Roles of public library technology in supporting education, learning highlighted in new issues brief

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

NEWS
For Immediate Release
March 24, 2009

CHICAGO – The vast majority of public libraries report that providing education resources and databases for K-12 students is the Internet-based service most critical to the role of the library. In the third of a series of reports related to technology access in U.S. public libraries, the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Research & Statistics (ORS) is highlighting how public library technology supports the educational and learning needs of every person in the community. The issues brief draws from national data published in the Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study ( www.ala.org/plinternetfunding).

“Supporting Learners in U.S. Public Libraries” outlines many of the resources public libraries offer learners of all ages, some of the challenges libraries face in meeting growing demand for computer and Internet resources and how increased funding would enable public libraries to offer increased assistance and resources to their communities.

“From our earliest history, U.S. public libraries have played a role in lifelong learning and ensuring equal access to a world of resources,” said ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels. “Just as there are millions of titles available in print, the range of Internet-based services available in our libraries is quite diverse – including homework help, research databases, practice tests and more. In a world where knowledge is power, public libraries help make everyone more powerful.”

Among the findings from the national study are:

  • 73 percent of libraries report they are the only source of free Internet access in their community;
  • 83 percent of public libraries offer online homework resources; and
  • 73 percent of public libraries offer information technology training to library patrons to help them use computers and effectively search the Internet.

Library staffs are encouraged to use these briefing papers as educational tools with community stakeholders, including elected officials, funders and program partners, as needed to raise awareness of the specific – and sometimes unique – concerns of libraries around technology deployment. Staff may also use this format as a template for providing local data and examples related to a given topic.

The briefing reports are not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to share key findings from the largest and longest-running study of Internet connectivity in libraries.  The Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and ALA, continues work begun in 1994 by John Carlo Bertot and Charles R. McClure. 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.

For more information on the study and to download a copy of the job-seeking report, please visit www.ala.org/plinternetfunding. The research team also invites feedback about future topics and additional tools that would be useful in raising awareness around library technology needs. Please write Larra Clark at lclark@ala.org.
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