new issues brief examines public library internet connectivity- ala office for research & statistics launches new series of reports

Contact: Larra Clark
Project Manager, ORS

For Immediate Release,
April 29, 2008

New issues brief examines public library Internet connectivity

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CHICAGO – In the first of a series of reports related to technology access in U.S. public libraries, the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Research & Statistics (ORS) is drawing attention to challenges and opportunities related to available bandwidth for patron Internet access and online library services. The issues brief draws from national data published in the Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study (

“Internet Connectivity in U.S. Public Libraries” describes the range of Internet services public libraries broker on behalf of their users – including homework help, audio, video and digital reference; connectivity rates; wireless availability; and the diverse challenges faced by urban, suburban and rural libraries in being able to improve Internet connectivity to their communities through the library. The document also links to related research on bandwidth in the United States.

“The percent of libraries reporting they have sufficient bandwidth speeds to meet patron needs at all times has declined about 12 percent over the last three years, even as these speeds have climbed incrementally,” said ALA ORS director Denise Davis. “There are many reasons for this, but the bottom line is that more work must be done at all levels to improve bandwidth and ensure library users have access to the education, employment and information resources they need to fully participate in the Digital Age.”

Library staffs are encouraged to use these briefing papers as educational tools with community stakeholders, including elected officials, funders and program partners, as needed to raise awareness of the specific – and sometimes unique – concerns of libraries around technology deployment. Staff may also use this format as a template for providing local data and examples related to a given topic.

The briefing reports are not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to share key findings from the largest and longest-running study of Internet connectivity in libraries. The Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and ALA, continues work begun in 1994 by John Carlo Bertot and Charles R. McClure of the Information Institute at Florida State University, The study, conducted by the ALA and the Information Institute, assesses public access to computers, the Internet and Internet-related services in U.S. public libraries, as well as the impact of library funding changes on connectivity, technology deployment and sustainability.

For more information on the study and to download a copy of the Internet Connectivity report, please visit The research team also invites feedback about future topics and additional tools that would be useful in raising awareness around library technology needs. Please write Larra Clark at