Survey Analysis & Results

 
 
 

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 conducted 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).

Based on a national survey conducted in Fall 2013, our analysis provides insights into how public libraries help build digitally inclusive communities. In particular, we offer multiple products, including:

  • Interactive mapping tools that combine digital inclusion survey and community-level data. The map enables libraries to better understand their community demographics, education and learning, economic/workforce, and health contexts along with the digital inclusion services that they provide. We have also developed a state view of the interactive mapping tool found on the individual state pages.
  • State pages that provide an interactive state-level mapping tool and selected summary data that compares states to national data.
  • Issue briefs on key topics such as broadband, employment, e-government, community access, digital literacy, and digital inclusion.
  • National report that analyzes data from the survey.
  • Executive summary that provides an overview of survey findings.
  • Talking points handout that provides selected findings for advocacy purposes.

These reports and other survey-based products are based on data collected from public libraries between September and November 2013. It may well be the case that libraries have added capacity (e.g., public access computers, more broadband, space) and services/programs (e.g., health information, engagement, training classes) since then.

 


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 Pracfices 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). Libary Services in the Digital Age. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Washington, DC.