Sun Corridor Network is Arizona’s research and education network, which provides high-speed (100 Gbps) connectivity and access to a number of partners. This service is available through Sun Corridor’s connection to Internet2. On November 8, 2017, three colleagues from the State Library of Arizona and I attended Sun Corridor Network’s Learning Day in Tucson to better understand how the network may be used to support public library services in the state.
The network is a collaborative effort between the three state universities (Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona), and is open to K-12 schools, libraries, museums, and research centers. We were particularly blown away by the examples of what subscribers to the network can do, such as participate in virtual field trips to Channel Islands National Park, conduct remote science experiments from the classroom, and facilitate real time musical performances and instruction between remote sites with exceptionally low latency.
As exciting as these examples are, we must remember that not all libraries are positioned to benefit from the seemingly unlimited possibilities for supporting 21st century learning opportunities in formal and informal education. Without network access, rural libraries fall further behind their Flagstaff, Phoenix, and Tucson contemporaries. For rural libraries to connect, fiber infrastructure development is the only option, but is often too costly to implement. This year’s round of E-rate application includes additional funding for fiber construction, and Arizona has matching funds available. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that all of the rural libraries in Arizona will be able to take advantage of this offer before the end of the application period. Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done at the local level to support digital equity for Arizona libraries.