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ALA Releases 'The State of America’s Libraries, 2011'
The Great Recession may have come to an end, but hard-pressed Americans continue to turn to their local libraries for help in finding a job or launching their own business. This and other library trends of the past year are detailed in The State of America’s Libraries, 2011, released during National Library Week, April 10-16, 2011, by the American Library Association (ALA).
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 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 % vs. 58 %) to fall into this category, especially working women, working mothers, and women aged 18-54. Overall, 58 % 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.
Thirty-one percent of adults rank the library at the top of their list of tax-supported services, and a study conducted in Philadelphia shows that their taxes are in fact well spent. The University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government conducted an economic impact study of the Free Library of Philadelphia that provided bottom-line evidence that the return on investment in library service more than justifies the costs. The study concludes that the library created more than $30 million worth of economic value to the city in fiscal 2010 and that it had a particularly strong impact on business development and employment.
Nevertheless, media reports of cuts and cutbacks to library budgets and services abounded in 2010 and early this year. 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. 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 %. That study also found that state cuts often were compounded by cuts at the local level.
Some other key trends detailed in the 2011 State of America’s Libraries Report:
- The availability of wireless internet in public libraries is approaching 85 %, 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 ebooks, as do more than two-thirds of public libraries. For most libraries, ebooks are still only a small percentage of circulated items–but represent the fastest-growing segment.
- U.S. libraries of all types continue to make increasing use of social media and Web 2.0 applications and tools to connect with library users and to market programs and services. Facebook, Twitter, and blogging tools are the favorites.
- Taxpayers entrusted libraries with their tax dollars by approving 87 % of operating measures on ballots across the country.
The full text of The State of America’s Libraries, 2011, is available at http://ala.org/ala/newspresscenter/mediapresscenter/americaslibraries2011/index.cfm.
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