The Small but Powerful Guide to Winning Big Support for Your Rural Library

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Technology & Advocacy: Data You Can Use

Technology can be an important topic for library advocacy—both libraries’ need for technology and the public’s use of technology in libraries.

Two studies—the American Library Association’s Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study and the University of Washington’s U.S. IMPACT Public Library Study—provide valuable data that rural and small libraries can use to talk about technology in meaningful and persuasive ways.

The University of Washington’s U.S. IMPACT Public Library Study, sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Washington State University, released the report, “Opportunity for All:  How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Public Libraries,” in 2010.  Among the key findings:

From 2009-2010, 45% of the 169 million visitors to public libraries connected to the Internet using a library computer or wireless network.

44% of people in households living below the federal poverty line ($22,000 a year for a family of four) used public library computers and Internet access; 61% of young adults (14-24 years of age) in house-holds below the federal poverty line used public library computers and Internet for educational pur-poses; and 54% of seniors (65 and older) living in poverty used public library computers for health or wellness needs.

More than 32 million visitors reported using library computers for a variety of educational activities: doing their homework, searching for and applying to GED and graduate programs, completing online courses and tests and even applying for financial aid.

The American Library Association’s Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study report, “Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, 2009-2010,” compiles significant information on library technology use and funding, including data from rural libraries. Among the findings:

Virtually every U.S. public library provides public access to computers and the Internet, and two-thirds of libraries report that they are the only free public connection in their communities for these services.

75% of public libraries report an increased use of public access workstations and 71% report an increased use of library wireless internet access.

Rural libraries report an average of 9.2 public access workstations, but 55.9% of libraries report that there are fewer public Internet workstations than patrons who wish to use them.

For more information from “Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries,” please visit the U.S. Impact Study page at http://tascha.washington.edu/usimpact/.

For more information from “Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding & Technology Ac-cess Study, 2009-2010,” please visit http://www.ala.org/ala/research and click on “Public Library Funding and Technology Access.”

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