Thinkfinity features ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report

Contact: Mark Gould


ALA Public Information Office


For Immediate Release

April 14, 2009

(CHICAGO) — The value of libraries in communities across the country continued to grow in 2008—and accelerated dramatically as the national economy sank and people looked for cost effective resources in a time of crisis, according to the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual State of America’s Libraries report, released  as part of  National Library Week, April 12-18, 2009.

To learn more about the State of America’s Libraries report,” visit, a collection of resources featuring librarian specific content from ALA. is the Verizon Foundation’s comprehensive program and online portal to 55,000 standards-based, grade-specific, K-12 lesson plans and other educational resources provided in partnership with many of the nation’s leading educational and literacy organizations. Content for is provided through a partnership between the Verizon Foundation and 11 of the nation’s leading organizations in the fields of education and literacy.

U.S. libraries experienced a dramatic increase in library card registration as the public continues to turn to their local library for free services. More than 68 percent of Americans have a library card. This is the greatest number of Americans with library cards since the American Library Association (ALA) started to measure library card usage in 1990, according to a 2008 Web poll conducted by Harris Interactive.Â

The report also says library usage soared as Americans visited their libraries nearly 1.4 billion times and checked out more than 2 billion items in the past year, an increase of more than 10 percent in both checked out items and library visits, compared to data from the last economic downturn in 2001.

However, public funding did not keep pace with use, according to a survey conducted by the ALA. Forty-one percent of states report declining state funding for U.S. public libraries for fiscal year 2009. Twenty percent of these states anticipate an additional reduction in the current fiscal year.

While reductions have been seen from coast to coast, the southeastern section of the country has been the hardest hit, with declines as large as 30 percent in South Carolina and 23.4 percent in Florida in FY09 compared with FY08. Per capita state aid in South Carolina has fallen back to 2003 levels, at the same time inflation has averaged between 2.5 and 3.4 percent annually. Additionally:

The effects of the slumping economy on local libraries were often painful, and many community colleges began reducing library hours or staff just when enrollment was swollen by unemployed people seeking to acquire new skills

Even as funding began to falter, the report shows that libraries continued to serve as excellent community resource offering users a goldmine of information, resources and support for those affected by the recession.

Libraries continue to report that job-related activities are a priority use of their computers and Internet services. Nationwide, libraries are offering programs tailored to meet local community economic needs, providing residents with guidance (including sessions with career advisers), training and workshops in resume writing and interviewing, job-search resources, and connections with outside agencies that offer training and job placement.

However, despite increased demand for library computers, libraries typically have not seen a corresponding increase in budgets, and many are challenged to provide enough computers or fast-enough connection speeds to meet demand.”

ALA President Jim Rettig said,“As illustrated in the ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report, in times of economic hardship, Americans turn to – and depend on – their libraries and librarians.”

The ALA State of America’s Library Report is produced annually and reports on key library  trends and data