U.S. Public Libraries Weather the Storm, a new issues brief from the American Library Association Office for Research & Statistics, highlights how strategic vision has helped public libraries not only “weather the storm” of the Great Recession, but also advance their role as a lifeline to the technology resources and training essential to building digitally inclusive communities essential to full participation in the nation’s economy.
Libraries continue to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in their communities. Some of the highly innovative services described in the report include:
- Creative technology incubators such as the Maker Station at the Allen County (Ind.) Public Library, where do-it-yourselfers share sophisticated tools and expertise. “Maker spaces” allow users to collaborate and create, expanding the parameters of information access at the library.
- The application of QR (Quick Response) codes by the Contra Costa County (Calif.) Library delivers instant access to library materials and services to cardholders with a mobile phone. More public libraries are adopting mobile technology to increase community interaction, enhance access to services and improve channels for information dissemination.
- To help local businesses gain a competitive edge, the Library System of Lancaster County (Pa.) offers the MarketEdge Competitive Intelligence Certification Program, which teaches people to perform effective competitor research. In effect, libraries are serving as small business incubators, providing a wide range of support including assistance for business plan development and current legal and financial databases.
U.S. Public Libraries Weather the Storm was jointly authored with the University of Maryland Information Policy and Access Center. The issues brief draws from national data published in the 2012 Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study (PLFTAS), the longest-running and largest study of Internet connectivity in libraries and the funding that enables free public access to these resources. The study is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Library Association.
Direct to Issue Brief (8 pages; PDF)