Library Journal recently named Amber Gregory, manager of E-Rate services at the Arkansas State Library, to its list of Movers & Shakers. The 2021 list spotlights 46 people who are moving the library field forward as a profession.
The federal E-Rate program provides vital discounts that make it possible for many public libraries and schools to afford broadband services and equipment. But the application process can be challenging. Over the past 10 years, Gregory has helped Arkansas public libraries secure millions of dollars in discounts.
“Amber has an all-in focus on reducing, even eliminating, the barriers that exist, particularly in small towns and rural areas, to information access because of inadequate connectivity,” State Librarian Jennifer Chilcoat wrote in Gregory’s nomination. “But her passion might be fruitless if she didn’t have the ability to be a calming and encouraging voice in tackling a process that is so daunting, especially to the non-techie library staff in some of our smallest communities.”
Gregory’s expertise and skills have led to major, national roles within the library field. She chairs the American Library Association’s E-Rate Task Force and serves as the library representative on the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) board, the Washington, D.C. organization that administers E-Rate.
“One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is the opportunity to work closely with Arkansas public libraries to see the real-life, boots-on-the-ground impact of E-Rate on individual applicants and their communities,” Gregory says. “The challenges of the application process are real, and being able to communicate ‘what does this look like to local libraries?’ to leaders at the national level is important to make sure those library voices are heard. The communication goes the other way as well. It provides a chance to share with Arkansas public libraries opportunities that may come from federal funding programs.”