San Francisco’s Public Libraries to Get 10-Gigabit-Per-Second Boost

San Francisco Public Library

San Francisco Public Library Michael Grass / RouteFifty.com

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The move comes as California aims to upgrade Internet connectivity speeds at all the state’s public libraries.

SAN FRANCISCO — The host city for the American Library Association’s annual conference made a big announcement on Monday regarding its public libraries: The San Francisco Public Library will be getting an unprecedented upgrade in its Internet connectivity.

Working with the City and County of San Francisco and the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, San Francisco’s libraries will be getting 10-gigabit-per-second Internet speeds—the first for a U.S. public library—via city-owned fiber that will provide direct connections with CENIC’s California Research and Education Network.

“They are breaking new ground here, and it’s great to see,” John Beto, director of University of Maryland’s Information Policy and Access Center, said in the library’s announcement.

Here’s how it will work:

SFPL accesses city-owned fiber that is used to connect them to CalREN. SFPL has a direct 10 Gigabit connection to their main library. Seven branches now connect to the main branch at 1 Gigabit, with plans to connect all 27 branch libraries at this speed using city-owned fiber. From CalREN, San Francisco’s libraries are connected to California’s K-12 and higher education systems, to research and education networks throughout the world, and to the public Internet.

San Francisco is part of a California state pilot project to expand bandwidth at the state’s 1,112 public libraries. Nearly 400 public libraries in the state will be connected via CalREN this summer.In the announcement, California State Librarian Greg Lucas noted that 56 California library jurisdictions, including the San Francisco Public Library and the nearby Peninsula Library Systems, have the highest level of connectivity among U.S. public libraries.

“Public libraries change lives,” Lucas said in the announcement. “And the 21st Century connectivity that they are getting through connecting to CENIC’s broadband network is going to be transformative for all of California’s diverse communities.”

The need for higher-speed broadband connections at public libraries is more apparent than ever.

At the CNEIC annual conference in April, Tom Fortin, the deputy director of the San Mateo County Library, discussed how three-quarters of the state’s public libraries have Internet speeds at or below 20 megabits-per-second. And that can be a major technical bottleneck when teaching technology classes or even using ebooks.

According to CENIC:

And it isn’t just applications like reading e-books and surfing the web that are impacted. San Mateo County Library is very active in helping people get signed up for Covered California, research issues relating to citizenship, start small businesses, perform career development, aid children in building early literacy skills. Internet-empowered libraries play a vital role in addressing these issues in a way that they were not doing in the past, making high-performance connectivity for libraries an even more crucial part of ensuring that California maintains its competitive edge in a 21st century technology-driven world.

And that shows that these days more than ever, some of the biggest assets a public library has aren’t necessarily books, but the digital connectivity to the world of information beyond the library’s physical walls.

And in San Francisco, a 10-gigabit-per-second network will certainly allow patrons access to information faster than ever.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and wrote this dispatch from the San Francisco Public Library.

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