SLIS Awarded Research Grant to Measure Library Broadband Networks

April 23, 2018

Colin Rhinesmith

Assistant Professor Colin Rhinesmith is principal investigator for the project.

Simmons School of Library and Information Science (SLIS), along with New America's Open Technology Institute and Internet2, have received an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) FY2018 National Leadership Grants for Libraries award. Their 24-month research project, “Measuring Library Broadband Networks for the National Digital Platform (LG-71-18-0110-18),” will examine how advanced broadband measurement capabilities can support the infrastructure and services needed to respond to the digital demands of public library users across the country.

Assistant Professor Colin Rhinesmith is principal investigator for the project. “Public libraries across the U.S today need access to accurate, reliable data in order to respond to their communities’ growing demand for broadband-enabled applications and services,” Rhinesmith said. “Our project addresses this need by working with public librarians and library network administrators to develop the broadband measurement tools and training they need to best support their communities’ networked information needs."

The project will gather quantitative and qualitative data from public libraries across the country about broadband speeds, quality of service, infrastructure, network usage and capacity, and connectivity needs, among other factors. Findings from the research will be used to create the project’s three deliverables: an open-source and replicable broadband measurement platform, a broadband measurement platform training manual for public librarians, and a final report on the project.

“America’s public libraries remain a cornerstone of educational opportunity in communities all across our country in part by providing all citizens with unfettered access to high quality and high capacity broadband services,” said James Werle, executive director, Internet2 Community Anchor Program. “The Internet2 community is proud to partner with Simmons and New America's Open Technology Institute to measure broadband speeds at libraries and gather more accurate data on broadband performance to help inform libraries, policy makers, and researchers.”

“New America's Open Technology Institute is excited to partner with Simmons, Internet2, and IMLS to build an accessible and usable broadband measurement system to support the work of libraries nationwide," said Chris Ritzo, senior technologist at the Open Technology Institute. "Using participatory design with library staff, we'll build a system that will both enable libraries to automate the longitudinal measurement of their broadband quality and also complement the research on broadband undertaken in the library community to date."

“As centers of learning and catalysts of community change, libraries and museums connect people with programs, services, collections, information, and new ideas in the arts, sciences, and humanities. They serve as vital spaces where people can connect with each other,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “IMLS is proud to support their work through our grant making as they inform and inspire all in their communities.”