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Despite demand, public libraries won’t add PCs

Posted by comartslibrarian on September 12, 2007

Despite demand, public libraries won’t add PCs – Yahoo! News

An interesting study sponsored in part by the American Library Association, so take these results with a grain of salt. This is the same ALA that railed for years against filtering Internet workstations in libraries, expecting that children would always be accompanied by adults at the library, and steadfastly refusing to act in loco parentis.

Having worked at a public library for two years, I knew full well children and teens would come to the library — unaccompanied — and swarm to any available Internet PCs. Most of the time, their use wasn’t for anything homework related, but for playing multi-user, non-educational games or chatting on MySpace profiles. Before filters, library staff had to worry about teens venturing into less savory parts of the Internet.

I don’t believe libraries should be spaces for all work and no play, but is it really taxpayers’ obligation to supply unlimited computers and bandwidth for online entertainment? There are plenty of great books on the shelves of these libraries, waiting to be introduced to young readers, which will do far more to inspire and challenge their imaginations than Yahoo’s Quake Wars.

As expected, this ALA study is a kicker for (surprise) more tax dollars — this excerpt is from page 22 of the study at http://www.ala.org/ala/ors/publiclibraryfundingtechnologyaccessstudy/challenges.pdf:

While libraries get more than half of their technology funding from local taxes, they also rely
too heavily on fundraising and grants (10.8 percent). In fact, money raised in this manner
nearly equals what comes from state and federal sources.

So libraries have creatively and successfully raised funds through other sources than state and federal funding. This should be something to applaud, not something to lament!

Instead of more funding and tax dollars being sucked from the sow formerly known as Washington D.C., each library district should assess their own needs and priorities. Instituting time limits on PCs during peak usage periods, or designating one or two PCs for Tutor.com during after-school hours might be necessary, and wouldn’t cost any money to implement.

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