U.S. IMPACT Public Library Study

Part 1 Findings

Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries

Executive summary
Full report
Appendix 1: theoretical frameworks
Appendix 2: research methods
Appendix 3: tables
Appendix 4: telephone survey instrument
Appendix 5: web survey instrument

To receive a printed copy of Opportunity for All, please e-mail your request to imlsinfo@imls.gov. Copies will be provided free-of-charge, while supplies last.

Part 2 Findings

Opportunity for All: How Library Policies and Practices Impact Public Internet Access
Full report

About the U.S. IMPACT Public Library Study
Public libraries have provided free access to the Internet and computers since the 1990s. Libraries have also provided access to digital resources, databases, networked and virtual services, training, technical assistance, and technology-trained staff.  However, little research has examined the relationship between free access to computers and outcomes that benefit individuals, families, and communities.

To better understand how the provision of free access to the Internet and computers in public libraries is impacting the lives of individuals, families, and communities across the United States, the Institute of Museum and Library Services issued a request for proposals for research targeted at documenting, describing and analyzing the use and results of this use in libraries throughout the nation.

Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries” outlines the first part of the research, describing the characteristics of people who use public access computers and Internet connections, the types of use they engage in, and the impact that use has on their own lives, that of their families and friends, and the communities they live in.

The second report, “Opportunity for All: How Library Policies and Practices Impact Public Internet Access” examines the effect of library characteristics and policies on public access computing use and impact, as a first step toward helping libraries understand how some of their services may be affecting the overall success of their efforts in providing public access services to their communities.

The results of both U.S. IMPACT Study “Opportunity for All” reports clearly show that public libraries are a key element of America’s digital infrastructure, and that large numbers of people are using their public access services to meet their needs in health, education, employment, and other important areas. But it also shows that beyond the Internet connections and computers that libraries provide to make this possible, the one-on-one help and other resources librarians, library staff, and volunteers provide to the users is an important element in the success of these services.

Related Readings

Becker S., Crandall M.D., & Fisher K.E. (2009). Communicating the impact of free access to computers and the internet in public libraries: A mixed methods approach to developing outcome indicators. Public Library Quarterly. 28 (2), 109-119.

Jaeger, P. T., Bertot, J. C., & McClure, C. (2007). Public libraries and the Internet 2006: Issues, findings, and challenges. Public Libraries, 46 (5), 71-78.

University of Washington Research Team

Michael Crandall
Dr. Karen E. Fisher
Samantha Becker

Expert Committee

Rick Ashton: Chief Operating Officer, Urban Libraries Council
Michael Barndt: Data Center Analyst, Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee
Susan Benton: Strategic Partners Executive, International City/County Management Association (ICMA)
John Carlo Bertot: Professor and Associate Director, Information Use Management & Policy Institute
Cathy Burroughs: National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Northwest Region
Sarah Earl: Acting Director, IDRC Evaluation Unit
Carla Hayden: Executive Director, Enoch Pratt Free Library
Peggy Rudd/Chris Jowaisas: Director and Librarian & designee, Texas State Library and Archives Commission
Ross Todd: Associate Professor and Director, Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries
Bernard Vavrek: Director, Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship, Department of Library Science

Research Consultants

Dr. Glen Holt, Dr. Leslie Edmonds Holt

Student Research Team Members

Spencer Thomas
Yan Fang
Jennie Abrahamson
Ellie Bair
David Lee Bassett
Jack Baur
Rebecca Blakewood
Wei-Chih (Vicki) Chen
Melody Clark
Ke (Claire) Ding
Amber Duginske
Sherry Edwards
Audrey Kentor
Bo Kinney
Carol Landry
Cortney Leach
Melissa Mather
Jordan McOwen
Elizabeth Mitchell
Liz Moffat
Chic Naumer
Cadi Russell-Sauve
Agueda Sanchez
Paul Simons
Alice Tsoi
Shawn Walker
Lella Yallsetty
Kathy Weigert
Seung-yon Yu