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Complete the 2023 PLA Library Technology Survey

by Laurie Covington, Manager of Statistics and Business Intelligence at Houston Public Library and PLA Measurement, Evaluation, and Assessment Committee (MEAC) member on October 13, 2023

The 2023 Public Library Technology Survey is open through December 16th! It’s easy to complete and your library’s unique responses will contribute to powerful, actionable results that you can use to advocate for your library.

The Public Library Association (PLA) is conducting the survey to explore current and emerging technology trends in public libraries across the nation, including resources for library patrons, technology infrastructure, digital literacy, technology staff, and budgets. PLA first administered the technology survey in 2020 and key results included that almost one-third of public libraries offer internet hotspots for check out and more than 88% of public libraries offer formal or informal digital literacy programming. Now is the time to see how things have changed in the past three years and what new trends are emerging.

At Houston Public Library, we have used the results from the 2020 survey to explore what technology other public libraries offer, especially in makerspaces. When the 2023 results are published, I am especially interested in learning how libraries are using digital navigators to enhance digital equity in their communities. This will help my library plan as we hire specialized staff next year.

Top reasons to complete the 2023 Technology Survey:

  1. Ensure that your library is included in the technology story for libraries – and you might even get some new ideas for technology from the survey questions.
  2. Up-to-date information and data about technology will help inform planning and decision making across public libraries.
  3. The results will provide nationally representative data to inform and engage elected officials, the media, and funders especially in this critical time when more than $1.4 billion in federal funding will be distributed to states to support digital equity work starting next year.
  4. Your participation helps PLA create tools, resources, and professional development opportunities that will be useful for your library in building and advancing digital equity in your community.
  5. This 2023 survey will help to show how public libraries have evolved since 2020 in response to the pandemic and the current trends.

The survey asks questions about public access technology, digital literacy and training, infrastructure, and staff and budget for technology. New for 2023, the survey also asks about Digital Navigator programs and library participation in digital equity coalitions at the local, state, or national level. Public libraries will be able to compare their unique characteristics to similar libraries across the country and enable PLA to advocate on behalf of public libraries at the national level with the aggregated responses.

To complete the survey, login to your library’s free Benchmark account at librarybenchmark.orgClick on the Surveys tab in the menu, and you will see this survey listed under “Open Surveys.” On the Resources tab in the Surveys section, you can find a fillable PDF worksheet for the survey to review the questions and collect responses before entering them in the online form.  Be sure to click “save and submit” in the final section of the survey form when you have finished entering your responses. Only one person per library should complete the survey.  If you are not sure of your library’s login details or have any other questions about the survey, please contact plabenchmark@ala.org.

This survey is one of three annual topical surveys administered by PLA each fall in rotation.  The Measurement, Evaluation, and Assessment Committee (MEAC) develops and revises the topical survey each year. This survey emerged out of the long history of ALA/PLA efforts to collect information about public library technology access, including the 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey.  As part of PLA’s rotating annual cycle, PLA and public libraries nationwide can track changes over time. PLA recognizes that libraries are being asked to respond during times when public libraries have other pressing needs.  MEAC worked hard to reduce the number of questions and make them as simple as possible to answer. No other national survey or dataset asks these questions so your participation will help provide unique and valuable information.

All survey participants will be entered into a drawing to win free group registration for up to three staff members for a live or on-demand PLA webinar. PLA will announce four winning libraries (one per locale type – rural, town, suburban, city) in January 2024. Survey participants are also eligible for discounted subscriptions for upgraded access to the Benchmark data dashboards.  You can learn more about the 2023 Technology Survey and how the data will help the library field in this webinar recording.

PLA will publish a report of the 2023 findings in summer 2024. Visit the PLA website to learn more about the 2023 Technology Survey and read the report on the results from 2020.