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Despite our best efforts, the question "do we need libraries now that we have the internet?" continues to plague the library community. The 2007 Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study, published this month, is part of the arsenal of tools public libraries and their advocates can use to illustrate how libraries connect communities.
Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and ALA, the study builds on more than a decade of research conducted by John Carlo Bertot and Charles McClure of Florida State University to provide the most complete national picture of computer and internet access in U.S. public libraries:
* 73% of libraries report they are the only provider of free public internet access in their communities.
* On average, there are 10.7 public access computers in each library branch. This number has remained relatively constant for the past five years.
* About 62% of library branches now have connectivity speeds of 769 kilobytes per second (kbps) up to 1.5 megabytes per second (mbps) or greater. This is virtually unchanged from 2006, but up significantly from 47.7% in 2004.
* On average, …