Public Libraries and the Internet 2006: Study Results and Findings
Although I haven’t yet had a chance to read this thoroughly, this study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was done by Charles McClure and John Bertot and just based on that, it should be read cover to cover. They have collaborated on other, similar studies in the past, giving this profession good ideas on where we’ve been and where we’re headed. Some basic statistics from the Executive Summary:
- 98.9% of public library branches have Internet access.
- 36.7% of public library branches offer wireless Internet access.
- 100% of high poverty branches offer public Internet access.
- 34.4% of connected public library branches have connection speeds between 769kbps and 1.5mbps.
- 28.9% of connected public library branches have connection speeds above 1.5 mbps.
They list challenges to keeping this level of public access computing. One is the fact that public library budgets have either remained static or decreased over the past years. With inflation, even a static budget equals a decrease in funding. And yet, the statistics above continue to grow over the years.
Another section of the report discusses the “Successfully Networked Public Library.” In this section, they include the definition of this type of library (e.g., many networked services within the library, viewing their website as a virtual branch of the library, network infrastructure, and advocacy strategies), as well as the challenges they face. It is helpful to think about where you are and compare it to a list such as this.
Read the study! 😉