January 18, 2022

ALA Releases “State of America’s Libraries 2021” Report

NOTE: Included in State of America’s Libraries Report 2021 is the list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020. The complete list and additional resources can be accessed here.

From the American Library Association:

Today, the American Library Association (ALA) released its State of America’s Libraries Special Report: COVID-19, a snapshot of the library communities’ resilience, determination, and innovation in unprecedented circumstances.

The State of America’s Libraries report is released annually during National Library Week, April 4 – 10, and this year’s issue focuses on the impact of the novel coronavirus on all types of libraries during the previous calendar year.  

 Like many public institutions forced to close their doors, libraries worked to adapt to a new way of doing business. Closures did not prevent library workers and libraries from serving their communities. Instead, closed physical space fueled significant innovation and opportunities to assist and support patrons and students. 

As most libraries were closed to in-person visits, libraries accelerated or adopted policies that let users access resources from a safe social distance, including offering digital library cards, creating curbside pick-up programs, and promoting ebook lending, which surged 40 percent over 2019.

Libraries played a significant role in bridging a digital divide that became more apparent during the pandemic. Families, marginalized communities, students, and rural residents struggled as the nation pivoted to virtual communication instead of in-person interactions and learning. Multiple studies cited in the report show that a significant sector of the US population lacks access to computers and broadband as well as the digital literacy skills needed to navigate the internet and ethically use communication platforms like Zoom and social media. Many libraries left their wi-fi on even as their buildings closed.

Coronavirus opened a floodgate of misinformation. Library staff worked to eradicate misinformation about COVID-19, which was infused with xenophobia and especially Sinophobia, resulting in a surge of bigotry against Asian or Chinese people. Throughout 2020, librarians responded to misinformation about vaccines, the census, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the 2020 Presidential Election.

Additional report findings show that attempts to remove library materials continued during the pandemic, despite many libraries and schools closing or moving their activities and services online. The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) tracks attempts to ban or restrict access to books across the United States and to inform the public about censorship efforts in our libraries and schools.

Direct to Full Text Report
25 pages; PDF.

Direct to Promotional Resources (Infograpics and Other Tools)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) 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.