As annual reports arrived from Wisconsin public libraries this spring, we saw large increases in wireless Internet use. As we prepare Wisconsin Public Library Service Data for 2014, the preliminary data is no less interesting.
A total of 114 libraries reported uses for Internet computers and wireless Internet for both 2013 and 2014. At those 114 libraries, wi-fi use was more than 115% of Internet computer use.
For 2014 only, 134 of 381 public libraries reported uses of both Internet-connected computers and wireless Internet. At those 134 libraries, wi-fi use was 107.5% of Internet computer use. Individually, 62 of the 134 libraries report that their wi-fi use is equal or greater to Internet computer use by a factor of 1 to 8.9. (By comparison, at the 129 libraries reporting both Internet computer use and wireless Interent use for 2013, wi-fi use was 85.4% of Internet computer use.)
The 134 libraries are located in 16 of the state's 17 regional library systems. The resident population of the libraries' municipality is:
- less than 1000 (19)
- 1,000 to 5,000 (49)
- 5,000 to 10,000 (24)
- 10,000 to 50,000 (37)
- 50,000 to 100,000 (5)
Kenosha Public Library has the largest residential population of these (99,680) and an estimated extended county population of 135,408. Although libraries with a residential population more than 100,000 have not yet reported wireless Internet uses, we think that wi-fi use is probably higher at libraries located in more urban areas.The U.S. Census designation of the 134 libraries' municipality locale includes:
- rural—fringe (13), distant (36), and remote (14)
- town—fringe (8), distant (35), and remote (2)
- suburb—small (2), midsize (4), and large (15)
- small city (5)
Individual public libraries have seen Internet computer use increase, but statewide the downward trend continued through 2014. At the 338 libraries that reported Internet computer use every year from 2009 through 2014, the total number of uses in 2014 is 17% lower than the all-time high in 2009. Mobile devices are not likely to replace Internet-connected desktop computers completely, but this data points toward a significant shift in the use of library services.
Written by Jamie McCanless, Public Library Development Team