CHICAGO, April 11, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 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.
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.
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. It also showed that homes located within a quarter-mile of a branch library were worth an average of $9,630 more than homes outside that radius, an indication that the presence of a library is associated with larger real estate tax revenues.
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. 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.
Other key trends detailed in the 2011 State of America's Libraries Report:
- 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.
- A battle over the future of widely used e-books was joined in March, when HarperCollins announced that it will not allow its e-books to be checked out from a library more than 26 times, raising the possibility that e-books that are not repurchased would be available at the library for only about a year.
- 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.
- 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 percent of operating measures on ballots across the country.
- Libraries, bookstores and individuals nationwide continue to battle censorship, and thousands of people read from banned or challenged books during Banned Books Week (Sept. 25–Oct. 2, 2010). Leading the Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books published annually by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom were "And Tango Makes Three" (by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson), "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" (by Sherman Alexie), and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," which has been stimulating would-be censors almost continuously since its publication – in 1932.
- 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.
- To turn children into lifelong readers, libraries are building spaces as creative and playful as their youngest patrons. And those spaces are becoming greener: Environmental sustainability continues to gain the attention of library designers, with a number of new libraries certified under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program.
- 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."
The full text of The State of America's Libraries, 2011, is available at http://tinyurl.com/alasalr2011.
SOURCE American Library Association