According to a February 2002 National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) report, A Nation Online: How Americans are Expanding Their Use of the Internet, 143 million Americans, or about 54 percent of the population, were using the Internet as of September 2001. With over half of the nation’s population surfing the web, how have public libraries responded? Colorado’s libraries have responded strongly by greatly increasing the number of public access Internet computers. In 1999, Colorado’s public libraries provided 1.43 computers for every 5,000 people served by those libraries, for a total of 1,146 Internet terminals across the state. By 2002, when Colorado’s public libraries housed 2,318 public Internet terminals, that ratio had jumped 87 percent to 2.67 computers for 5,000 people served. The largest one-year increase came between 2000 and 2001, when Colorado public libraries increased their public access Internet computers by 42 percent (see Table 1 in full report). It plateaued slightly in 2002, with only a 5 percent increase, and it will be interesting to see how budget constraints affect this progression in the next few years.
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