Work is underway to bring high-speed broadband to all of California’s public libraries by connecting them to the California Research & Education Network (CalREN), a high-capacity 3,800-mile fiber-optic-based network designed to meet the unique requirements of over 20 million users, including the vast majority of K-20 students together with educators, researchers, and others working in California’s vital public-serving institutions. This network is operated by the Corporation for education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC), a non-profit California corporation that connects California to the world—advancing education and research statewide by providing the world-class network essential for innovation, collaboration, and economic growth.
Because libraries are central to their communities, connecting them to CalREN will effectively provide all of California’s 38 million residents with high-performance access to the myriad of resources that constitute 21st-century digital citizenship, and will provide California itself with all of the economic benefits of a fully digitally empowered population.
Three organizations have joined together to undertake this work: the California State Library, the Califa Group, and CENIC.
The California Legislature is providing funds for the California State Library to join CENIC as the eighth Charter Associate on behalf of California’s public libraries. Califa has been contracted by the California State Library to administer the program and coordinate with participating libraries for the services that will deliver high-speed broadband to them and enable libraries to use the CalREN network. CENIC will connect libraries to CalREN, affirming libraries’ essential role in the world’s largest education system. Public libraries will join CENIC’s other charter associates, which include the California K-12 public school system, California Community Colleges, the California State University system, the University of California system, Stanford, Caltech, and USC.
Download a Project Overview in PDF format here
I. Background and Key Facts
The State of California has a long tradition of supporting public libraries to ensure that all Californians have access to the information resources they need to be successful through their local library, no matter where they live. Starting with the passage of the California Public Library Services Act (PLSA) in 1975 and subsequently, the California Library Services Acts (CLSA) in 1977, public libraries and cooperative public library systems have provided the mechanisms for sharing resources, helped coordinate information services, and facilitated communication and delivery among libraries.
During the 1990s, most public libraries were in the midst of adapting and improving their services via the Internet. Since then, libraries have wanted to expand Internet-based services to serve their patrons better.
In 2013, the California State Legislature and Governor charged the California State Library with “preparing a needs assessment and spending plan to connect local public libraries to a statewide high-speed Internet network,” including evaluating CENIC’s California Research & Education Network as an option.
According to the resulting report, “High-Speed Broadband in California Public Libraries: an Initiative of the California State Library,” prepared by the California State Library, the state of connectivity for California’s public libraries is dire.
- Three-quarters of California’s public libraries have low-speed connectivity of 20 Mbps or less – slower connectivity than what is found in most homes, and this connectivity must serve thousands of patrons as well as the library itself in its own operational activities.
- Two-thirds of California’s public libraries are using their connectivity at or over capacity – effectively rendering the connection useless for serving the public or the library’s operational activities. The proliferation of mobile devices, especially in underserved areas, promises to make this already impossible situation even worse.
- California’s public libraries are paying an exorbitant $14 million for this woefully inadequate connectivity, according to a conservative estimate of costs.
- A little more than half of all jurisdictions (54%) take advantage of either E-rate or CTF discounts. These programs could help libraries shoulder their telecommunications costs; however, due to the administrative overhead required to apply, only one-third take advantage of both.
Despite the recognized benefits of, and increasing patron demand for, innovative library programs, limited connectivity prevents California librarians from offering a broader set of programs and services that would be of value to their patrons. Video-conferencing, streaming media, content creation, specialized software, longer sessions on terminals, and unlimited wireless access are badly needed by many of California’s libraries, but insufficient bandwidth thwarts these libraries’ efforts to fulfill their vital roles in community research and education. In order to empower libraries — particularly in challenged areas — to play these roles, better connectivity is critical.
The California State Library report concluded, after evaluating all feasible options, that the entity best suited to partner with the libraries in a consortium was CENIC. This partnership would allow California libraries to take advantage of high-speed broadband services not currently available to them.
II. Bringing High-Speed Broadband to California Libraries
Thanks to the leadership of the California State Library and the generosity of the Governor and the California State Legislature, public libraries across the state now have the opportunity to connect to CalREN. In 2014, the California state budget provided the requisite funding to support broadband for public libraries through participation in CENIC.
Three organizations have joined together to undertake this work:
- The California State Library (library.ca.gov) serves as the central reference and research library for the state government; preserves and disseminates information and provides technical assistance and development opportunities to California’s public libraries. The California State Library is funded by the California State Legislature to set a direction for this project and provide oversight.
- The Califa Group (www.califa.org) is a non-profit library consortium of over two hundred libraries in California. They pioneer technology projects, negotiate discount rates for technology purchases on behalf of member libraries, and manage state-wide projects on behalf of the California State Library. Califa, acting as the administrative arm of the California State Library, develops contracts with participating libraries for circuits and use of the CalREN network.
- CENIC (www.cenic.org), the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, designs, implements, and operates CalREN, the California Research and Education Network, a high-bandwidth, high-capacity Internet network specially designed to meet the unique requirements of its members which include all higher education institutions and K-12 schools in the State. CENIC is connecting libraries to CalREN as the eighth Charter Associate, bringing them high-speed broadband and including them in the network that connects research and education organizations across the state, and through its own connections to other advanced networks beyond California, to colleagues across the US and around the world. As it does for all of its members, CENIC provides network design, procures circuits, arranges for state and federal discounts, purchases and installs hardware, and maintains and monitors network connectivity to each library.
CENIC’s Charter Associates are part of the world’s largest education system and includes:
- The more than 10,000 California K-12 public schools, districts, and County Offices of Education,
- The 112 California Community Colleges,
- The 23-campus California State University system,
- The 10-campus University of California system, and
- Three independent universities: Stanford, Caltech, and USC.
CENIC also provides connectivity to other leading-edge institutions and industry research organizations around the world, serving the public as a catalyst for a vibrant California.
As the eighth Charter Associate, with the California State Library providing leadership, California’s libraries will be added to the fabric of education institutions already connected to CalREN. As a result, libraries will have the capability to collaborate more seamlessly with one another as well as draw on content, expertise, and opportunities from schools, colleges, and universities, extending these capabilities to individual libraries and library patrons statewide and thereby enhancing access to information, research, and credit/non-credit distance learning.
Because libraries are central to their communities, this will effectively provide all of California’s 38 million residents with high-performance broadband access to the myriad of resources that constitute 21st Century digital citizenship, and will provide California itself with all of the economic benefits of a fully digitally empowered population.
As CENIC is governed by its Charter Associates, California’s public libraries have obtained representation on the CENIC Board of Directors, enabling them to collaborate more deeply with their research and education colleagues in the K-20 communities as well as participating in network planning and technology-focused discussions and advocacy.
III. Steps to Connectivity
In order to connect public libraries to CalREN, CENIC, in partnership with Califa, mapped out the following steps to facilitate an orderly transition to CalREN. The process maximizes federal and state discounts available to public libraries to make the ongoing local costs affordable for libraries, as well as drawing down available federal funds.
The following list shows the steps necessary for a library to obtain connectivity to CalREN.
Enrollment Period Step
1: Project Overview Webinar (July):
A webinar is conducted to brief library staff on the project and their opportunity to connect to CalREN.
Step 2: Libraries Enroll in the Project (July - September):
Libraries joining the project submit Letters of Agency, authorizing CENIC to seek bids for telecommunications services and to leverage federal E-rate discounts and California Teleconnect Fund discounts on their behalf. Library contacts also participate in phone interviews that allow project staff to collect necessary information on their current technology infrastructure and future needs.
Step 3: Network Planning Meetings (August - September):
Library Directors, library technical leaders, and Califa and CENIC staff discuss the desired level of connectivity and network design options.
Step 4: Quotes Presented and Reviewed (November - January):
Through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process, CENIC obtains quotes for services from commercial providers on behalf of participating libraries, evaluates those quotes and prepares proposals for each library. These proposals are presented to libraries for review and include connectivity speeds, hardware needs - if any - and costs.
Step 5: Contracting (January - March):
Participating libraries choose from among the option(s) presented to them, and the process of preparing a contract for service begins. Libraries sign contracts for service with Califa.
Step 6: Consolidated Hardware Purchase (February - April):
Library jurisdictions can order hardware they need for their sites through Califa, leveraging Califa’s ability to obtain significant volume discounts on hardware. Hardware is shipped directly to libraries, and they are billed for this hardware by Califa. Califa also coordinates closely with Southern California Library Cooperative to ensure that applicable grant funds provided by the California State Library can be applied to these purchases. If a library is uncertain as to the equipment that should be ordered to upgrade their LAN, CENIC engineers can discuss alternative options and offer advice.
The steps below are conducted for each library site in the order listed between the following July through June. The entity shown in parenthesis is the responsible party for the actions identified. In the case of jurisdictions with multiple sites, each site may have a different time schedule. Some processes may even happen in parallel.
Step 7: CalREN Circuit Ordered:
CENIC prepares the specifications for the circuit and places an order with the service provider, and the provider acknowledges receipt of the order. (CENIC and Service Provider)
Step 8: Service Provider Site Survey and Preparation:
The service provider conducts a site survey and completes any preparatory work necessary to ensure they can deliver service to the site. (Service Provider)
Step 9: Library Site Readiness:
Library site ensures the room where the circuit will be delivered meets minimum requirements and all necessary local area network equipment is in place. (Library)
Step 10: CENIC-Provided Equipment:
CENIC orders the CENIC-managed network equipment for the library site and configures and ships the equipment to the delivery address provided by the library. (CENIC and Library)
Step 11: CalREN Circuit Handed-off:
Circuit work is completed and necessary hand-off information regarding the service is transmitted to CENIC. (Service Provider)
Step 12: CalREN Circuit Validated:
The circuit is tested for stability and network equipment is configured to accept traffic. (CENIC and Library)
Step 13: Connection to CalREN Live:
The library begins actively using the circuit. (Library)
Step 14: Network Operations Center Orientation:
The library jurisdiction will be contacted by the CENIC Network Operations Center (NOC) to schedule an orientation session. The NOC provides a single point of contact for all inquiries regarding network services and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week every day of the year. (Library and CENIC)
**Note: The California State Library is offering a grant program to help pay for the one-time connectivity costs including hardware (such as routers and/or switches), site improvements and technical consultants. More information on this program can be found at https://www.library.ca.gov/lds/broadband.html
IV. Anticipated Results
When libraries are digitally enabled, they can achieve great things. A digitally empowered public library can:
- Function as an anchor institution by providing wireless and kiosk/desktop access to the Internet, thus effectively providing all of their patrons with the most advanced 21st Century connectivity.
- Bring the world into the library for the enrichment and advancement of patrons, including employment and healthcare information, business opportunities, arts and cultural events, and more.
- Empower patrons to become active producers of content and not just consumers with rich media and makerspaces, local history digitization projects, and many others.
- Enjoy increased access to new and cost-effective operational capacities such as cloud computing and storage, Voice-over-IP (VoIP), and travel-saving videoconferencing.
- Enable libraries to function as a vital part of the larger research and education community by participating in the infrastructure planning and advocacy work CENIC facilitates with its members. Participate in the infrastructure planning and advocacy that CENIC represents to its members in addition to the advanced networking services that it provides, thus enabling libraries to become active members of the larger research and education community to which they have always belonged.
Twenty-nine library jurisdictions began the process of connecting to CalREN in 2013 as part of a pilot and are now connected. An additional forty-two library jurisdictions joined the project in Fall 2014 and are being connected to CalREN between July 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016.
Once connected to CalREN, their bandwidth will increase dramatically from an average of 76 Megabits per second (Mbps) to an average of 2,001Mbps per jurisdiction. Despite the increase in bandwidth, costs will decrease from an average of $9,194 annually per jurisdiction to an average of $3,442 annually per jurisdiction, a savings of 62.5%. In addition, California libraries will draw down $455,715 in new federal funding through the E-rate discount program, as 20 library jurisdictions in this group are accessing this discount program for the first time.
An additional fifty-two library jurisdictions joined the project in Fall 2015 and are being connected to CalREN between July 1, 2016 - June 30, 2017.