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In this report on the State of America’s Libraries in 2006, the American Library Association found that:
· Public, school and university libraries are flourishing, both in traditional ways and in the still-exploding universe of the Internet. Library use is up nationwide among all types of library users, continuing a decade-long trend. Almost 1.8 billion visitors checked out more than 2 billion items last year at everything from one-room rural outposts to spectacular facilities such as Seattle’s new Central Library, which attracts thousands of patrons — and tourists — daily.
· Investment in e-books at academic and research libraries rose an astonishing 68 percent from 2002 to 2004, the most recent year for which federal data are available.
· Public libraries remain on the forefront in delivering new programs to their customers while still providing the “nuts-and-bolts” services that people need to lead full lives — for example, the tools to conduct a job search, write a résumé or learn new work skills. Even with the rapid growth of all of these services, people are going to their public library to check out or read books in record numbers.
· The public expressed its continuing strong support for public libraries in 2006 in positive votes on library funding referenda and other local ballot measures.
· Despite a growing body of research that links school libraries and student achievement, school library media centers were hard hit by funding cuts in the past year.
Meanwhile, the library community continued its work in defending the First Amendment rights of library users against secret government surveillance, including the USA PATRIOT Act. Librarians also continued their efforts to oppose censorship challenges that would restrict the free flow of information and ideas to both adults and children.
Finally, the library community — from the ALA and its corporate and philanthropic partners to individual librarians to the children and teens who use school library media centers nationwide — won widespread acclaim for their work in helping colleagues and fellow citizens in the Gulf Coast region begin their long recovery from the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
In short, 2006 was another full year for America’s librarians and libraries. This report presents only the highlights of the activities of a profession that has time and again shown itself to have its communities’ interests at heart — and the courage to act on its convictions.
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