One in five U.S. public libraries have benefited from the broadband stimulus program created in 2009, according to a report issued yesterday from the American Library Association.
“In a time of flat and decreased budgets, [broadband stimulus] funding has been a gateway to improved technology access at thousands of libraries nationwide,” wrote the ALA in the report, titled “U.S. Public Libraries and the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).”
Libraries benefited from three different types of BTOP funding. According to a pre-publication report issued by the ALA in February, approximately 1744 libraries were impacted by public computer center grants, while 226 were impacted by the sustainable broadband adoption program and 1433 were impacted by the comprehensive community infrastructure program.
The final report issued this week expands on the findings released in February and includes profiles of library projects in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Profiles were based on reports filed with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which administered the BTOP program, and in some cases, based on information provided by grantees.
One interesting result of the BTOP program, noted in several of the project profiles, is increased investment in videoconferencing capacity for remote rural communities. Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Oklahoma and Rhode Island have established new videoconferencing in several, if not all, libraries in those states, according to the report.
Interesting videoconferencing applications included:
- A project in Maine that provides legal information through a volunteer lawyers program.
- A Pitchapalooza event that gave aspiring Alaska authors the opportunity to pitch book ideas to experts in the field.
- A Masters of Administrative Finance degree for Education that trained future principals and school superintendents in Oklahoma, saving travel time and money.
Other notable findings from the report :
- More than 90% of libraries provide access to job databases and other online job resources
- More than three-quarters (76%) of libraries report that staff members help patrons complete online job applications – an increase of 10 percentage points from the previous year
- According to a 2012 Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, 74% of libraries report increased use of Wi-Fi, 60% report increased use of public access computers and 36% report increased use of training services, despite a finding that 57% of public libraries report flat or decreased operating budgets
“Libraries have served as first responders in these tough economic times,” said ALA President Maureen Sullivan in an announcement of the report findings. “Millions of Americans have turned to us to gain new technology skills and access to specialized resources. [Broadband stimulus] has helped to enable expanded services and to develop the improved infrastructure to meet these community needs.”