With the release of the 2011-2012 Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, libraries have access to current national and state data and supporting anecdotal evidence that can help library staff and trustees advocate for support for technology infrastructure and resources.
The new report highlights how strategic vision and careful management have helped U.S. public libraries weather the storm of the Great Recession, supporting their role as a lifeline to the technology resources and training essential to social inclusion and full participation in the nation’s economy. However, the report underscores the competing concerns that face America’s libraries: cumulative budget cuts which threaten access to libraries and services, increasing demand for technology training and the chronic presence of the digital divide.
Key findings include:
- 62% of public libraries report that they are the only source of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities, with an increase to 70% in rural communities.
- For FY2012, 57 percent of libraries report flat or decreased operating budgets, while at the same time, 60 percent of libraries report increased use of public Internet computers.
- 76% of libraries offer access to e-books, an increase of 9% from last year.
- 39% percent of libraries provide e-readers for check-out by patrons.
- 91% of public libraries provide free Wi-Fi, and 74% of libraries report use of Wi-Fi increased in 2011
- For the third year in a row, 40% of state libraries report decreased state funding for public libraries.
- 65% of libraries report having an insufficient number of public computers to meet demand, this increases to 87% in urban libraries.
We hope you’ll take the time to look through the full report, which includes state-by-state analysis on public library technology resources, and an illuminating qualitative component from interviews with library directors and staff in Georgia and Idaho.
Over the new few weeks we’ll highlight different sections of the report, as well as introduce you to the resources we’ve developed to help you use the PLFTAS data to advocate for your own library.
Thank you to the staff at the 7,252 public libraries that completed this year’s survey. The time you took to provide the data in this report offers valuable information for national, state, and local policymakers, library advocates, researchers, practitioners, government and private funding organizations, and others to understand the impact, issues, and needs of libraries providing public access computing.