Public libraries are becoming hotspots of Web access and technological job training for visitors, according to a study by the Chicago-based American Library Association. "Libraries Connect Communities 3: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2008-2009," released on Sept. 15, found that more than 71 percent of all libraries (and 79 percent of rural libraries) report they are the only source of free access to computers and the Internet in their communities.

Sixty-six percent of public libraries rank job-seeking services, including resume writing and Internet job searches, among the most crucial online services they offer — up from 44 percent two years ago, according to the survey. More people also are turning to libraries to file unemployment forms, apply for Food Stamps or find other government information or services. Eighty percent of libraries report that they helped patrons connect with government information and services online.

"Libraries are part of the solution for Americans struggling to regain their footing in uncertain economic times," said ALA President Camila Alire in a statement. "Most jobs, and many government services, require that people fill out online applications at a time when many people lack home Internet access and the necessary online search, software or even basic keyboard skills. Investing in our libraries is key to ensuring every person has access to vital online information and resources."

Additional findings on the state of Internet availability in public libraries include:

  • More than 90 percent of public libraries provide technology training, such as online job-seeking and career-related classes, general Internet and computer use instruction.

  • 76 percent of public libraries offer free wireless access.

  • 81 percent of public libraries report there are not enough public Internet computers to meet patron demand some or all of the time. Also, libraries are increasingly having trouble affording to replace outdated computer workstations.

View the "Libraries Connect Communities 3: Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2008-2009" report.