With public sector budgets tightening in recent years, one might wonder if public library administrators and boards are having to make difficult decisions between traditional library services—lending books, audio books, music CDs, and DVDs—and Internet-based services. National data for 2003 suggests that providing public access to Internet computers is now part of the mainstream of public library services. Three major per capita service outputs—library visits, circulation, and reference questions—tend to increase with the number of public Internet computers per 5,000 of legal service area population.
This pattern does not necessarily indicate that the availability of public Internet computers drives other types of library use; but, it does suggest that, more often than not, libraries that do more business in traditional ways are also likely to provide more access to Internet-based services. (See Chart in full report. Note: Each bar represents a quartile of U.S. public libraries on public Internet computers per 5,000 served: libraries with fewer than 2 computers, between 2 and 4 computers, between 4 and 8 computers, and 8 or more computers.)
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