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Only Three Out of Five American Communities Have Public Library Outlets

One of the quintessential landmarks in the Norman Rockwell image of the American town is the public library building. But, this traditional conception has little to do with contemporary reality. In metropolitan areas, the public library is usually represented not by a single building, but by a large central library and numerous neighborhood branches. Many New England towns have multiple public libraries. In outlying rural areas, public libraries are occasionally found where there is not even a “wide spot in the road.” Generally, however, most people assume that every place big enough to have a local government has a public library, whether it is a creature of the city or town in which it is located or part of a countywide system or library district.

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Coloradans–and Colorado Public Libraries–Top National Internet Norms

Recent state and national surveys indicate that Coloradans—and Colorado public libraries—meet or exceed several national norms regarding the Internet. Coloradans are 38 percent more likely to be regular Internet users. Nationwide, 34 percent of American adults use the Internet on at least a monthly basis, but 47 percent of Colorado adults do so. Similarly, the state’s public libraries are 22 percent more likely than libraries nationwide to provide Internet access. Sixty percent of U.S. public libraries provide Internet access, compared with 73 percent in Colorado.

Colorado public libraries enjoy this distinction whether they are in urban (i.e., metropolitan) or rural (i.e., non-metropolitan) areas (see table in full report).

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School Library Media Programs in Colorado Typical of Nation, 1995-96

Recently released national statistics on school library media (LM) programs for the 1995-96 school year suggest that LM programs in Colorado are fairly typical of the nation. In their biennial survey for School Library Journal, Miller and Shontz report figures on 5  topics for which comparable state data are available. Those topics are: staffing, spending, holdings, technology, and planning time.

How Colorado Stands Out

  • Elementary and combined schools less likely to have LM specialists.
  • Elementary and middle schools not as well funded.
  • More likely to have fax capability and computers with modems.
  • LM specialists spend a third less time planning with teachers.

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After School and Weekend Hours of Library Media Centers in Colorado Public Schools, 1997

Time is precious during the school day, whether one is a student, a teacher, a staff member, or an administrator. All too often sufficient time cannot be found to visit the school library media center (LMC) during regular school hours. What’s a person to do? One commonly used alternative is the local public library; but in many small and outlying communities public libraries are open even fewer hours than LMCs. Besides, few public libraries anywhere in the state develop staff and collections with the intention that they serve as adequate substitutes for their school counterparts. Ideally, then, students, teachers, and others—including parents—would be able to visit their school’s LMC at some time beyond the regular school schedule, either after school on weekdays or on the weekend. Of course, such “after hours” access requires a variety of resources, including staff, funding, training, and a secure facility. The number and schedule of such hours will vary based on the school and the community.

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The Status of School Library Media Programs in Colorado, 1994-97

Library Media Staffing
The practice of librarianship is becoming de-professionalized in Colorado schools. From 1994 to 1997, the number of library media staff per 100 students dropped only slightly from .31 to .30 full-time equivalents (FTEs). During the same interval, the number of endorsed library media specialists per 100 students for the typical school library media program fell from .12 FTEs to .08 FTEs—a 33 percent cut. Library media specialists have been displaced by other staff, such as library media aides—who are not endorsed—and BOCES and contract library media staff—who may or may not be endorsed. In 1997, the statewide total hours per typical week for BOCES and contract staff was 61 hours. Barely 1.5 FTE statewide, these staff served 65 schools. That amounts to 56 minutes of “professional” staff attention per typical week to the library media program in each school.

1994-97 Highlights

  • Overall staffing static. Endorsed library media specialists cut. BOCES/contract staff spread thin.
  • Book collections holding in size, but periodical collections declining.
  • Reduced spending and inflationary prices of books and periodicals mean aging collections.

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Public Libraries, Education, Technology, and Colorado Kids

Ninety-five percent of Colorado households report having one or more members who used the services of a public library within the past year, according to a 1996 public opinion poll by MGA Communications, Inc. For households including children younger than age 18, that figure is 96 percent—a negligible 1 percent difference. Beyond that basic fact, however, there are many noteworthy differences in the responses from households with children and those without children.

  • Families with kids use public libraries more often. Households with children are more than twice as likely to visit libraries on a weekly basis and more than 20 percent more likely to visit libraries once or twice a month.
  • Families with kids are more likely to use library technology. Two out of 3 households with children report using library computers to find information not available locally. Less than half of households without children report such use.

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ACLIN & Internet Services in Colorado Public Libraries, 1997

While many still think of libraries primarily as warehouses for books, almost all of Colorado’s public libraries now provide electronic access to information. The two primary channels of such access are ACLIN, the Access Colorado Library and Information Network, and the global Internet. ACLIN includes OVER 230 library catalogs and other informational databases.

Electronic Access to Information
The most ubiquitous form of electronic access to information in Colorado public libraries is to ACLIN. All Coloradans living in public library service areas of 5,000 or more can consult ACLIN at their libraries. The overwhelming majority of the state’s smallest public libraries also provide ACLIN access.

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Selected Policies and Practices of School Library Media Programs in Colorado, 1997

The 1997 Survey of School Library Media Centers (LMCs) in Colorado included, for the first time, items about a variety of issues including: LMC development plans, the Colorado Information Literacy Guidelines, policies on materials selection and challenges, and the relationship of the school library media center to the local public library.

LMC Development Plan

  • Seven out of 10 LMCs report having a plan for the development of the library media program.

Information Literacy

  • Eight out of 10 LMCs use the Colorado Information Literacy Guidelines.
  • Of that group, 2 out of 3 use them as part of an integrated curriculum, while the remaining third use them with the library media program alone.

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Technology in School Library Media Centers in Colorado 1997

A first look at 1997 data on school library media centers in Colorado reveals some new insights about the role of technology in Colorado’s school library media programs.

From 1994 to 1997, the number of library media centers (LMCs) making various technologies available to their clients—both teachers and students—increased dramatically.

Highlights:

  • Since 1994, Internet access for students has more than tripled. While only 1 in 6 LMCs provided Internet access for students in 1994, 7 out of 10 provide such access today. While 1 in 5 teachers could access the Internet via their LMC in 1994, 3 out of 4 teachers have such access today. And, practically all of these LMCs provide access to the World Wide Web.
  • In 1994, only 2 out of 5 LMCs provided access to the Access Colorado Library and Information Network (ACLIN). Today, 2 out of 3 LMCs provide such access.

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Information: THAT’S Entertainment!

We hear a lot about the role of information in the economy these days, but the focus is usually on its increasingly critical role in business, industry, and government. What about the role of information in the consumer sector of the economy? How big a part of the U.S. economy is it as an entertainment product?

Highlights
Americans spend …

  • four times as much on books as on tickets to movies or sporting events.
  • more on books and periodicals combined than on children’s toys or adult “toys,” such as cameras, boats, and exercise equipment.
  • twice as much on electronic information and the equipment it requires as on amusement parks, bowling alleys, bus tours, dance halls, golf courses, skating rinks, and swimming pools combined.

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