A new library study reveals the current state of Internet connectivity levels in public libraries as well as how public libraries provide services related to the Internet and technology. “Public Libraries and the Internet 2004: Survey Results and Findings” is published by the Information Use Management and Policy Institute of the College of Information at Florida State University and was jointly funded by the American Library Association and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Most of the statistics mentioned in the study are broken down by whether the library is urban, suburban, or rural and by the level of poverty of the area served.
Some of the more interesting results include the statistic that 96.6 percent of all public libraries are connected to the Internet and that 98.9 percent of these offer public access computing of some sort to their users. Statistics are provided on the average level of bandwidth offered according to each type of library. Eighty-five percent of libraries indicate that the number of workstations that they offer for public computing is less than the number needed. On the wireless front, 18 percent of public libraries offer wireless Internet access and another 21 percent plan to offer it in the next year. On the other hand, 61.2 percent of public libraries have no immediate plans to offer wireless Internet access.
The full report, authored by John Carlo Bartot, Charles R. McClure, and Paul T. Jaeger, is a must-read for those interested in following trends in public libraries. It’s available from Florida State University at www.ii.fsu.edu/publications/2004.plinternet.study.pdf.