Note: This blog post is a modified excerpt from the Final Report.
I’d like to spend my last blog post celebrating the Library Development team at the Arizona State Library. From the outset, the Library Development team immediately rose to the challenge of digital equity work. As a result of the Digital Inclusion Corps project, formal conversations about digital inclusion initiatives within the department have become commonplace, as well as hallway conversations and emails sharing compelling articles about digital access and digital divide data. In fact, digital inclusion has emerged as one of three focus areas for Library Development work this year, along with early literacy and continuing education. Because of the experience collectively figuring out what “doing” digital inclusion work looks like for libraries, networking with diverse stakeholders and experts, and gaining institutional support for this work, I am optimistic that the Arizona State Library will continue to establish itself as a leader in digital inclusion work for library services.
A clear example of Arizona State Library’s commitment to digital inclusion is the fact that a full-time position was created for doing this work just a few months into the Digital Inclusion Corps pilot. After the pilot ends, I will continue to sustain the State initiatives that we have started as well as continue to support momentum at the local level in my new position as Technology Outreach Specialist. This change in staffing is only one example of how my host institution has leaned in to doing digital inclusion work as a result of participating in this pilot project. Throughout the year, my colleagues, including the State Librarian, have taken the initiative to show up in new spheres, learn more about digital inclusion stakeholders, and to advocate for libraries in broadband strategic planning initiatives. The result has been that the State Library has had a presence at all four days of the Arizona Department of Administration’s Rural Broadband Focus Group Sessions, the Arizona Indian Education Stakeholders Summit, Sun Corridor Network’s Learning Day, and AZStRUT’s Refurbish-a-thon. Additionally, the State E-Rate Administrator and the Tribal and Technology Consultant helped me facilitate the broadband 101 trainings at tribal libraries in December and January. When I proposed a Digital Inclusion Working Group to increase inter-agency coordination of efforts in addressing digital inclusion barriers for under-connected Arizona libraries, I was met with enthusiasm and lots of ideas for action in spite of the fact that this would add to the already full plates of the staff.
While the entire team was instrumental in fostering a supportive atmosphere for this work, Mary Villegas, Tribal and Technology Consultant for Library Development, Jaime Ball, Library Development Administrator, and Carol Tapia, Administrative Assistant for Library Development, spent many hours helping me figure out how to make this work and connected me with the right resources. This project would have had limited impact without their support, enthusiasm, and unlimited patience for my naïveté regarding State government operations. I relied heavily on the existing relationships with tribal libraries that Mary has forged as a library consultant in finding people willing to engage with me in this work. She accompanied me on most of the site visits to libraries and offered invaluable insight into working with communities and learning how to operate in the “helper’s helper” role. Jaime’s expertise as Administrator and LSTA Coordinator was critical in establishing a logistically sound foundation for the development of new initiatives and for making the connections between digital inclusion goals and strategic planning at the State Library. Carol, affectionately known as “the glue” of the department, took care of the internal processes necessary in making sure all the details worked out. I am grateful to work alongside people who inspire me daily.