We are already seeing libraries around the country being forced to close or cut back services. The strong reaction this has elicited from many patrons (I’m going to be optimistic and avoid the term “former patrons”), particularly in Philadelphia.
Public libraries are crucial to their communities, especially when it comes to technology. According to January’s issue of Library Technology Reports:
- 98.9 percent of public library branches offer public Internet.
- In 2007–2008, 100 percent of rural high-poverty outlets provide public Internet access, a significant increase from 85.7 percent the previous year.
- 65.2 percent of public library branches offer wireless Internet access, up from 54.2 percent in 2006–2007.
- 72.5 percent of library branches report that they are the only provider of free public computer and Internet access in their communities. This is more common in rural communities, where 82.5 percent of libraries report that this is the case.
I think that last point is worth repeating. Almost three quarters of public library branches are the only source of free computer and Internet access in their communities. Lest anyone think these findings are distorted to support some sort of agenda, even the mainstream media has reported similar trends. Of course, this is all in addition to the fact that the demand for library services is currently going through the roof, as reported here by CBS, here by NBC and here by the Boston Globe.
We are dealing with one of the worst economic crises in history, and the first to occur during the Internet age. Unemployment is at a 16 year high, and these days, the Internet is an essential tool for job-hunting. Broadband access in one’s home can cost fifty dollars a month. So at a time like this, how could anyone argue that the only free source of Internet access in their community is expendable?
As a profession, we’ve never been shy about organizing. The admirable effort put forth by ordinary citizens in