Today the American Library Association (ALA) released its 2020 State of America’s Libraries report, an annual summary of library trends released during National Library Week, April 19 – 25, that outlines statistics and issues affecting all types of libraries during the previous calendar year.
Although the report focuses on 2019, libraries are shown to be on the frontlines addressing societal and community challenges — a role they are certainly playing during the COIVD-19 pandemic today. Many libraries serve as first responders who take on roles outside of traditional library service that support patrons’ needs and community development. Functioning at various times as career counselors, social workers, teachers and technology instructors, library staff give special care to adopt programs and services that support the most vulnerable and curious.
The report found that the popularity of libraries in 2019 continues to soar. According to a recent Gallup poll, visiting the library is the “most common cultural activity Americans engage in by far.” In 2019, US adults reported taking an average of 10.5 trips per year to the library, a frequency that exceeded their participation in other common leisure activities like going to the movies, a museum or the zoo.
The best proof that public libraries are about more than just books is their evolution into libraries of things, offering nontraditional collections that are community-specific and imaginative. The wide array of items available to check out includes mattresses, dolls, bicycles, binoculars, and accordions.
Our nation’s academic libraries have a major impact on student success. Statistics gathered by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of ALA, demonstrate how academic libraries support many types of high-impact educational practices (HIPS) that have beneficial effects on student retention, graduation rates, time to graduation and grade point average.
School librarians have focused on instructing students in information literacy to ensure they are ready to use data in decision-making. The perception is that youth growing up with access to ubiquitous technology can easily and effectively use data; however, a recent report on data literacy found that “60% of US workers 16 to 24 years old—people who had been raised surrounded by technology—are overwhelmed by the data they must read and analyze as part of their jobs.”
Other library trends are available in the full text of the State of America’s Libraries 2020 report, available at http://bit.ly/soal-2020 .
First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is observed each April by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country. National Library Week celebrations include National Library Workers Day, April 21; National Bookmobile Day, April 22, and Take Action for Libraries Day, April 23. For more information on National Library Week, please visit ILoveLibraries.org/NLW or follow #NationalLibraryWeek.