A snapshot of tribal libraries: 40-89 percent do not have broadband access!

The first 6 months of the year I spent time every month on the Fond du Lac reservation – specifically at the tribal center in Cloquet. There’s a library in the tribal center – with computers and good broadband. And once I month I was in the building providing some kind of Internet/computer training. Turns out FdL is top of the class when compared to other tribal libraries.

I was shocked by some of the stats on tribal libraries in a recent report: Digital Inclusion in Native Communities: The Role of the Tribal Libraries:

  • One hundred percent of public libraries offer patrons access to the Internet, but only 89 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to do so.
  • One hundred percent of public libraries offer patrons access to public computer workstations, but only 86 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to do so.
  • Sixty-eight percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to provide free public WiFi, as compared to 86 percent of rural public libraries; however, only 17 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to provide WiFi access when the library was closed.
  • Only 36 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to offer e-book access, as compared to 76 percent of public libraries, and only 11 percent of respondent tribal libraries were able to support remote access to e-books.
  • Only 46 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample offered access to licensed electronic databases (such as journal indices, science learning tools, and genealogical data) as compared to 98 of rural public libraries
  • At least 40 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample did not have a broadband Internet connection. The actual figure may be as high as 89 percent.
  • Only 42 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample were able to provide patrons with technology training, as compared to 87 percent of rural public libraries and 90 percent of all public libraries.
  • Only 34 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample had a website.
  • Only 45 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample had a Facebook presence as compared to 65 percent of rural public libraries; nonetheless, it was far and away the most frequently reported means of social media communication.
  • Federal and tribal government funding are the two most common sources of revenue for tribal libraries; respectively, 89 percent and 54 percent of survey respondents reported these sources of funds.
  • Sixteen percent of tribal libraries in the study sample reported that IMLS was their only source of support.
  • Only 15 percent of tribal libraries in the study sample received E-Rate discounts; statistics suggest that the limited uptake of E-rate support can be attributed, in part, to complicated eligibility requirements and a general lack of awareness.

There are so many aspects of the report that are of interest to me – both in the libraries’ role in teaching patrons to access technology and the libraries’ role in preserving culture – but I’ll stick to broadband:

Just last week I read a report that the me an broadband speed (download) in the US was 57 Mbps. This report doesn’t give a direct correlation – but I can see that only 24 percent of the tribal libraries report access of 40 Mbps or faster. Also I find it shocking that 2 percent of tribal libraries have dialup access.

bob - tribal library speeds

The good news is that there’s easy opportunity for improvement through better funding. Few of the libraries had heard of E-rate…

bob - erate

And few libraries have a technology plan. So perhaps a first step is creating a technology team to create a technology plan that includes research on funding, such as E-rate.

bob - library tech plan

This entry was posted in education, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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