Monday, September 8, 2008

“Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study”

Kathleen Hughes writes on the PLA Blog:

The ALA Office for Research & Statistics and the Information Institute at Florida State University today published “Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2007-2008.”...

Key findings include:

  • Libraries reported double-digit growth in online services: audiobooks and podcasts (up 33 percent), video (up 32 percent), homework resources (up 15 percent), e-books (up 13.5 percent) and digitized special collections (up almost 13 percent);
  • Funding data indicate libraries are relying more on non-tax funding sources;
  • 66 percent of public libraries offer free wireless access, up about 12 percent over last year;
  • Almost two-thirds of all public libraries provide 1.5Mbps or faster Internet access speeds, with a continuing disparity between urban (90 percent) and rural libraries (51.5 percent);
  • 74 percent of libraries report their staff helps patrons understand and use e-government services, including enrolling in Medicare and applying for unemployment;
  • 73.4 percent of libraries provide technology training to library patrons;
  • Staffing levels are not keeping pace with patron demand — both for those staff who provide training and other direct patron services, as well as those who maintain the IT infrastructure;
  • While the number of Internet computers available to the public climbed for the first time in several years, one in five libraries report there are consistently fewer computers than patrons who wish to use them throughout the day.

... The complete report is freely available online now at www.ala.org/plinternetfunding, and a copy of the bound report can be purchased at a minimal cost through the ALA Store. ... Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and ALA, the report provides national and state-level data from more than 5,400 rural, suburban and urban libraries; information provided by 45 state library agencies; and feedback from focus groups and site visits in four states.

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