Photo by Sven Scheuermeier via Unsplash.

Librarians: Tap into TV White Space

Find out how your library can use TV “white space” to improve your community’s internet access — every day, and especially during emergencies.

The opportunity: A self-paced online course that will introduce you to TV white space technology and its applications in public libraries.

Cost: None. This course is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and is free to participants.

Who can participate: U.S.-based public librarians and staff who would like to learn more about the applications of TV white space in libraries. There are no prerequisites.

Course dates: Lectures run February 6 through May 1, 2017, but you can complete the course at your own pace.

More information: San José State University School of Information’s announcement of the program

Registration: “Libraries Leading with TV White Space” course site

Are you a public librarian looking for ways to improve internet access in your community? You need to know about TV white space, a low-cost technology that can greatly extend the reach of your WiFi network. If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone. Sign up for “Leading with TV White Space,” a free professional development course led by the San José State University School of Information, to learn about the technology and how your library can use it to give your community better access to digital services — both day to day and in emergency situations.

In five instructor-led modules, this online course will help you:

· Build awareness of TVWS. Discover this license-free portion of the broadcast television spectrum that was recently made available for public use by the Federal Communications Commission.

· Understand how TVWS networks operate. Explore how TVWS networks use mobile wireless hotspots to supercharge existing WiFi networks with stronger, more reliable signals.

· Understand how TVWS can work in disaster response scenarios. Learn how libraries can create a resilient information infrastructure that serves communities in times of crisis.

· Become familiar with examples of TVWS use in public libraries. Find out how public libraries from Colorado to Delaware are collaborating with local anchor institutions, such as schools and hospitals, to use TVWS in their communities.

· Develop a plan for implementing TVWS at your own library. Assess your own library and community to determine how you might apply TVWS technology locally.

The course will be presented over a 12-week period beginning February 6, 2017. While participants should expect to make a commitment of one hour per week, those who wish to work at their own pace may do so. Two participatory sessions, using online conferencing technology, will be held on February 13 and March 2, both at 9 a.m. Pacific time, noon Eastern time. Attendance at these sessions is optional, and recordings will be available for those who are unable to attend at the scheduled times.

Participants will receive expert instruction from representatives of the program’s partner organizations: Dr. Kristen Rebmann of the San José State University School of Information; Don Means of the Gigabit Libraries Network; Angela Siefer of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance; John Windhausen Jr. of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition; and Joe Hillis of the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center.

“Leading with TV White Space” represents the first phase of a larger effort to help libraries expand community internet access. The program aims to help libraries significantly extend the reach of their internet signal — beyond the library building, and beyond the library’s open hours — to community spaces such as schools, shelters, clinics, parks, museums and senior centers. With a range far greater than WiFi, boosted by mobile hotspots, TVWS can dramatically increase public access to online information and services.

The SJSU iSchool’s Rebmann, leader of the grant-funded program, believes TVWS can have an especially powerful impact on rural communities with less widespread and dependable internet connectivity. “I am really excited about the potential of TVWS technology to address challenges in access and inclusion,” says Rebmann.

During a disaster, reliable connectivity can become even more critical. “One example of a crisis where TVWS might make an impact is the context of wildfire where individuals in a community might need to evacuate to a safe location,” explains Rebmann. “The mobility of TVWS hotspots would allow for Internet access to move along with those populations in crisis, maintaining their access to information and communication until it is safe to return home.”

As they train librarians to apply TVWS, Rebmann and her team hope to create local models that can be replicated across the country.

For more information about the program, see Library Journal’s “White Space Project Could Grow Rural Broadband Access,” or read about the IMLS grant, “Libraries Leading in Digital Inclusion and Disaster: San José State University Response via TV White Space Wireless Connections.” Learn more about TVWS technology on the Gigabit Libraries Network website or watch “What are TV White Spaces? New Library Wi-Fi Hotspots for Community Access” on YouTube.