Libraries see high Internet demand

Madison branch library patrons use the Internet stations Sunday afternoon. Computer usage at libraries has skyrocketed. Job searches, research for school projects and connecting with friends on social networking sites are among the most common reasons customers use library computers, patrons and librarians say. GEORGE WALKER IV / THE TENNESSEAN

By MATT MEDVED

Tennessee library patrons are waiting longer for computers as libraries struggle to match a steady increase in demand for the Internet.

Nashville Public Library branch administrator Barbara Weedman said overall computer usage increased by more than 10 percent from the last fiscal year to the one that ended June 30. The system tracked a record 890,246 one-hour computer sessions on 478 public Internet terminals over the most recent fiscal year

“We’ve seen this demand just grow and grow,” Weedman said. “It may be associated with people saving money from having an Internet connection. Also, not everyone can afford to own a PC in their home. We’re helping to bridge that digital divide.”

The numbers reflect a national trend charted by the Chicago-based American Library Association, the nation’s largest library membership group. The group released a report Tuesday showing only 17 percent of libraries nationwide say they have enough computers to handle patrons demands at all times.

Job searches, research for school projects and connecting with friends on social networking sites are among the most common reasons customers use library computers, patrons and librarians say.

Nashville resident Phil Chase, 56, said he frequents the Southeast Branch of the Nashville Public Library in Antioch once a week to check his e-mail since his home computer crashed. He usually has to wait an hour and a half to get on a computer. “The library is free, close and convenient to go to,” said Chase.

The demand has grown to the point that nine out of every 10 libraries in the country have been forced to institute Internet session time limits to allow fair Internet use distribution, the report showed. Nashville implemented a reservation system with a maximum one-hour session in 2007.

Gallatin librarian Lin Hagen said her branch of Sumner County’s system hosted 72,079 Internet sessions in 2007, up considerably from the 2006 figure of 38,574. She said enacting a reservation system accounts for some of the increase because patrons could browse the web indefinitely prior to its arrival. “It certainly seems like the demand is up,” Hagen said. “Even since we started the new system, every computer is booked.”

Curtis McMillan, 21, said he visits the Southeast branch in Nashville once every two days to check his e-mail and other sites like MySpace and Facebook. He said he normally has to wait before he can get access to one of the computers and described the current availability as “inadequate.” “I think they should invest in more computers,” said McMillan. “It’s a simple fact that everyone uses the computer these days.”

Library computer use

Tennessee | National
Number of hours that the average public library outlet is open per week :
45.3 | 45
Average number of Public Internet Workstations per public library:
14.3 | 12
Percentage of public libraries with wireless service:
70% | 66%
Percentage of public libraries that don’t have wireless service but plan to make it available within the next year:
7% | 12%
Percentage of public libraries where they are the only provider of free public internet access to the community:
56% | 73%
Percentage of local libraries that plan to add more computer workstations or laptops within the next year:
18% | 16%
Percentage of libraries who say there are always sufficient public Internet-accessible computers available:
24% | 17%
SOURCE: AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION

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~ by Matt Medved on September 3, 2008.

One Response to “Libraries see high Internet demand”

  1. Interesting article about computer challenges at the libraries. For more information about the Nashville library, see http://www.civicscope.com/nashville/NashvillePublicLibrary

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