For immediate release | October 4, 2023

PLA seeks responses to 2023 Public Library Technology Survey

CHICAGO — The Public Library Association (PLA) has opened its annual survey and seeks responses to the 2023 Public Library Technology Survey. This unique national survey focuses on resources, infrastructure, training, staff, and funding related to technology. This data is vital to understand how libraries serve as hubs of knowledge and innovation in our communities and continue to evolve to meet patron needs. PLA invites all public libraries to participate in this survey, which is open through December 16, 2023.

The Public Library Technology Survey was first administered in 2020 and provided an essential snapshot of public library technology services and capacity. The findings illuminated the critical role that libraries of all sizes play in bridging digital divides in communities across the nation.

Key findings from the 2020 Technology Survey:

  • Internet Hotspots: Almost one-third (32.6%) of public libraries offered internet hotspots for checkout, addressing the digital connectivity needs of their patrons.
  • Bandwidth Challenges: Less than half of public libraries (43.7%) had increased their bandwidth in the two years leading up to the survey. Furthermore, a significant portion (34.6%) reported being unable to improve bandwidth because faster speeds were unavailable, highlighting the need for enhanced broadband infrastructure in some areas.
  • Digital Literacy: Over 88% of all public libraries offered some form of digital literacy programming, emphasizing a commitment to enhancing patrons' digital skills.
  • Staff: About a third (36.7%) of public libraries had dedicated staff members responsible for digital literacy and technology programs and training.
  • Streaming Public Programs: Nearly half of public libraries (48.7%) provided streaming public programs over the previous 12 months.

These findings, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, were used to advocate for relief and recovery funding for libraries at the federal level. Libraries have been at the forefront of extending technology resources and services to patrons, even when their physical buildings were temporarily closed.

The 2023 Technology Survey aims to build upon these insights and provide an updated picture of the state of technology in public libraries. “The participation of public libraries nationwide is vital in helping us understand how libraries have continued to adapt and innovate,” says PLA President Sonia Alcántara-Antoine. “The data will contribute to the ongoing efforts to enhance technology services and digital access for all. This is particularly important for advocacy efforts, as we know that more than $1.4 billion in federal funding will be distributed to states to support digital equity work starting next year.”

How to participate:

Participating in this survey is simple and open to all U.S. public libraries (administrative entities). Log in to your library’s free Benchmark account. Please contact plabenchmark@ala.org if you require assistance in accessing your library’s Benchmark account. Additional information about the survey can be found on the PLA website. Participants will also be entered into a drawing to win group registration for a PLA webinar! Register to attend a free information session on October 12 to learn more about the survey.

PLA will publish a freely available report on the 2023 findings within a year. Reports on previous annual survey results can be found on our website.

With your input, together we can leverage the power of data to strengthen the vital role of public libraries in bridging the digital divide and advancing technology services to meet the changing needs of patrons.

About the Public Library Association

The Public Library Association (PLA) is the largest association dedicated to supporting the unique and evolving needs of public library professionals. Founded in 1944, PLA serves nearly 9,000 members in public libraries large and small in communities across the United States and Canada, with a growing presence around the world. PLA strives to help its members shape the essential institution of public libraries by serving as an indispensable ally for public library leaders. For more information about PLA, contact the PLA office at 1 (800) 545-2433, ext. 5PLA, or pla@ala.org.

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Contact:

Katina Jones

Program Manager, Evaluation & Assessment

Public Library Association

kjones@ala.org