Gates Foundation Expands Funding for Public Libraries and the Internet Research

The 2006 national study of Public Libraries and the Internet conducted by the Information Use Management and Policy Institute will focus on the quality of public access Internet services. The study will include a national survey as well as site visits to a selected number of public libraries across the nation. Earlier this year, the Information Institute completed the 2004 national survey with the publication of Public Libraries and the Internet 2004: Survey Results and Findings.

The 2004 national survey found that although 99% of public libraries had connections to the Internet, a significant number of libraries did not have broadband levels of connectivity and remain "under-connected." The site visits will allow the Information Institute to obtain information about issues associated with maintaining, enhancing, and adopting innovative and high quality Internet infrastructure. This additional data collection will help to

  1. understand issues associated with public access services - e.g., what are the barriers, challenges, or other aspects surrounding connectivity;
  2. understand the context of library Internet connectivity within the community - e.g., access to broadband, governance of telecommunications, and other associated issues; and
  3. provide robust qualitative data that supports survey findings and leads to the development of public access advocacy strategies.

Dr. John Carlo Bertot, Associate Director of the Institute, Dr. Charles R. McClure, Director of the Institute, and Paul T. Jaeger, Manager for Research Development at the Institute are the Co-Principle investigators for the 2005-2006 effort. The receipt of an additional $105,000 in funding will allow the 2005-2006 survey and site visits to be more comprehensive and incisive than the 2004 national survey.

Bertot stated that as a result of the additional funding the research might be able to generate possible strategies for assisting under-connected public libraries to improve their level of connectivity. McClure added that improved Internet connectivity may also help public libraries and their users to better advocate for increased local support for their libraries.

The researchers expect the survey and site visits to be conducted during the spring of 2006 with a final report available in the summer 2006. Additional information about the Institute's research in this area can be found on the Institute's website Additional information about the 2005-2006 study can be obtained from Dr. John Carlo Bertot.