Despite growing library use, budget cuts put damper on National Library Week, April 10-16

Contacts: Larra Clark/ Macey Morales

ALA Media Relations

For Immediate Release

March 21, 2005

Despite growing library use, budget cuts put damper

on National Library Week, April 10-16

CHICAGO - Perhaps now more than any other time since National Library Week was first celebrated in 1958, communities are fighting to keep library doors open and staff in place to serve millions of Americans. Despite growing library use and circulation, library budgets nationwide have been slashed at least $109 million in the past two years, according to the American Library Association's (ALA) library funding Web site

"Luckily, most community residents know that libraries are worth fighting for," said ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano. "From preschool literacy, to wireless Internet access and iPods, to help with job searches, library workers connect people with the resources they want and need - for free. I hope everyone will visit their local library this week and take full advantage of all the programs and services libraries offer."

The financial challenges facing libraries are steep. Newton, Mass., public schools recently announced they were laying off half of their elementary school librarians. The Bedford (Texas) Public Library faces closure after a tax rollback measure passed with a 10-vote margin. School libraries in California are trying to figure out how to buy books for roughly $1.47 per student, after state funding has fallen to $4.2 million from $158 million five years ago. At least 2,300 library jobs and 1,600 operating hours have been lost in the past two years, according to published news reports.

In the last month, however, the Rally Salinas! initiative has raised more than $240,000 in the city's bid to keep public library doors open. The Salinas (Calif.) City Council had voted to close the three libraries - including the John Steinbeck Library - in the face of a $8 million deficit for fiscal year 2005-2006. Friends groups and library users also have rallied in Philadelphia, New York and Ohio. A 2002 national poll found that 83 percent of respondents believe libraries, librarians and library workers play an essential role in our democracy and are needed now more than ever.

This year's National Library Week theme is "Something for Everyone @ your library," and Americans seem to agree. According to the most recent federal statistics, visits have more than doubled to almost 1.2 billion annually in the past decade, and a record-setting 1.79 billion items were borrowed from libraries in one year alone. Nationally, Americans spend less than the average cost of one hardcover book - about $25 a year - to support libraries.

Following is a brief list of some of the important activities taking place during National Library Week, April 10-16:

National School Library Media Month, April

Many schools will observe School Library Media Month throughout April with open houses and other events that highlight the contributions of school libraries and librarians. Research shows that the highest achieving students attend schools with well-stocked and staffed school library media centers.

Libraries host "Many Voices, One Nation, One Night @ your library" April 11

Libraries will encourage usurers to participate in a "read-aloud" from books that represent the community, state or region. The programs will showcase the community's literary heritage; serve as a celebration of reading; and provide a unique opportunity for libraries to stand up and speak out for the richness of our nation's literature and the diverse voices it represents.

National Library Workers Day (NLWD), April 12

The American Library Association-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA), an organization that advocates for improving the salaries and status of librarians and support staff, is sponsoring its second annual National Library Workers Day (NLWD). This national observance is a day for library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers - including librarians, support staff and others.

First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the ALA and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation's libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. All types of libraries - school, public, academic and special - participate.

"Libraries are community treasure chests, loaded with a wealth of information available to everyone, equally, and the key to that treasure chest is a library card," says First Lady Laura Bush, a former librarian.

To schedule interviews with national spokespeople and learn more about library trends, how libraries are helping communities, or efforts underway to recruit the next generation of librarians, please contact Larra Clark, ALA Media Relations Manager at 312-280-5043, or Macey Morales, PR Coordinator at 312-280-4393.

With more than 65,000 members worldwide, the ALA is the voice of America's libraries and the millions of people who depend on them. To learn more about National Library Week and the ALA, please visit