Libraries in five states – Georgia, Maine, Nebraska, South Dakota and Washington – number among a total of nine projects awarded funding and support from the Gigabit Libraries Network (GLN) and San Jose State University’s School of Information (iSchool) to expand the Libraries WhiteSpace Project.

Launched with grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Libraries White Space Project funds are awarded to libraries that have initiated projects in partnership with other community service organizations to explore and develop innovative uses for TV White Space (TVWS) spectrum to provide remote fixed and portable library broadband access points at new locations. The first of these is slated to open this summer, GLN and iSchool explain.

Gigabit Libraries
A library TVWS “Beyond the Walls” project under way in Beatrice, Neb. dovetails with the state’s TVWS program. “The State Office of the CIO (Chief Information Officer) has already convened a multi-sector TV White Space exploratory meeting. I believe that the findings of the Beatrice Public Library project will inform and potentially accelerate the deployment of TV White Space across other sectors, including K-20 education, agricultural research, telehealth/public safety, and biological research,” Ed Toner, the state’s CIO, highlighted.

Akin to WiFi, TVWS makes use of available open spectrum free of charge without requiring third-party carriers. In addition, there are no recurring fees, licenses or other forms of permission to use TVWS spectrum for intra-facility networks, GLI and iSchool point out.

Unlike WiFI, TVWS offers long-range network connectivity and greater capacity to penetrate walls, trees and other obstructions, both of which make it a good choice to support broadband network services.

“Beyond the Walls” builds on work associated with a 2015 grant the Knight Foundation made to GLN in partnership with the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA). That funding provided the money needed to carry out preliminary analysis and orientation tools for libraries interested in exploring ways of using license-free TVWS equipment to expand access to public institutional services inexpensively.

“This may be the first time the economics of any infrastructure has favored rural areas because they typically have an abundance of valuable open public spectrum. The time has arrived for the country to finally take advantage of this powerful new communications resource, too long in the making,” GLN project co-director Don Means highlighted in a press release.

The five “Beyond the Walls” projects are to be funded with support from state, local and private-sector sources that encompass nearly every region in the U.S., GLI notes. In addition, Microsoft and the Library of Michigan have joined with GLI to provide additional support for three other projects in the state.

“Microsoft is pleased to partner with the Gigabit Libraries Network and the Library of Michigan to empower libraries and other community institutions exploring the many applications for TV White Space connectivity in the state. We applaud the Institute of Museum and Library Services for its leadership in providing the core grant to enable the national Beyond the Walls initiative,” commented Microsoft’s Director of Affordable Access Initiatives Paul Garnett.

“This initiative will further explore the role of libraries as leading community anchors promoting access and inclusion through strategic technology integration.  There’s a nice intersection between what we’re implementing and the concept of community anchors, which has been used by IMLS to describe the role of libraries in providing civic engagement, cultural opportunities, and economic vitality to communities,” said project co-director Kristen Rebmann of SJSU.