Dean's Innovation Grant
The University of North Texas Libraries’ Dean’s Innovation Grant, formerly known as the Green Light To Greatness Award, provides funding to research and projects within the UNT Libraries that promote scholarship and contribute to the gathering of knowledge that helps improve our libraries, our university, and the community.
The coronavirus pandemic in the United States brought to light many disparities among its population, particularly among those that lacked consistent access to the Internet. This was significant because many efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) incorporated social distancing through the implementation of new and/or improved online services. Healthcare providers, educators, businesses, and libraries were forced to pivot from offering face-to-face services to conducting much of their work in online environments. Those individuals with either inconsistent Internet access, or none at all, encountered serious difficulties in managing their health, education, and/or ability to telework.
This project will develop and implement a pilot that would address Internet connectivity and technology needs in a rural area within the North Texas region. According to a 2018 Federal Communications Commission report, 31% of rural households still lack access to broadband Internet in the United States. This lack of access made rural communities more vulnerable to poor health outcomes, deficient education, and few telework opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are now several federal, state, and research initiatives that are attempting address this “digital divide” here in the U.S. This project will contribute to those efforts at a local level and offer a model that can be replicated in other areas with similar conditions.
Session Overview (ALA LibLearnX 2022)
In line with ALA President Patty Wong’s initiative related to digital equity, this session will explore the issues related to the digital divide identified through a grant-funded research project. Attendees will first be briefed on the current state of affairs regarding Internet connectivity and broadband access in the U.S. and the role libraries have played to help bridge this gap. Attendees will then break up into groups where expert facilitators will help them tackle specific issues related to the problem. Through this activity, attendees will have an opportunity to contribute to the broader conversation, present creative solutions, and take back ideas to their own communities.