State library working to get Louisiana connected

BATON ROUGE, La. – The State Library of Louisiana is working with the Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity to expand and enhance broadband capacity in our state. According to BroadbandNow, Louisiana ranks 40th in the nation for broadband access, or access to high-speed internet. Approximately 15% of Louisianans do not have access to broadband internet. Louisiana’s public libraries continue to play a critical role in the lives of our citizens by providing free internet access and digital literacy training.

“Access to broadband internet, especially for our rural communities, needs to be one of our priorities. In the world today, this access is very beneficial. Recent studies by the Brookings Institution, an educational think tank, show that broadband access just in rural areas can lead to higher property values, increased population growth, and lower unemployment rates. Additionally, it can increase health and life outcomes by providing access to remote healthcare providers and educational opportunities,” said Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser.

In 1998, the State Library of Louisiana provided dedicated, or non-dial up, internet access at all 325 public library facilities in the state at that time making it the first State Library Agency in the nation to fund and install internet connections for all public libraries statewide. Through this statewide network, Louisiana’s public libraries have provided free internet access and free digital literacy training for people over the last 25 years. As a result, the libraries are in a position to assist with this statewide broadband initiative.

“The State Library is the best organization to take on this role as they have been leading the way on digital literacy and ensuring wide-spread digital access to Louisianans for more than two decades,” said Lt. Governor Nungesser. “This partnership will provide additional access to people in those areas where access to broadband internet is almost non-existent.”

The five pilot sites selected are East Carroll Parish Library, Jefferson Parish Library, Livingston Parish Library, Rapides Parish Library, and West Feliciana Parish Library, each representing Louisiana libraries and communities of all sizes. The State Library is working with these pilot sites, along with the ConnectLA team and the Board of Regents, to provide support to the libraries, to enhance and provide digital literacy training, to identify barriers to success, and to establish best practices for future statewide implementation.

“Louisiana’s public libraries are anchor institutions with a long history of leading the effort to close the digital divide by providing free access to the internet and other resources. Research further shows that for people without internet access at home, public libraries are their number one point of access. As a result, it is natural that the State Library of Louisiana and Louisiana’s public libraries continue their work in the area of digital literacy by partnering with the Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity to close the digital divide in Louisiana,” said State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton.