Ask the ALA Library

U.S. National Library?

Q. Does the United States have a National Library?

A. No, the United States does not have a National Library the way that many other countries do.  There are, however, five libraries that are recognized as being national in scope:

History of Preschool Storytimes

Reading aloud to children, or offering storytimes, came with the development of the children's library itself, around the turn of the 20th century. Anne Carroll Moore at the Pratt Institute Free Library had introduced a story hour at the Pratt Institute as early as 1896, and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh started a weekly story hour in 1900 under Francis Jenkins Olcott.

Sunday Hours

How many public libraries have Sunday hours?  You might think that's an easy question to answer, but it's a bit complicated and the results are ultimately inconclusive.

Community Disaster Response

Over the years, librarians, particularly preservation librarians, have written extensively about preparing for and recovering from a disaster, often localized at the library.  Preparations include both developing a plan for taking action, as well as documenting the specific techniques and resources tha will be needed to protect or restore the collections.

Safety and Security in Libraries

Safety in public spaces, including libraries, has always been a concern, but may be more keenly felt in light of certain recent events. A productive and effective library is one in which its staff and patrons feel secure.

Flu Preparedness

Q. One of our regular library visitors asked what the library's plan for preventing the spread of the flu is.  He has asked whether we wipe down the books daily, or otherwise clean them to prevent transmission.  Does the ALA have information to help libraries on this subject?

CDC.gov Wash your hands

Donating Ebooks?

Q. Our local library, like so many others, now offers ebooks for loan. Their inventory is not as great as I would like. I’d like to be able donate ebooks I have purchased, just as I would donate paper copies of books I no longer wish to own, but I’m told this isn’t possible. Could you explain the difference to me and let me know if there is legislation in the works that can correct this seemingly unfair disparity?

Coretta Scott King Award Seal Design by Lev Mills

Q. I was recently teaching my students about the various literary awards for children’s writers and was asked an interesting question by a student. I have looked on your website as well as on the internet in general and cannot find a complete answer. I am hoping you can help me.

In the design for the Coretta Scott King Award, there are five religious symbols that are in line underneath the child reading the book. . . . My student asked me what they are. And his whole class is now fascinated with knowing about the design. Can you verify for me what these symbols actually are? Thank you so much for your help.

Top 100 Libraries By Collection Size

As you may know, the ALA Library has several pages in its section of the ALA website called “ALA Library Fact Sheets,” which answer fairly common questions about libraries, with sources noted. At some point in our history (and on September 30, we turned 88-years-old!), someone asked what were the top 100 libraries in the country, and we decided to use existing national surveys to respond, ranked by collection size.

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