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ALA releases 2014 State of America's Libraries Report

Trends show that libraries continue to transform to meet demand, but school libraries feel the pain of tight budgets

CHICAGO, April 13, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Libraries continue to transform to meet society's changing needs, and more than 90 percent of the respondents in an independent national survey said that libraries are important to the community.

But school libraries continue to feel the combined pressures of recession-driven financial tightening and federal neglect, according to the survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, and school libraries in some districts and some states still face elimination or de-professionalization of their programs.

These and other library trends of the past year are detailed in the American Library Association's (ALA) 2014 State of America's Libraries report, released today during National Library Week, April 13– 19.

Ninety-six percent of the Americans responding to the Pew survey agreed that public libraries are important because they provide tech resources and access to materials, and the same number found libraries valuable because they promote literacy and a love of reading.

More than 90 percent of traditional public schools have a school library, but public schools continue to struggle with the impact of funding cuts. For public school libraries, that means that professional staffing has been targeted for cuts nationwide.

The ALA is on the forefront of efforts to shore up support for school libraries.

"On one hand, budget and testing pressures have led to decisions to eliminate or de-professionalize school libraries," said Barbara K. Stripling, ALA president. "On the other hand, the increased emphasis on college and career readiness and the integration of technology have opened an unprecedented door to school librarian leadership."

Stripling and the ALA are undertaking an advocacy campaign for school libraries that sets goals in five critical areas: literacy, inquiry, social and emotional growth, creativity and imagination, and thoughtful use of technology. The task for school librarians, Stripling said, is to fulfill the dream that every school across the country will have an effective school library program.

On another front, Banned Books Week, sponsored by the ALA and other organizations, highlights the benefits of free access to information and the perils of censorship by spotlighting the actual or attempted banning of books.

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). The 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 2013, the OIF received 307 reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves.  This is a decrease from 2012 totals, which stood at 464 attempts.

"We are delighted to see that so many are supporting the right of each person to read what he or she wants," said OIF Executive Director Barbara Jones. However, we should not read into the decrease in book challenges reported to the ALA, as the removal of just one book from a library prevents hundreds from having free access to information."

2013 Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books
Out of 307 challenges

1) Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence

2) The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

3) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

4) Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

5) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

6) A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit

7) Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

8) The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

9) Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

10)  Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

Other key trends detailed in the 2014 State of America's Libraries Report:

  • More and more public libraries are turning to the use of web technologies, including websites, online account access, blogs, rich site summary (RSS) feeds, catalog search boxes, sharing interfaces, Facebook and Twitter.
  • The economic downturn is continuing at most institutions of higher learning, and academic librarians are working to transform programs and services by re-purposing space and redeploying staff in the digital resources environment.
  • President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill in January that will fund the federal government through September and partially restore funding to the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) — the primary source of annual funding for libraries in the federal budget — that were dramatically cut in the 2013 fiscal year under sequestration.

The full text of the 2014 State of America's Libraries report is available at http://www.ala.org/news/state-americas-libraries-report-2014 .

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 57,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

SOURCE American Library Association

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