to Barrington, library usage is at an all-time high, the public access computers at Imperial County Free Library branches are usually full, and yet the broadband strength available at three of their branches is about, or even less, than might be found in a home.
Imperial Valley residents use the computers to submit job applications, research and apply for Affordable Care Act plans, access school sites for homework assignments, apply for various programs, read the online news publications, all online, Barrington told the board.
Since some home lack computers, the library acts at the “great equalizer”, according to Barrington. When the original money was granted for CENIC, K-12 schools, the University of California system, CSU< and the community college systems were included and have been using CENIC with great success. However, those in Sacrament forgot to include the public libraries, “and it’s time to remedy that omission,” said Barrington.
After a 5-0 vote in favor of the letter supporting the inclusion of public libraries in CENIC, legislative liaison Gary Wyatt presented Barrington with a resolution for her being declared a “Broadband Champion” by winning the California Emerging Technology Fund 2014 Broadband Champions. Fifteen individuals were recognized for their groundbreaking work and strong commitment to close the Digital Divide, including Connie Barrington.
Barrington addressed the room and said, “It is great when you can work on something that you love, and you think is important, and you feel helps the community, well, I have that. To be recognized for your work, is like frosting on the cake, and I love frosting! I appreciate your words, I think literacy has a major role to play in helping our county as we move forward, both using the standard definition, and to digital literacy, where we help people feel more comfortable to do more with their lives. “