This study presents national and state data gathered through three integrated approaches: a national survey that collected information about public library Internet connectivity, use, services, funding and sustainability issues; a questionnaire sent to the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA); and focus groups and site visits held in two states: Indiana and Wisconsin. The study finds that America’s 16,592 public library buildings provide communities of all sizes free access to computers and the Internet; formal classes and informal staff assistance using these technology assets; a wide range of Internet services including homework resources, digital reference and e-books; and wireless access to the Internet.
Key findings include:
- Libraries serve a unique and important role in providing free access to all types of information and telecommunications services. Just over 71 percent of libraries report that they are the only source of free access to computers and the Internet in their communities. Library staff report an increase in the use of library computers and Internet access for job-seeking and e-government purposes.
- In a time of widespread economic turmoil, 14.3 percent of public libraries report decreased operating budgets in FY2009. Only 38 percent of libraries report budget increases at or above the rate of inflation. More than half (53 percent) of the state library agencies that provide state funding to public libraries report declining state funding in FY2009, according to questionnaires to the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA).
- Public libraries are investing in and improving Internet access speeds, but they still find patron demands are growing faster than their ability to increase bandwidth. Nearly 60 percent of libraries report Internet connection speeds are insufficient to meet needs at some point in the day. Achieving sufficiency of public access to computers and the Internet is an elusive goal
Davis, D. M., Bertot, J. C., McClure, C. R., & Clark, L. (2010). Libraries connect communities 3: Public library funding & technology access study. Chicago, IL: American Library Association. http://www.ala.org/tools/sites/ala.org.tools/files/content/initiatives/plftas/previousstudies/0809/librariesconnectcommunities3.pdf