April 2021 marked the one year anniversary of the announcement of the Digital Initiatives Project funding. That has prompted the Co-op to produce an interim report on the progress made to date on the Connectivity file (https://digiprojects.libraries.coop/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/DIP-Connectivity-File-Status-report-March-31st-2021-PUBLIC.pdf). In brief, while much still needs to be done, both funds and the Connectivity Consultant have made a considerable impact, supporting 20 libraries so far with improved internet connections, better internal networking and informed analysis of their systems and ways to improve their situation. This represents around 57% of the library systems that were identified in the 2018 report as having sub-optimal connectivity. In addition, the Connectivity Consultant has produced a number of reports and made significant inroads with large telecommunications providers to recognize libraries as a distinct sector with specific needs.
Based on this report, and after consultation with the Ministry, the Co-op is now announcing some adjustments as to how the remaining funds/consultant time will be used.
Changes to Connectivity Top Up Fund
This fund remains open until exhausted, however the overall budget for this fund has been reduced with funds being redirected to other efforts. In addition. the Co-op will now accept proposals for any amount (provided the conditions of matching funds are still met) AND has expanded the criteria for funded projects to also include subscriptions to networking services (such as software firewalls or other “network in a box” services), in addition to the basic increase in ISP fees it was originally intended to address. Libraries are invited to apply at https://digiprojects.libraries.coop/connectivity/connectivity-top-up-fund/
Changes to Strategic Network Hardware Fund
This fund has been expanded, both in the total amount available but also in the amount available to individual projects. The Co-op has removed the original $1500 cap and now invites proposals of any size that will improve a library’s networking technology. In addition to hardware such as routers, switches and access points, this can now also include IT services needed to implement such improvements, including for instance cabling services and IT assessments. Because of the changes, this next intake will have a single award date of June 30 and a new deadline of June 25th. Libraries are invited to apply at https://digiprojects.libraries.coop/connectivity/network-hardware-fund/
Additional Projects for Connectivity Consultant
Finally, while intake remains open for consulting direct to libraries, and will remain so until late fall 2021, the consultant has also been tasked with two additional projects.
Lendable Connectivity Working Group
The first is leading a working group of libraries looking at “lendable connectivity,” and coming out of the 2020 report as well as feedback from many libraries. The working group has now met twice and has identified the key areas for the consultant to focus on, which currently include negotiating better pricing on mobile data plans as well as more complete service offerings (i.e. hardware and device management included.)
IT and Networking Support for Small and Rural Libraries
Both the 2018 connectivity study as well as the current round of consulting engagements have surfaced the other main issue the consultant will focus on in the next 7 months – the difficulty of small and rural libraries securing IT and networking support. While the absence of major telecommunications infrastructure remains a serious barrier in some regions of BC, the lack of local and capable IT and networking support is clearly also a MAJOR impediment to improving library connectivity throughout large parts of BC. The consultant will be working with libraries and federations to identify possible ways to remedy this and will present a report to the Co-op and Ministry at the end of this investigation. If you would like to participate in this project we invite you to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.