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Computers in Libraries

Donald G .Perrin

While government is redirecting funding from social services and education to backfill budget deficits, organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are making significant contributions to under-served populations in areas ranging from Aids in Africa to Computers in Libraries.[1]

The Public Access Computing Project (PACP) at University of Washington conducted a five year nationwide study and consolidated information from a variety of public and private sources.  PACP found that several groups rely entirely on public libraries for access to computers and the Internet, including minorities, the unemployed, and those from lower income groups. Patrons use these computers to learn new skills, find jobs and keep in touch with family. Librarians need help to sustain public-access computing for disadvantaged populations:

  • 37% of library computer users earn less than $15,000 per year and say their only access to the Internet is at the public library
  • 24% of all library computers users say their only access to the Internet is at the public library
  • People in low-income neighborhoods report that library computers have helped them find a job, write a resume, get better grades in school, and get information about local events.

“Toward Equality of Access: The Role of Public Libraries in Addressing the Digital Divide,” is a 36 page report sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and developed in partnership with AARP, American Library Association, Beaumont Foundation of America, Benton Foundation, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, National League of Cities, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [2]

The Pew Internet and American Life Project, research advisor for Gates “Digital Divide” publication is another valuable resource.[3] Be sure to scan the list of Reports.

Public and private funded projects provide valuable information to supplement data from the National Center for Educational Statistics. [4] and other government agencies.


[1] http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Libraries/USLibraryProgram/Evaluation/default.htm

[2] http://www.gatesfoundation.org/nr/Downloads/libraries/uslibraries/reports/TowardEqualityofAccess.pdf

[3]  http://www.pewinternet.org/

[4] http://www.pewinternet.org/

[4] http://nces.ed.gov/
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