The "State of America's Libraries 2011" Report Has Been Released By the ALA
The report was made available earlier today and the full text is now available as an HTML or PDF document on the ALA web site.
A news release/summary lists several trends found in the State of America’s Libraries 2011 report.
Even as budget-cutters take aim at libraries and their services, more than two-thirds of the 1,000-plus adults contacted in a survey in January said that the library’s assistance in starting a business or finding a job was important to them, according to the poll, conducted for the American Library Association (ALA) by Harris Interactive.
Sixty-five percent of those polled said they had visited the library in the past year; women are significantly more likely than men (72 percent vs. 58 percent) to fall into this category, especially working women, working mothers and women aged 18-54. Overall, 58 percent of those surveyed said they had a library card, and the largest group was, again, women, especially working women and working mothers. College graduates and those with a household income of more than $100,000 were also well represented among card holders, according to the survey.
[Emphasis Ours] U.S. mayors reported in November that hours, staff or services at local libraries was the No. 2 budget area that been cut, second only to maintenance and services at parks and gardens. And another study indicated that 19 states reported cuts in funding for public libraries from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2011 and that more than half said the cuts were greater than 10 percent. That study also found that state cuts often were compounded by cuts at the local level.
- The availability of wireless Internet in public libraries is approaching 85 percent, and about two-thirds of them extend wireless access outside the library. Computer usage at public libraries continues to increase.
- Almost all academic libraries offer e-books, as do more than two-thirds of public libraries. For most libraries, e-books are only still a small percentage of circulated items – but represent the fastest-growing segment.
- Students and faculty are using academic libraries more than ever. During a typical week, academic libraries had more than 31 million searches in electronic databases, answered 469,000 reference questions and made 12,000 group presentations. At the same time, many academic libraries are grappling with budget reductions and subsequent restructuring.
- Taxpayers entrusted libraries with their tax dollars by approving 87 percent of operating measures on ballots across the country.
- School expenditures on information resources decreased 9.4 percent from the previous year. Nevertheless, the average number of hours school library staff spent each week delivering instruction continued to increase (0.5 hours more than in 2009, for a total of 15 hours).
- The library profession continues its efforts to make its ranks more accessible to minorities and to strengthen its outreach efforts to underserved populations. The ALA’s Spectrum Scholarship Program, for example, awarded 75 scholarships in 2010 to members of underrepresented groups to help them pursue master’s degrees. And the Family Literacy Focus initiative, launched by 2009-2010 ALA President Camila Alire, encourages families in ethnically diverse communities to read and learn together.
- The library community is both struggling to keep up with the digital revolution –– and envisioning a future that incorporates new philosophies, technologies and spaces to meet all users’ needs more effectively. As one analyst notes, the changes “go beyond merely incorporating technological advances to include rethinking the very core of what defines a library — [a] sense of place, of service, and of community.”
A Few Comments:
Once again we read that people are using libraries (and visiting the physical structures) a lot but at the same time we’re continuing to see library funding– both at the state and local levels–cut.
Why? A good question that we wish we had a definitive answer to. One thing we keep coming back to is that library users seem to appreciate what we do (they’re using the service) but those who provide the funding see less of a need.
In terms of public libraries this could tell us that we need to be even MORE PROACTIVE (yes, this is MUCH easier said than done) in informing elected officials and their staffs about the services we offer and the value libraries provide to the populations they serve. If possible, don’t just tell them and provide slides but get them in the library and show them. You can also tell them that many of the services libraries provide are available to users 24x7x365 from anywhere in the world.
Perhaps we also need to do more to provide library services specifically to local businesses. This might mean helping with research, preparing a list of useful research bookmarks /web pages, or going to the business and giving a seminar on one or more topics and that leave attendees with tools to take away from the session and use as soon as it’s over. One session might be on business research and another more of personal development session.
Local businesses and the people are very often an important part of the tax base and politicians are likely to pay a lot of attention to these people. In other words, having many friends (both politicians, business people, and library users) in the right places can’t hurt.
Finally, local/regional efforts also need to involve the companies that provide services to the libraries. They have a vested interest in not only the survival of public libraries but also seeing them grow and expand moving forward.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.