Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation renews grant to ALA for public library technology study

Contact: Larra Clark
ORS Project Manager
312-280-2129
lclark@ala.org

NEWS
For Immediate Release
June 30, 2009

(CHICAGO) The American Library Association (ALA) today announced it has received a $2 million, three-year grant renewal from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to continue the Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study. ALA Office for Research & Statistics Director Denise Davis will remain as project director, and John Carlo Bertot, director of the University of Maryland (UMCP) Center for Library & Information Innovation, will continue to manage the Public Libraries and the Internet survey as part of the study.

The study assesses 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. Through integrated quantitative and qualitative research methods, the study gathers information from libraries of all sizes and in every state and from state library agencies.

“Over the past three years, findings from the Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study have been used to inform and educate the public, members of the media, policymakers, elected officials and funders to the community impacts and challenges of public access technology,” said ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels. “We are pleased to continue working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to gather the information we need to best plan for the future and to increase the availability of public access computing in libraries.”

Most recently, data from the study has been used by the ALA and state library agencies to prepare for broadband stimulus funding as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In addition to publishing an annual report of findings, the ALA Office for Research & Statistics has used data from the report to create a series of issues briefs illustrating how public library technology supports e-government access, job seekers and lifelong learning and education: http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/ors/plftas/Issues_Briefs.cfm.

“The Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study and its precursors have charted the growth and change that has occurred as public libraries have helped millions of Americans onto the information highway,” said ALA President Jim Rettig. “As a result of this research and the participation of thousands of U.S. public libraries, we have the current and longitudinal data we need to advocate for and adapt to the changing needs of our communities.”

 The study builds on the largest and longest-running study of Internet connectivity in public libraries begun in 1994 by Bertot and Charles R. McClure. The comprehensive 2008-2009 report will be published in September 2009.

For more information on the study and prior year findings, please visit the study Web page at www.ala.org/plinternetfunding. To read about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's U.S. Library initiative, visit http://www.gatesfoundation.org/UnitedStates/USLibraryProgram/.