Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Casting nets

ALIA announces the release of the latest Internet access in public libraries survey 2008 which demonstrates the vital role of Australian public libraries in addressing the need for equitable community access to online information and services: http://www.alia.org.au/advocacy/internet.access/

The survey, the fourth conducted by the Association since 2002, shows that since 2005 there has been a 41% increase in the number of public access internet terminals in public libraries. The increase since 2005 in the number of users each week is 91% – that means that an estimated 147,000 users access the internet via their local public library each week.

Here are a few other statistics from the survey:

· Complaints about internet content within public libraries are extremely rare representing 0.2% of users; 99.8% of internet use is complaint free

· Public libraries filter not only illegal and offensive material but also social networking sites, games and very large files

· The trend is towards an increase in the use of filtering software in public libraries: 36% of respondents in 2008 compared with 30% in 2005

· Using internet filtering does not stop complaints

· One third of responding libraries provide separate terminals for access by children

ALIA has also issued a media release about the survey: ‘Public libraries provide vital infrastructure for Australia’s digital future’ http://www.alia.org.au/media.room/2009.02.27.html

Here is an excerpt from the media release:

"Access to the internet is an extremely important enabler for the delivery of better health, education, information and community services, particularly as many government services are increasing online service delivery to clients," said Derek Whitehead, President of the Association. "Australia's long-term economic development is closely connected to the ability of all of us to participate in the digital economy and use information in our daily lives."

ALIA has a long-standing and active interest in the public debate on the regulation of internet content in Australia. The Association has a particular interest in policy and legislative issues relating to the provision of public access internet services in public libraries. ALIA is committed to promoting the free flow of information and ideas in the interest of all Australians and a thriving culture, economy and democracy. ALIA supports the development of an information infrastructure with libraries as the conduit for a sustainable knowledge economy.

This survey is a follow-up to surveys conducted in 2002, 2005 and 2007, and the online content and regulation issue is an important part of ALIA’s national advocacy program. Visit the ALIA website for more information about this issue: http://www.alia.org.au/advocacy/internet.access/

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