Managing Library Services for Equity

Public libraries provide crucial access to computers and the Internet

Technology has become increasingly important, and the issue of a level playing field is particularly important in this regard. Although home computers and Internet service have gotten considerably less expensive in recent years than they were a decade ago, the fact remains that they are still a luxury that a sizeable segment of the population cannot afford. In 2003 (the most recent year for which data is available) 38.2% of Wisconsin households were without computers, and 45.3% of Wisconsin households were without Internet access. What was once a luxury has increasingly become a necessity, as many businesses, organizations, and individuals rely on websites and online resources. Certain job opportunities, events and programs, and other resources are primarily if not exclusively advertised and made available online, and libraries open the door for everyone to enjoy these opportunities even if they would be otherwise unable to afford to do so (p. 54).

library services allows for personal and professional development

The fact that so many materials are not only available, but available to be borrowed without paying a fee is of paramount importance. Many focus group participants noted that libraries "level the playing field." While many people of higher socioeconomic status routinely purchase books, subscribe to periodicals, and conduct their research online without ever visiting a library, many lower income individuals and families do not have that option. 21% of Wisconsin workers earn poverty level wages. Universal access is one of the most important strengths of the library. The availability of resources, technology, and educational opportunities provide everyone with the availability to improve themselves and their life circumstances. Even those patrons in higher income brackets need to prioritize their spending, and the fact is that even those who could afford to purchase more books and materials appreciate having a large collection available for checkout (p. 53).

Mixed method research design employed by the U.S. IMPACT studies to develop and validate performance indicators related specifically to the outcomes of public access computing (PAC)

Through the use of a nationwide telephone survey, library case studies, and a nationwide Internet survey of public access computing patrons, this approach will generate generalizable quantitative data on the extent and distribution of the use of public access computing resources, as well as provide rich contextual data that will help in the understanding of how patrons use the computer and Internet connections in public libraries and the impact it has on their lives. Further, the mixed methods approach will allow for the examination of external factors that may influence patron outcomes, including the level library services and funding, community perceptions, and the availability of alternative modes of free access to computers and the Internet.
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