Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wi-Fi Uses: A Library Data Diamond in the Rough

Uses of Internet-Connected Computers at 345 WI Public Libraries 2009-13As Wisconsin public libraries work on their 2014 annual reports, many are seeing service statistics decrease. Use of Internet-connected computers, for example, has decreased a total of 16.8% at the 345 libraries that reported uses every year from 2009 through 2013. Individual libraries have seen ongoing increases, but statewide the downward trend appears to have continued through 2014.

Annual report data for 2014 is still being submitted, but a general picture is emerging from the raw data and it has a bright spot: wireless Internet uses.
Internet Computer and Wi-Fi Uses at Wisconsin Public Libraries That Reported Both StatisticsFor 2013, 129 libraries reported both Internet-connected computer uses and wireless Internet uses. At those libraries, wi-fi use was more than 85% of Internet computer use. So far this year, raw 2014 data includes both of these statistics for 122 libraries. Their total wi-fi use is more than 12% higher than Internet computer use. Individually, 53 of the 122 libraries report that their wi-fi use is equal or greater to Internet computer use by a factor of 1 to 8.9.

The 122 libraries are located in 16 of the state's 17 regional library systems. The resident population of the libraries' municipality is:
  • less than 1000 (18)
  • 1,000 to 5,000 (45)
  • 5,000 to 10,000 (23)
  • 10,000 to 50,000 (33)
  • 50,000 to 100,000 (3)
The U.S. Census designation of municipality locale includes:
  • rural—fringe (12), distant (34), and remote (12)
  • town—fringe (8), distant (32), and remote (2)
  • suburb—small (2), midsize (4), and large (14)
  • small city (2)
At this point in the annual report process we can only make general observations, but the wi-fi data bears watching.

Written by Jamie McCanless, Public Library Development Team