With the release today of the 2010-2011 Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study (PLFTAS), libraries have a powerful new weapon for advocacy at the local, state, and national level. Built on the longest-running and largest study of Internet connectivity in public libraries, begun in 1994, this study provides data that can help library directors and library IT staff benchmark and advocate for technology resources in communities across the nation.
Data from this year’s study present libraries grappling with a pervasive “new normal” of flat or decreased funding, paired with increased demand for public library technology resources. The result is a mix of the grim austerity, reflected in decreased operating hours and closed library outlets, in contrast with the robust delivery of technology resources that support workforce development, e-government services, and skills training for the competitive global marketplace. Key findings include:
- 70% of libraries report public use of Internet computers increased in 2010.
- 65% of libraries report that they are the only source of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities, with an increase to 73% in rural communities.
- 67% of libraries offer access to e-books, with 87% access reported by urban libraries.
- 16% of all libraries report decreased hours of operation – a jump from 4.5% just two years ago. This translates to lost hours at more than 2,600 locations.
- A majority (60%) of libraries report flat or decreased operating budgets in FY11, up from 40% in FY2009.
- Seventeen state library agencies (34%) report they were aware of public library closures in their states in 2010.
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 library IT directors in California and Oklahoma.
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.
We’d like to close for today with a special thank you to Dr. Charles R. McClure, who served as a consultant on this project. Dr. McClure began these surveys in 1994, and he and Dr. John Carlo Bertot have conducted the surveys together since that time. Also, thank you to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the funding of the PLFTAS for the past five years.
Lastly, thank you to the staff at the 8,433 public libraries that completed this year’s survey. The time you take 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.