State of America’s Libraries Report 2013
CHICAGO — Libraries and library staff continue to respond to the needs of their communities, providing key resources as budgets are reduced, speaking out forcefully against book-banning attempts and advocating for free access to digital content in libraries, with a keen focus placed on ebook formats.
Led by the American Library Association (ALA), libraries offer resources often unavailable elsewhere during an economic “recovery” that finds about 12 million Americans unemployed and millions more underemployed. And the library community continues to rally support for school libraries, which seem destined to bear the brunt of federal budget sequestration.
These and other library trends of the past year are detailed in the ALA’s 2013 State of America’s Libraries Report, released today during National Library Week, April 14 – 20.
The more than 16,000 public libraries nationwide “offer a lifeline to people trying to adapt to challenging economic circumstances by providing technology training and online resources for employment, access to government resources, continuing education, retooling for new careers, and starting a small business,” according to ALA President Maureen Sullivan. Three-fourths of public libraries offer software and other resources to help patrons create résumés and employment materials, and library staff helps patrons complete online job applications.
Meanwhile, there were events held nationwide that highlighted the benefits of free access to information and the perils of censorship by spotlighting the actual or attempted banning of books. Events like Banned Books Week, sponsored by the ALA and other organizations to stress the importance of maintaining First Amendment rights, marked its 30th anniversary Sept. 30–Oct. 6, 2012.
A perennial highlight of Banned Books Week is the Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books, compiled annually by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). OIF collects reports on book challenges from librarians, teachers, concerned individuals and press reports. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness. In 2012, OIF received 464 reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves. This is an increase from 2011 totals, which stood at 326 attempts.