NewStateofAmerica'sLibrariesreportdocumentspositiverole of libraries

Contact: Larra Clark
ALA Media Relations
312-280-5043
 
For Immediate Release
April 4, 2006

 

New State of America's Libraries report

documents positive, expanding role of libraries

 

(CHICAGO) Libraries just aren't what they used to be. They're more - and better.

That's a key theme in the first-ever "State of America's Libraries" report, released today by the American Library Association (ALA).   As communities nationwide celebrate National Library Week (April 2-8), the report details both the positive impact libraries and librarians have on the millions of people who use them and the challenges libraries face in the area of funding.

The "State of America's Libraries" report examines the expanding role libraries play in the social, political and economic environment of our rapidly changing world. It explores Americans' perceptions and use of public libraries, funding for all types of libraries, the results and reach of technology in libraries and more.   More than 135 million adults visited American public libraries last year, and students made 1.5 billion visits to school libraries during the school year.

"For the first time, we have a complete picture of how libraries serve students, families and our neighbors from all walks of life," said ALA President Michael Gorman.   "Millions of people still borrow books, but beyond that, today's libraries are resource and community centers, widely used and enthusiastically supported by a growing proportion of Americans."

The report highlights how librarians and library staff quickly created a sustained program of support for librarians and residents in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. More than 300 libraries have adopted and provided funding and technical support to affected libraries.   The ALA was quick to reaffirm last October that it would hold its Annual Conference in New Orleans in June, a conference that will draw some 18,000 visitors and bring $20 million in business to the beleaguered region.   The ALA also has raised more than $300,000 to date for a fund to help to rebuild libraries in the region.

 

The report also reveals that:

  • Americans appreciate and use their libraries. Almost 90 percent of Americans surveyed in a recent national poll report being satisfied with their public libraries.   Sixty-two percent of adult Americans have library cards, and circulation of public library materials has climbed every year since 1990.
  • Libraries are adopting and adapting technology to meet the needs of users - while struggling with flat or decreased budgets. In fact, demand for computer access in public libraries exceeds supply at certain times of the day.
  • Libraries in some sections of the country have faced budget cuts that are having a dramatic negative impact on library service in some communities.
  • Librarians are on the forefront of protecting Americans' free and open access to information and their right to read and use the Internet and the Web freely. Librarians actively worked to amend sections of the USA PATRIOT Act that infringe on reader privacy and played an important role on national and international copyright issues.

The report also highlights challenges to America's libraries - from budget cuts to attacks on the privacy of library users to a state-by-state education initiative called the "65 percent solution." As the "65 percent" debate sweeps through states, threatening school libraries far and wide, librarians exposed the dark side of this benign-sounding initiative that would defund school libraries in the name of beefing up classroom instruction.

"In a time of great technological change and opportunity, libraries and those who work in them play a vital role in ensuring that everyone in this country has full and open access to an infinite world of resources in all formats," Gorman said.

A copy of the full report is available online at www.ala.org/2006state.