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Background

 
 
 

As part of the Public Libraries and the Internet, then the Public Library Funding & Technology Access (PLFTAS) survey, 14 surveys collected data and identified trends in the provision of Internet access and public access computing by public libraries to their surrounding communities. Conducted by the Information Policy & Access Center (iPAC) in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland and the American, Library Association (ALA), the final PLFTAS survey (six in total) was conducted in 2011, with results released in June 2012. All reports going back to 1994 are available at http://www.plinternetsurvey.org.

The surveys, which collected data at the library branch and system levels, highlight the public library’s role as a community anchor that ensures public access to technology, digital content, and Internet-enabled services. Public libraries provide their public access technology services and resources in the context of community needs and challenges. The survey borrows from two frameworks to explore digital inclusion: The Seattle Foundation’s Healthy Community framework and the Digital Inclusion framework developed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the University of Washington, and the International City/County Management Association. The frameworks offer paths for connecting library public access technology services and resources to greater community needs by focusing on:

  • Access: Availability, affordability, design for inclusion, and public access.
  • Adoption: Relevance, digital literacy, and consumer safety.
  • Application: Economic and workforce development, education, health care, public safety and emergency services, civic engagement, and social connections.

Together, these served as the starting point for this study.