The American Library Association this week released its State of American Libraries report to commemorate National Library Week. But while the report extolls recent data from the Pew Research Center that shows American public libraries remain overwhelmingly popular, and relevant institutions, it also features a sobering warning: libraries face an alarming budget climate, especially school libraries, which have been devastated by budget cuts nationwide.
“School libraries continue to feel the combined pressures of recession-driven financial tightening and federal neglect,” ALA officials note, “and school libraries in some districts and some states still face elimination or de-professionalization of their programs.”
The report also cites a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released in August, 2013, which shows that school library spending on books and audiovisual materials has alarmingly decreased by an average of 10.5% from 2007–2008 to 2010–2011. Recent headlines also suggest that public schools continued to struggle in 2013 with the impact of funding cuts, and for public school libraries. For example, the report states:
- The Sarasota County (Fla.) School District eliminated all high school and middle school library media specialists for the 2013–2014 school year.
- Also in Florida, the Marion County Public Schools cut 15 of its 30 elementary-school librarian positions for 2013–2014.
- New York State mandates that middle and high schools of certain sizes have certified librarians, but enforcement is difficult, and the New York City Department of Education has requested permission to offer fewer librarians in schools, citing funding challenges and technology changes. Librarians are not required in New York elementary schools.
- Recent data from the California Department of Education confirm the ratio of school library media specialists to students to be about 1:7,000.
“On one hand, budget and testing pressures have led to decisions to eliminate or de-professionalize school libraries,” writes 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.”
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.
- 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 report, which includes the popular annual list of "the most challenged books" in the nation is here.