Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Libraries are Networks

Over the past two days I have been participating in the annual WiscNet Future Technologies Conference (FTC) held here in Madison.  FTC is a great event because it rings true to the WiscNet mission of connecting people. This year was equally compelling in that regard.

WiscNet, Connecting People and StrategiesThe keynote speakers each day were outstanding, challenging conference participants to create new networks -- and not only of the technology type.  In particular, they stressed the importance of continuing to cultivate the relationships in our communities and regions that eventually lead to the technology networks.  A couple of highlights of particular note:  Susan Crawford, author of “The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance,” provided many stories about people who nurtured their passion for broadband access as a community resource and built incredible networks. Crawford's message was clear that individuals connecting around shared values and the motivation to solve problems were the common denominators in every case.

The other keynote speaker was John Chambers, Chief of the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  Speaking from the heart, Chambers relayed that as a serial entrepreneur for the majority of his career, he joined the FCC because he, too, was passionate about broadband being a fundamental service every American deserves, and a problem that any good entrepreneur should be able to solve. Quoting Ecclesiastes, Chambers stated that now is the season to build broadband networks. The audience heartily agreed.

In both cases, the speakers emphasized the need for relationships to solve these community problems. They were clear that all interested parties are welcome at the table in solving the problems -- everyone.  This certainly matches the WiscNet mission.  This attitude is exactly what the Aspen Institute Report, “Rising to the Challenge: Re-envisioning Public Libraries,” calls for as well. Libraries are the glue to these people networks in every community.  Please continue to step up, tell your story, and make some new friends.  Amazing things will happen as a result.

Written by:
Kurt Kiefer, Division for Libraries and Technology, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction