Rural Libraries in the United States

Recent Strides, Future Possibilities, and Meeting Community Needs. July 2017

Summary: Rural America faces significant challenges. It has the lowest home broadband Internet adoption rates, the lowest employment and economic growth rates, the fewest physicians per capita, and the lowest educational attainment rates. Rural libraries are part of the solution to addressing these concerns—often providing the only free public computer and Internet access and assisting patrons in gaining technology skills to pursue employment, entrepreneurship, and education opportunities online. In short, libraries are invaluable resources in some of our smallest and most far-flung communities.

Libraries Propel Entrepreneurship

The People’s Incubator: Libraries Propel Entrepreneurship. June 2016

Summary: Entrepreneurs and small businesses are widely understood to be engines of economic growth and innovation. Less well-known is how libraries advance entrepreneurship. Libraries meet the needs of aspiring entrepreneurs of all backgrounds, in every part of our nation. Regardless of past experience, an individual seeking to launch an enterprise can use library resources, technologies and staff expertise to engage in business planning, perform market research, seek capital investments, explore community connections, learn about intellectual property practicalities, prototype products and conduct day-to-day operations.

After Access: Libraries & Digital Empowerment

Building Digitally Inclusive Communities. December 2015

Summary: The role of libraries in building digitally inclusive communities has never been more important than it is today. The ability to access and successfully use digital information is central to nearly everything we do, and any gaps in digital access and skills have significantly greater impacts on the opportunities available to everyone in our communities than in years past. Library users and community stakeholders also have raised their expectations about digital engagement. We now expect to use digital platforms to create and collaborate anytime and anyplace.

3D Printing Policy Considerations

Progress in the Making: 3D Printing Policy Considerations through the Library Lens. January 2015

Summary: Libraries nationwide are expanding access to 3D printing. Library makerspaces that offer 3D printing services provide people with the ability to create essentially any object they can imagine. These libraries serve as labs of innovation and experimentation for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to bring new products to market—and for everyone to advance learning and creativity.

Restoring Contemplation

Restoring Contemplation: How Disconnecting Bolsters the Knowledge Economy. March 2012

Summary: While constant access to information enabled by digital devices has done much to improve our lives, it also exacts costs with respect to our attention and productivity that are especially harmful in a knowledge-based economy. Increased public awareness of the impact of our information consumption habits—and ways to develop a healthier information diet will help mitigate the negative impacts of constant connectivity.

E-Books and Libraries: An Economic Perspective

E-books and Libraries: An Economic Perspective – Report to the American Library Association. September 2012

Summary: Written by economists Drs. Stanley M. Besen and Sheila Nataraj Kirby, this report provides at least a partial answer to the question, "Does the publishing community understand why librarians would balk at increases on the order of 100% or 200%?" In the economic lexicon, the price is determined by the library's "willingness to pay." Just what it sounds like – the price that a library is willing to pay for an ebook is determined by the perceived value accorded by library users and any additional costs that the library user must incur (in time and energy) to access the title. A big bonus for ebooks is that the library user is not required to visit the library to obtain and return ebooks. Another is that the library user does not have to bother with returning a book or paying a late fee because ebooks are never overdue. Library users don't have to lug along heavy books. In this sense, the library would be willing to pay more for an ebook than the comparable print book.

Making Connections

Making Connections: Lessons from Five Shared Library Networks. 2010

Summary: This publication profiles five library networks that have successfully upgraded their broadband connectivity. Providing users with no-fee public access to the Internet is increasingly vital to connecting people with ideas and information – a core mission of libraries. The case studies of these five networks reveal lessons learned that may be instructive for other libraries seeking to establish successful networks. This publication was developed as part of the Opportunity Online Broadband Grant Program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help libraries increase and sustain free, quality public access to computers for their patrons.

Public Library Connectivity

Public Library Connectivity Study - Findings and Recommendations. July 2007

Summary: Over the last thirty-five years, as the Internet first emerged from the research community to become a major public medium for communication and information access, libraries have become crucial instruments for public participation in the global knowledge network. Nearly all public libraries in the United States now provide some form of public access to computing and Internet services. The issue for most libraries has moved from one of getting connected to an even more difficult one of maintaining and improving the quality of service. The problem has become not basic connectivity, but obtaining and sustaining access to the Internet services and resources the public needs as the demands of the medium and its users grow rapidly. The purpose of this study was to examine in some detail the issues of library connectivity and to recommend some practical, immediate strategies that, while not solving the universal problem, will help libraries address the challenges they face.

Regional Library Cooperatives

Regional Library Cooperatives & the Future of Broadband. January 2007

Summary: The American Library Association undertook a Public Library (Internet) Connectivity Project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Connectivity Study Team visited seven states and conducted telephone interviews with six additional states. The process included holding focus groups and interviews with staff from state library agencies and existing library telecommunication networks, state E-rate coordinators, state economic development officials, telecommunication industry representatives, state legislative representatives, and practitioners from the library community. The study identified Regional Library Cooperatives (RLCs) as one of the key players in enhancing high-speed broadband in libraries. Through collaboration, some small- and medium-sized libraries were able to pool their resources to better manage technology infrastructure, including improved administrative and technical expertise. This included assistance in applying for E-rate funding.

U.S. Public Libraries and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

U.S. Public Libraries and the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. May 2003

Summary: In 2013, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence E. Strickling stated that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) had awarded more than $50 million in Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding to develop or expand public computer centers in libraries. ALA released this report sharing library and community impacts from these investments, as well as other BTOP funding for sustainable broadband adoption and comprehensive community infrastructure. Shortly after, Strickling gave the keynote address at the School, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) conference, lauding libraries' accomplishments and announcing the release of the NTIA Broadband Adoption Toolkit. ALA's "U.S. Public Libraries and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program" is the first to highlight state and local library BTOP projects nationwide and the improvements they have made to public access technology resources, digital literacy, and workforce development. Library projects in 29 states and the District of Columbia are featured in the report.