Digital Inclusion Survey
Documenting the impact of public libraries in the digital age is more important than ever
The ubiquity of the Internet poses challenges and opportunities for individuals and communities alike. These challenges and opportunities, however, are not evenly distributed across or within individuals and communities. Equitable access to and participation in the online environment is essential for success in education, employment, ﬁnance, health and wellness, civic engagement, and a democratic society. And yet, communities and individuals find themselves at differing levels of readiness in their ability to access and use the Internet, robust and scalable broadband, a range of digital technologies, and digital content.
Research from the Public Library Funding & Technology,1Opportunity for All,2 and Pew Internet3 studies show that libraries are vital digital hubs that provide access to public access technologies and digital content, and that millions of people rely on the public access technologies and services provided by public libraries. When taken together, these studies also show that success in an increasingly digital social and economic context requires a comprehensive approach to creating digital inclusion so as to ensure that there is opportunity for all communities and individuals regardless of geographic location, socio-economic status, or other demographic factors.
Digital inclusion brings together high-speed Internet access, information and communication technologies, and digital literacy in ways that provide opportunities for individuals and communities to succeed in the digital environment. More specifically, digital inclusion means that:
- All members understand the benefits of advanced information and communication technologies.
- All members have equitable and affordable access to high-speed Internet-connected devices and online content.
- All members can take advantage of the educational, economic, and social opportunities available through these technologies.
But digital inclusion also encompasses the ability of individuals to use digital technologies, create content, and more fully engage in an increasingly digital life. The study builds on the work conducted by IMLS, ICMA, and the University of Washington in developing a Digital Inclusion Framework, and serves as a complement to the IMLS Public Library Survey that collects data (e.g., bugdget, FTE) about public libraries annually.
Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and conducted by the American Library Association (ALA), the Information Policy & Access Center (iPAC) at the University of Maryland, and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), this study conducts a national survey of public libraries that explores the digital inclusion roles of public libraries in four key areas:
- Public access technology infrastructure resources and capacity (e.g., public access workstations; broadband connectivity).
- Digital content, services, and accessibility.
- Digital literacy (including languages in which instruction is offered).
- Domains-specific services and programs (civic engagement, education, health and wellness, and workforce/employment).
Participation in the survey is critical to demonstrating the significant impacts that public libraries have in building digitally inclusive communities, and will enable libraries to:
- Identify the impacts of public computer and Internet access on the community.
- Show library public access technology services in terms of key community demographics.
- Identify gaps in public access technology services based on community needs.
- Demonstrate library contributions to community digital inclusion efforts.
- Support efforts to inform and educate stakeholders – policymakers, foundations, elected officials, trustees, and the media – about the value of libraries in building digitally inclusive communities.
1 Hoffman, Judy, John Carlo Bertot, and Denise M. Davis. (2012). Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2011-2012. Digital supplement of American Libraries magazine.
2 Becker, Samantha, Michael D. Crandall, Karen E. Fisher, Rebecca Blakewood, Bo Kinney, and Cadi Russell-Sauvé. (2011). Opportunity for All: How Library Policies and Practices Impact Public Internet Access (IMLS-2011-RES-01). Institute of Museum and Library Services. Washington, D.C.
3 Zickuhr, Kathryn, Lee Rainie, and Kristen Purcell. (2013). Library Services in the Digital Age. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Washington, DC.