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).
Managing Library Services for Equity
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.