ALA Study Finds Public Libraries Often the Primary, Perhaps Only Source of Free Internet Access for Communities

Library laptop emblem

Public libraries are the only source of free public Internet and computer access in 71 percent of American communities. This number was released yesterday by the American Library Association (ALA) who surveyed 4,300 public libraries, as well as some State Library Officers and focus groups. Titled, “Libraries Connect Communities 3: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2008-2009”, this new study is an eye-opening finding of how incredibly important your library has become.

In addition to that 71 percent, two thirds of libraries say that helping people find jobs and write resumes are among their most essential services. Given the high unemployment rates across the country, libraries have served as an integral community resource. Here are some other amazing facts that came out in yesterday’s report:

  • 99 percent of public libraries offer free access to computers and the Internet.
  • Over half of public libraries in big cities and other urban areas offer classes in “basic computer skills, software use, and online job-seeking.”
  • 70 percent of libraries report Internet speeds of 1.5Mbps or faster. If that number doesn’t tell you anything, just think of that as about twice as fast as what is officially considered cable or “broadband” Internet by the FCC (i.e.: the type of Internet a lot of people have in their homes). Those speeds are almost ten times faster in most urban areas.

On the down side, and for the first time ever, libraries reported a drop in the number of new computers they are acquiring.

Click here to download the full study in a Microsoft Word .doc format.

The following video was released by the Governor of Michigan and goes into more detail about how important broadband Internet access is to communities, especially in these tough times.