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Simmons University Magazine

Demand and Supply

Library users crave more digital access, and Colin Rhinesmith wants to help libraries deliver.

If you access the internet at your public library, you stand to benefit from research that School of Library and Information Science Assistant Professor Colin Rhinesmith and his partners are doing.

“Our project is about making sure public libraries have the data they need to serve their communities, and making sure library users can connect [to the internet] in a way that really addresses their needs,” says Rhinesmith.

The heart of the project is to figure out how “advanced broadband measurement capabilities” can support the infrastructure and services libraries need nationwide. Rhinesmith, New America’s Open Technology Institute and Internet2® have secured a two-year research grant ($568,672) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to do that. Rhinesmith serves as principal investigator.

He says a library’s digital capacity, especially during peak business hours, has far-reaching implications for individuals and entire communities. “Public libraries are often the only place in a community that can serve people who can’t afford internet access at home,” says Rhinesmith. At the same time, freelancers, telecommuters and others increasingly use libraries as their office, especially if their personal broadband access is too limited or expensive.

The IMLS-supported project aligns with research Rhinesmith has been doing for several years focused on digital
equity. He says achieving equity requires addressing the “digital divide”—the gap between people who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not. “We’re addressing that issue in our research by making sure libraries have the broadband they need to address the digital divides in their communities.”

Learn more about the research Rhinesmith and his partners are doing at imls.gov/grants/awarded/lg-71-18-0110-18.