Friday, September 14, 2007

ALA releases report on technology access

Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2006-2007 Report

This is a long post - and the report is fairly lengthy - but it is worth your time to read it. Here is a highlight:

Libraries as Community Access Computing and Internet Access Points

Public libraries continue to provide important public access computing and Internet access in their communities:
• 99.7 percent of public library branches are connected to the Internet;
• 99.1 percent of public library branches offer public Internet access;
• 54.2 percent of public library branches offer wireless Internet access, up from 36.7 percent in 2006;
• 100 percent of urban library branches are connected to the Internet; and
• Public library branches have an average of 10.7 public access workstations, with rural libraries having an average of 7.1 workstations and high poverty libraries having 25.4 workstations.
Together these findings demonstrate the extent to which public libraries serve their communities through Internet connectivity.

The Addition, Upgrade, and Replacement Challenge
The survey data indicate that the average number of public access workstations is 10.7, a figure that has not changed significantly since the 2002 Public Libraries and the Internet study (the average number in 2002 was 10.8; the average number in 2004 was 10.4; the average number in 2006 was 10.7). Moreover, libraries are by and large not adding workstations (58 percent of libraries have no plans to add workstations in the coming year, and another 29 percent are “considering” adding but don’t know how many). Nor are libraries upgrading existing workstations; rather, they are essentially pursuing a workstation replacement strategy (nearly 50 percent).

Combined with the survey data on wireless Internet access in which respondents indicated that 51.9 percent of libraries are providing wireless access to expand service rather than adding workstations , it is clear that public libraries are neither adding nor upgrading workstations. Instead, they are replacing what workstations they have to the extent possible and
expanding public access by allowing patrons to bring in their own technology.

Reasons that respondents cited for the inability to add workstations include space (76.1 percent), cost (72.6 percent), and infrastructure (e.g., cabling, electrical outlets; 31.2 percent).

Reasons cited for the inability to replace public access workstations include cost (84.1 percent), maintenance (maintenance (37.8 percent), and staff (28.1 percent) (see Figure 14). Thus the challenges faced by libraries in enhancing their public access workstation infrastructure include a range of cost, building, and personnel issues.

Quality of Public Access
A key issue woven through the survey’s findings is that, while public libraries provide a substantial amount of public access Internet and computing service, the overall physical infrastructure they are able to provide may be lacking in quality. Take the below data points as
• Bandwidth has essentially remained unchanged since the 2006 survey. For example, 62.1 percent of public libraries report connection speeds of greater than 769kbps, as compared to 63.3 percent in 2006.
• Overall, 16.6 percent of respondents reported that their connection is the maximum speed that they can acquire, 18.1 percent cannot afford to increase their bandwidth, and 19.3 percent indicated that they could increase their bandwidth but had no plans to do so.

Thus, over 50 percent of libraries indicate that they will not be increasing their bandwidth for a range of reasons – affordability, ability, or availability.
• At the same time, roughly 52 percent of respondents reported that their connectivity speed is insufficient some or all of the time . This is up about 6 percent from 2006.
• Nearly 80 percent of respondents report that they have insufficient workstations some (58.8 percent) or all (18.7 percent) of the time. These figures are fairly consistent with the 2006 survey findings, in which 13.7 percent of respondents reported insufficient workstations all of the time and 71.7 percent of respondents reported insufficient workstations some of the time.
• Just below 50 percent of public libraries report that their wireless connections share the same bandwidth as their public access workstations.

So how does your library compare??

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