by EBONY CLARK –
The Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives say the state’s public libraries recently set a record in expected funding from the federal Education Rate, or E-Rate, program. E-Rate provides eligible schools and libraries discounts on internet, phone bills and networking equipment.
Kentucky has a commitment of $2,083,104 for the July 2016 to the June 2017 year, which has increased significantly since the program began in 1996.
KDLA technology consultant Lauren Abner said libraries that applied will receive discounts based on school district poverty levels to fund services and programs.
“They could turn around and use some of that funding to purchase more computers. Or they might use it buying books for the collection or paying for summer reading activities. It’s just that those discounts allow those budgets to be stretched further to take care of other needs in their community,” Abner said.
Abner also said the number of Kentucky libraries participating this year is the highest it’s ever been at 103 out of 119. E-Rate is funded through the universal service charge on phone bills.
“Every school or library that applies correctly will get their funding. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the 20 percent bracket where they need some help and not a lot or the 90 percent discount where they’re in a rural area with a lot of students getting the free lunch program,” Abner said.
Crittenden County Library Director Regina Merrick said as a rural county, E-rate has allowed them to offer free Wi-Fi, eBooks and eMagazines to customers.