21st Century Library Technology & Connectivity

Every year since 1994, ALA has conducted a study of Public Library Funding & Technology Access. The 2009-2010 Study findings are being published as a “digital supplement to American Libraries” (the magazine of the American Library Association).


Funding Tightens

More libraries reported declines [in funding] in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, and anticipate continued reductions in FY2011:
• A majority (56.4 percent) of public libraries report flat or decreased operating budgets in FY2010, up from just over 40 percent in FY2009.
• Nearly 27 percent overall anticipated requests for further reductions in the current operating budget (FY2010), with more urban libraries (54.6 percent) anticipating operating budget decreases than suburban (41.6 percent) and rural libraries (26.5 percent).
• Staff salary/benefits expenditures dropped 43.3 percent in FY2010 from FY2009, and collection expenditures fell 47.5 percent.
• More urban libraries (54.6 percent) anticipate operating budget decreases during the current fiscal year, followed by suburban (41.6 percent) and rural libraries (26.5 percent).


New data this year indicates that the use of library technology resources was up significantly from just one year ago:
• Most libraries (75.7 percent) report increased use of public access workstations.
• Most libraries (71.1 percent) report an increased use of Wi-Fi.
• Less than half (45.6 percent) report an increased use of electronic resources.
• Some libraries (26.3 percent) report an increased use of training services.

At the same time, however, the percentage of libraries reporting decreased operating hours has tripled. Nearly one-quarter of urban libraries and 14.5 percent of all libraries (up from 7.4 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively) report reducing hours since the prior fiscal year.

Figures representing the current technology landscape in public libraries.


Data from the 2009-2010 Study describe a mixed landscape and paradoxical environment. Libraries have expanded technology resources, particularly around workforce development and e-government, to meet rising demand, but many are hampered by outmoded buildings and funding reductions that threaten every aspect of service, including available staff and hours open. Public libraries need sustained support for their services to ensure that the safety net they provide to millions in the United States remains in place.

Libraries continue to do more with less!

What’s the conclusion in your community?

[NOTE: The complete set of data tables, as well as findings from previous surveys, is available at http://www.clii.umd.edu/plinter-net/. This year’s survey, which had an 82.4 percent response rate, was completed by respondents between September 7 and November 13, 2009.]

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