Libraries, museums hold basic tech

Survey indicates that basic IT has made its way into most American museums and libraries

The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services surveyed more than

700 libraries and museums nationwide last year to compile information regarding

their technology use and digitization activities.

The survey, conducted in late May into early June 2001, was distributed

among state, public, and academic libraries as well as museums in order

to establish what hardware and software purchases these establishments have

made and how that equipment was being put to use, said Eileen Maxwell, a

spokeswoman for the institute.

"The survey provides a baseline of what our constituents own in terms

of technology and how they use that technology," Maxwell said. "We were

also interested in the public's use of the available technology."

The results of the survey indicate that basic IT has made its way into

most American museums and libraries:

* Eighty-seven percent of museums and at least 99 percent of surveyed

libraries use at least some technology, most commonly: desktop computers,

Internet access, e-mail, standard office software, Web sites and computerized

collection catalogs. The survey found that use of technology is strong in

medium-size and large museums, but lags significantly in the smaller museums.

* Sixty-seven percent of the museum respondents have budgets of less

than $250,000. Sixty percent of these small museums have desktop computers

and 41 percent have Web sites. Thirteen percent of these museums indicated

no technology use at all.

* Findings indicate that museums have fewer sources of funds for investment

in technology, relying on operating funds, gifts from donors, and in-kind

contributions. Twenty percent of responding museums report having no funding

for technology.

The results did not surprise Maxwell. "We had a general idea of what

to expect, but we needed solid facts in order to be accountable in front

of Congress," she said. Congress is a supplier of funds for the institute.

Digitization, the process of altering, creating and maintaining materials

in electronic representations so they can be viewed via computer, is a recent

development in the work of museums and libraries.

The chief digitizers are state library administrative agencies, with

more than 78 percent reporting digitization activities in the past year.

Thirty-two percent of museums, 34 percent of academic libraries, and 25

percent of public libraries are digitizing materials.

According to Maxwell, the institute looks to encourage collaboration

among libraries.

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