Since 1994, the Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study has been providing information about public access to computers, the Internet and Internet-related services in U.S. public libraries, as well as the impact of library funding changes on connectivity, technology deployment and sustainability. The project is made possible by a generous donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Library Association.
Some positive news from this year’s report include:
- almost 99.3% of the public libraries now provide public access to computers and the Internet
- almost 86% provide Wi-Fi access and
- some 67.2% offer access to e-books.
Unfortunately, while libraries continue to transform themselves to meet the changing demands for the 21st century learners, they also continue to bear the brunt of budget cuts and inadequate funding and support:
- Nearly 60% of the public libraries reported flat or decreased operating budgets in FY2011 (and some 65% anticipating similar trend in FY2012)
- 16% (up from last year’s 14.5%) reported reducing opening hours. In particular, these 3 states reported a much higher than national average figure – Ohio (50%), California (45%) and Georgia (32%)
- Over 76% reported an insufficient number of public computers to meet demands and
- Nearly 45% reported insufficient Internet connection speeds.