Public Library Funding and Technology

Update: Feb. 7, 2008 memo

The full report, “Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2006-2007 Report” has been published. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Library Association (ALA), the Study is part of a sustained effort to provide current information that describes access to computers and the Internet in U.S. public libraries. It’s also available from the ALA Store

Three significant themes emerged from the study research:* Technology is bringing more—not less—public library use

Providing education resources and services for job seekers are the Internet services most critical to the role of public libraries. Seventy-three percent of libraries report they are the only source of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities.

* Library infrastructure (space, bandwidth and staffing) is being pushed to capacity

An increased number of visitors to libraries coupled with increasingly complex technology products and services challenge libraries with facilities that were built before the advent of networked services and budgets and staff sizes that have not grown even with the addition of new services.

* Libraries need more technology planning and dedicated technology support

Providing technology access does not represent a one-time investment of funds or stafftraining. More than a quarter of libraries do not have upgrade or replacement schedules fortheir computers, and state libraries identified an inability to plan and budget for IT upgrades, replacement and maintenance as a significant challenge for public libraries with vulnerable technology services.