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ALA releases The State of America’s Libraries

Here’s a major report released April 14, 2008 ready to be distributed and digested. It covers school, public and academic libraries. Highlights are in the executive summary but do go download the full report. The price is right.
The State of America’s Libraries
Executive Summary

Libraries are engines of learning, literacy, and economic development
Libraries of all kinds continue to play an expanding role in American communities, serving the needs of patrons of all ages and reaching out to those who have been underserved. In this Report on the State of America’s Libraries 2008, the American Library Association finds that:
School library media centers were in the public eye, but even as their value was ever more widely acknowledged, funding for them continued to lag — and people organized to win support for them.
Americans acknowledged the proven connection between school library media centers and the kind of education that is essential to success in a global society. Studies in 19 states have shown that a strong school library media program helps students learn more and score higher on standardized tests than peers in schools without such programs.1 And it’s clear that students themselves understand this: They make 1.5 billion visits to school library media centers each year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
For the first time ever, funding for school libraries and the school library media specialists who staff them is declining. Nationally, library expenditures per pupil decreased to $13.67 in 2003-2004 from $19.14 in 1999-2000, a drop of almost 30 percent, according to the NCES. They have since dropped to $11.24, according to a 2007 survey.
In Washington state, where only about half the school library media centers have a full-time paid teacher librarian,2 three determined Spokane mothers led a year-long grassroots campaign to secure state funding for school libraries, which currently are funded locally. As the nation’s library officials and legislators watched, the campaign held an all-day summit conference and rally on Feb. 1, 2008, in the state capital. Due in part to their efforts, the state legislature has passed a bill that would institute state funding for school libraries.
Libraries and their supporters rallied behind the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act, introduced in both houses of Congress as a part of the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. The SKILLs Act stipulates that every school must have a school library staffed by a state-certified school library media specialist.
The library community also sharpened its focus in 2007 on outreach to underserved and/or isolated populations. A study conducted for the ALA Office for Research & Statistics showed, among other things, that:
Spanish is far and away the most supported non-English language in U.S. public libraries.
The majority of libraries serving non-English speakers are in communities with fewer than 100,000 residents.
Literacy and lack of knowledge of library services are significant barriers for non-English speakers.
Seventy-eight percent of the survey respondents said Spanish was the top-priority non-English language to which they devote services and programs, followed by Asian languages at 29 percent. The ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, Office for Diversity, Public Programs Office, and Public Information Office will use the study data to develop advocacy and training tools for librarians.
Other noteworthy trends in 2007 included:
Americans continue to check out more than 2 billion items each year from their public libraries, and more and more people make use of libraries’ educational and social resources. The average user takes out seven-plus books a year, but patrons also go to their libraries to borrow DVDs, learn new computer skills, conduct job searches, and participate in the activities of local community organizations. Average bill to the taxpayer for this remarkable range of public services: $31 a year, about the cost of one hardcover book.
New studies also offered more detailed data on public libraries as engines of economic growth, highlighting ways in which library programming in early literacy, employment services, and small-business development contributes to local economic development in urban areas. Other studies show that libraries provide an excellent return on investment, have a measurable positive impact on the local economy, and contribute to the stability, safety, and quality of life of their neighborhoods.
Teenagers — far from confining themselves to their school library media centers — are also regular users of public library services. Almost all the nation’s public libraries now offer programs tailored to the needs and interests of young adults, and more than half employ at least one full-time staff equivalent in this area, a sharp increase in the past decade.
Computer and online games have become part of the mix at many public libraries, and some use gaming to attract new patrons. “Libraries’ response to gaming is just another indication that the profession is alert to the needs and desires of its patrons and is aware of the ways in which this interest interconnects with more traditional services, now and in the future,” said ALA President Loriene Roy.
Going to the library is more and more often a virtual outing rather than an actual visit, and growing patron enthusiasm for the computer and Internet services offered by public libraries has stretched existing Internet bandwidth, computer availability, and building infrastructure to capacity. Budgets have not kept up with demand, and many libraries cannot provide enough computers or fast-enough connection speeds to meet patron needs.
E-books continued to emerge as a regular feature of libraries of all types, and the world tried to figure out ways to read them on something handier than a PC or a notebook. Amazon’s pricey Kindle, launched in November, had mixed reviews — and strong sales.
Construction and renovation of libraries not only kept pace with their evolving and expanding needs but provided many structures that are both functional and beautiful.6
Library supporters won an important victory in 2007 when the president signed a bill ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to re-open many of the libraries it had closed in the past year. EPA administrators had said that online functions met the information needs of agency staff, researchers, and the public, but scientists, librarians, EPA staff, and, ultimately, Congress did not agree.
In another important victory, librarians were instrumental in seeing the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy become mandatory through Congressional action in late December. Taxpayers invest $28 billion annually in the NIH to fund a wide variety of research in health, scientific, and other fields, resulting in more than 60,000 peer-reviewed articles per year. Now, wide, rapid, and easy access to the results of this research will help everyone in community college, college, and university libraries who wishes to apply it or build on it, advancing research and serving the public good.
College and research libraries continue to play a central role in the life of their institutions and to find innovative new ways to meet the rapidly evolving needs of the academy. Academic librarians see an opportunity to serve the emerging and unmet needs of students and faculty that arise in the changing environment of higher education. All types and sizes of academic libraries are major players in the design of economic and efficient business models in support of new educational initiatives such as hybrid classes, community-based partnerships, support for distributed learning, and creation of digital destinations in support of using social networking in the academy.
Finally, libraries and librarians of all stripes continue to stand up for the First Amendment rights of all Americans, responding in public discourse and in court to unconstitutional snooping and aspiring book-banners. The right to read — freely and in private — remains a core value of the profession.
This report presents some of the highlights of 2007 and a summary of where we stand in 2008 as stewards of a venerable and vital American institution — the library.”
Check out the State of America’s Libraries report at

Posted on: April 15, 2008, 4:51 pm Category: Uncategorized

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