October 25, 2014

New ALA Digital Inclusion Study Shows 98% of U.S. Libraries Offer Free Wi-Fi, 90% Offer Ebooks, 17% Offer Makerspaces

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Note: A few comments are found at the bottom of this report.

From the American Library Association:

Nearly 100 percent of America’s public libraries offer workforce development training programs, online job resources, and technology skills training, according to a new study from the American Library Association (ALA). Combined with maker spaces, coding classes, and programs dedicated to entrepreneurship and small business development, libraries are equipping U.S. communities with the resources and skills needed to succeed in today’s – and tomorrow’s – global marketplace.

[Clip] New ALA Digital Inclusion Study Shows 98% of U.S. Libraries Offer Free Wi Fi, 90% Offer Ebooks, 17% Offer Makerspaces

Until the Digital Inclusion Survey, no national study has shown in such detail the extent to which libraries complete education, jumpstart employment and entrepreneurship, and foster individual empowerment and engagement, or the E’s of Libraries™,” said ALA President Courtney Young. “The study also begins to map new programs and technology resources that range from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) maker programming to 3D printing to hackathons.”

Among the study findings:

  • 98% of libraries provide free public access to Wi-Fi, up from 89% in 2012;
  • 98% provide technology training, ranging from internet safety and privacy to coding to using social media;
  • 98% provide assistance completing online government forms;
  • 97% provide online homework help;
  • 95% offer workforce development training programs;
  • 90% offer e-books, up from 76% in 2012;
  • 56% offer health and wellness programs regarding developing healthy lifestyles;
  • 50% offer entrepreneurship and small business development programs; and
  • Average number of computers provided by libraries is now 20, up from 16 in 2012

“Changes in technology—whether internet speeds, or new devices or new applications—are racing faster all the time,” said IMLS Director Susan Hildreth. “Libraries are ideally positioned to help everyone in our communities get up to speed. This is the heart of digital inclusion—equitable access to internet-connected devices and online content plus the skills to take advantage of the educational, economic and social opportunities available through these technologies.”

[Clip]

The study provides a first national look at emerging trends, from STEM maker spaces (17 percent, or about 3,000 libraries), to wireless printing (33 percent) to 3D printers and hosting hackathons or other coding/application development events (about 2 percent each, or roughly 260 libraries). Creation and making activities already are transforming what is possible for communities through libraries.

[Clip]

While most libraries marked progress from the last national library technology study in 2012, advances are uneven. Less than half of rural libraries reported they increased bandwidth speeds in the last 24 months, compared with 64 percent of urban libraries and 56 percent of suburban libraries. Fewer than two-thirds of rural libraries report having access to information technology (IT) staff, far behind their counterparts. A vast majority of all libraries (66 percent), though, agree they would like to increase their broadband capacity, and that cost is the leading barrier to doing so.

Methodology

The Digital Inclusion Survey collected data from a nationally representative sample of public libraries at the branch/outlet level between September 3 and November 30, 2013. The survey was open to all public libraries to participate. However, the analysis conducted used only sampled libraries. The survey received 3,392 responses, for a 70.1 percent response rate.

Funding

Institute for Museum and Library Services

Learn More/Access Full Text

  • Read the News Release (Includes Quote From President Obama)

Report Resources From the Information Policy & Access Center (iPAC) at the University of Maryland

  • State Pages (Interactive state-level mapping tool and selected summary data that compares states to national data)
  • Issue Briefs (Broadband, employment, e-government, community access, digital literacy, and digital inclusion)

Previous Report

Comment From infoDOCKET’s Gary Price

Providing access is of course 100% necessary but it does not mean that people are utilizing these resources. Yes, many do and this is wonderful. However, studies from Pew Internet show that a large number of people who support the library (or the idea of the library) don’t have a good idea of the services and resources libraries as a whole and more specifically, their local library offer.

More importantly, libraries must do a better job in demonstrating how these resources/services they offer can benefit each library user based on their needs. It’s not easy but must be done. Vendors also must be involved.

At the same time I think research into why people don’t use the library is necessary. This could help lead to more users and better services.

Finally, visiting the physical library facility is still necessary for many services but not all. What type of effort (especially at the national level) do we give to letting people (users and potential users know) that many library services are now available to them 24x7x365 from any computer connected to the Internet and the passport to these services and tools is is a free library card and perhaps (if possible) a quick intro.

share save 171 16 New ALA Digital Inclusion Study Shows 98% of U.S. Libraries Offer Free Wi Fi, 90% Offer Ebooks, 17% Offer Makerspaces
Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.