Libraries are a Vital Community Resource in the Information Age

IMLS Report: Libraries are a Vital Community Resource in the Information Age

The report can be viewed here. [PDF]

Washington, DC—The character of library services has changed dramatically with the advent of new information technologies, the continuous development of locally-tailored services, and the expectations of the 21st century library user, according to the first analysis of the Grants to States program by the Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS). The report, “Catalyst for Change: LSTA Grants to State Program and the Transformation of Libraries Services to the Public,” focuses on services provided through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grants to State Library Agencies, the single largest source of federal funding for the nation’s libraries and the only library grants that require state-wide planning. IMLS conducted the study to inform the American public, the Administration, Congress and the library community about the program’s contributions.

To address the growing demand for online services, libraries have added computer workstations, increased available bandwidth, and provided training in communities where they are often the sole provider of free access to the Internet. Some State Libraries Agencies are incorporating technology investments into their statewide strategic plans while other states manage such investments on a local or regional basis, according to the new report.

“The program’s flexibility is its greatest strength because it allows each state to tailor program services to the specific needs of its citizens. The unique nature of each state’s approach can present real challenges for evaluation because no two state programs are alike. It is like comparing apples, oranges, kiwis, and kumquats. But a common thread that connects these programs is a dedication to providing state-of-the-art programming and information services that meet a clear and compelling local need,” said Carlos Manjarrez, IMLS Associate Deputy Director for Research and Statistics.

To underscore this state-by-state variability, the report provides a two-page snapshot of immediate challenges, program goals for 2008-2012, and an exemplary project for each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The report draws on the December 2008 analysis of 9,000 state program reports from the Grants to States Program between FY 2003 and FY 2006 by Ethel Himmel and Bill Wilson, a library consulting firm, and the annual State Library Agency Surveys collected by the National Center for Education Statistics and IMLS between 1998 and 2007.

Based on the data, IMLS identified three broad strategies advanced by Grants to States programming: human capital development, library service expansion and access, and development of information and technology infrastructure. The report also provides:
• a description of the Grants to States program also known as the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA); • a discussion of the local factors that affect state program plans; • a review of program activities submitted in state program annual reports; and an • an analysis of program expenditures.

“Libraries build community in many ways,” noted Laurie Brooks, Associate Deputy Director for Library Services. “Whether through preparing children for school, helping small businesses thrive, providing technology training for seniors, or imparting a new language, libraries are essential community resources in the information age. The Library Grants to States program provides an important opportunity to plan and support these vital community-building initiatives.”

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit www.imls.gov.

The following is a text-only press release from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). An HTML version of this release can be read on the agency's Web site at http://www.imls.gov/news/2009/070109.shtm.

The report can be viewed at http://www.imls.gov/pdf/CatalystForChange.pdf

Press Contacts
202-653-4632

Jeannine Mjoseth, jmjoseth@imls.gov
Mamie Bittner, mbittner@imls.gov

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Libraries are vital, I agree...

I couldn't agree more that libraries are vital to communities. There is absolutely no doubt about the importance of libraries to society. But, who voted these upper class wealthy politicians that are doing the slashing and closing. Those poor people and those that cannot afford computers and internet access, if they did vote at all!! Why don't these poor people who need libraries vote the ones that do understand libraries better instead of the wealthy ones that don't care about libraries at all! So, people, go and vote for the politician that would die for libraries!

yes Libraries are vital

"how come you hear so many instances where their funding are being slashed and libraries are closing down"

If there is one thing I learned in college (and it was a common theme throughout my undergrad studies) it was to think critically. The above question is asked all the time, but you are basing your doubt on the fact that the politicians who are doing the slashing and closing know what they are doing. Basically they are making hasty decisions and cutting the "fat" in order to balance their budgets. Without proper studies and investigations, many seemingly "frivolous" depts and programs get cut. In all my years in the public library, not many of the politicians who are deciding the future of the library ever set foot in the place. The ones who do use us, are usually the ones fighting for us because they know our worth.
The people who decide to do the slashing and closing do not understand the community library's importance since most of them are upper middle class to wealthy individuals who would just as soon buy all of their materials than step foot into a library. I would love to see reports in the near future that show the decay of the communities who are forced to closed their library doors. Libraries are very vital to those who cannot afford computers or internet access. Many out of work people need to use the library to job hunt--either through newspapers or online employment sites. Many need to come in to fill out their unemployment paperwork or apply for services to help them and their families. Guess what, most of them are sent to us by the very agencies who are supposed to help them. I bet you didn't know libraries are the only place you can get tax forms nowadays. Post offices and banks don't carry them anymore. People with home computers and costly internet access can download most (but not all ) of the forms and instruction booklets and print them out (using up expensive ink) but hey if you can afford it, go ahead and print the 1040 booklet and every form you need-- or better yet hire someone to do them for you.
What about at risk children? The library provides books, materials and programming to those children hoping to instill a love of reading in them. Having the ability to read makes a person more successful in life.
How about the elderly who live on fixed incomes??? I have many elderly people who come in just pick out their supply of books each week. Many lost their tvs when the digital conversion took place. They couldn't afford to get a converter box, so they are reading more. It stimulates their brains--keeps them sharp.
You can get almost any information you need by visiting the library--Librarians are highly trained information specialists. And they are friendly and eager to help everyone.
Did you know libraries also carry the latest movies, novels and, many times, Music collections. Things we can enjoy for free-as long as they are returned on time (this is the one thing that people need to be diligent about).
Go visit your library and ask them to go over everything they offer--you'd be amazed at what they tell you and by seeing the people who are there.
Please don't base your opinion about the necessity of libraries solely on a bunch of short sighted and ignorant politicians who make poor decisions--they are clueless and panicky. Very soon they'll be spending more money to keep the rising crime rates down. Studies have been done and you can look them up--or better yet, go to the library and have them look it up for you.

Really?

If libraries are vital community resources, how come you hear so many instances where their funding are being slashed and libraries are closing down?

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