Monday, February 16, 2009

Usage of Public Libraries Is Soaring Across the Country

Americans Enjoy Respite from Recession Woes at Local Libraries

Any devoted library patron could easily list the exciting range of resources and services offered by our public libraries—from printed books to audio books, movie classics to video games, and preschool story time to the tutoring of adults learning English as a second language. With our economy sinking even deeper into recession, book lovers and job seekers are hanging out at the local library, perusing the stacks and surfing the internet. The increased traffic is in fact breaking all kinds of records around the country.

The Boston Globe reported in January that usage of the Newark Public Library in New Jersey is up 17 %; new library card requests have increased 61 % at the Boise Public Library; and in Brantley County, Georgia, library computer usage was up 26 % in the last quarter. Computer usage is critical as the American Library Association notes that 73 % of all libraries nationwide offer the only free Internet access in their communities. The continuation of free computer and Internet access at our nation’s libraries is essential to millions of Americans who rely on these resources for getting jobs.

Despite the increased traffic at America’s public libraries, funding is being slashed and branches are in danger of being closed. Recognizing the tragic irony of the fiscal crisis, Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director of the ALA Washington Office, has stated that “Public libraries stand ready to help communities recover from this economic tailspin. Governors and mayors need to make sure that the funding for these multi-purpose economic engines is in place.”

What can be done to support funding for our local libraries?

The ALA website offers an action list, “Two Minutes Can Make a Difference,” that explains how you can advocate for public library funding. The action list includes not only ways to contact your congressman, but also means for staying informed and spreading the word about this critical issue.

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