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Public Access Technology

Page history last edited by Stephanie Rosso 8 years, 4 months ago


  • Started offering in early 90s
  • Experimental
  • Absorbed into existing services without great consideration for management, facilities, staffing needs and other implications

Increase in connectivity and services

  • Connectivity grew from 20.9% in 1994 to nearly 100% in 2006
  • Nearly all libraries that connected to the Internet offer public access services
  • Avg number of public access computers grew from 1.9 per public library in 1996 to 12 per public library in 2007
  • hovered at 10-12 for 7 yrs until jumping to 14 in 2010 and 16 in 2011
    • cost, staff and space were impediments
  • In 2011, 85.7% of public libraries provide wifi (compared to 54.2% in 2007)

What is Public Access Technology?

  • Public access computers
  • Wifi access
  • ILS (opac)
  • Online databases
  • Digital reference
  • Downloadable audio/video
  • Technology training classes
    • General Computing, software, Internet/Web use
    • Using library‚Äôs resources
    • Online database use
    • Government information/forms
    • Job-seeking
    • Digital photography software and online applications
    • Genealogy info
  • Hardware (public-access computers, reservation systems, self-checkout stations, printers, faxes, laptops, assistive technology, routers/hubs, etc)
  • Software (Operating systems, office software--Microsoft Office/OpenOffice, graphics software, audio software, browsers, databases, etc)

Effects of Public Access Technology (PAT) on Libraries

  • Maintenance and management
  • Staff
  • Finances
  • Buildings

Maintenance areas:

  • Public access computers
  • Peripheral management (printers/faxes, etc)
  • Public access management software or systems
  • Wireless access
  • Bandwidth management
  • Training and patron assistance


  • Broadband speeds not sufficient
  • Number of public access computers is inadequate
  • Costs, space, and buildings are barriers to what libraries can offer
  • Nonprofessional IT staff for tech support
  • Users expect services to resemble those in the marketplace

Existing Tech Support models

  • No tech support
  • Internal library support without tech staff
  • Internal library support with tech staff
  • Library consortia
  • Tech partners
  • City, county, or other agency it support
  • State library support

What Next?

  • Develop better understanding of success in PAT environment
  • Further identify technology-supported models
  • Determine levels of service capabilities
  • Coalition has been formed using $2.8 M in funding from Bill & Melinda Gates foundation to develop guidelines/benchmarks for PAT in libraries
  • Should the government be funding more public library PAT services?



Bertot, J. (2009). Public Access Technologies in Public Libraries: Effects and Implications. Information Technology & Libraries, 28(2), 81-92.

Bertot, J., Jaeger, P. T., Wahl, E. E., & Sigler, K. I. (2011). Chapter 2: Public Libraries and the Internet. Library Technology Reports, 47(6), 7-18.

COALITION TO DEVELOP BENCHMARKS FOR LIBRARY INTERNET ACCESS. (2011). Advanced Technology Libraries, 40(5), 3-4.


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