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ALA releases State of America’s Libraries 2019 report

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

CHICAGO – The American Library Association (ALA) released its State of America’s Libraries 2019 report, an annual summary of library trends released during National Library Week, April 7-13, that outlines statistics and issues affecting all types of libraries. Never have our nation’s libraries played such a pivotal role in strengthening communities through education and lifelong learning.

Libraries are a microcosm of the larger society. They play an important and unique role in the communities that they serve and provide an inclusive environment where all are treated with respect and dignity.

No longer just places for books, our public libraries serve as a lifeline for some of our nation’s most vulnerable communities. From community-wide issues as illiteracy, homelessness and community silos, our nation’s public libraries are acting as catalysts in fostering community-wide solutions that strengthen communities.

The report found that library workers are on the frontlines addressing community challenges. Many 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 counselor, social worker, teacher and technology instructor, library staff give special care to adopt programs and services that support our most vulnerable and curious.

Additional findings illustrate library workers’ efforts to safeguard library collections and the freedom to read. In 2018 hundreds of attempts to remove materials or eliminate programs took place in public, school and academic libraries. Many of these library materials and services included or addressed LGBTQIA+ content.

Traditionally the ALA releases a Top Ten List within the State of America’s Libraries Report. This year 11 books were selected, since two titles were tied for the final position on the list. Both books were burned by a religious activist to protest a Pride event.

In 2018, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) tracked 347 challenges to library, school and university materials and services. Overall, 483 books were challenged or banned in 2018, with the following comprising the top 11 most frequently challenged:

  • “George,” by Alex Gino; Reason: for including a transgender character
  • “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo,” by Jill Twiss, illustrated by E. G. Keller; Reasons: for LGBTQIA+ content, political and religious viewpoints
  • “Captain Underpants” series, written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey; Reasons: for including a same-sex couple, perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior
  • “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas; Reasons: for profanity, drug use, sexual references, deemed “anti-cop”
  • “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier; Reason: for LGBTQIA+ characters and themes
  • “Thirteen Reasons Why,” by Jay Asher; Reason: for addressing teen suicide
  • “This One Summer,” by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki; Reasons: for profanity, sexual references, certain illustrations
  • “Skippyjon Jones” series, written and illustrated by Judy Schachner; Reason: for depicting cultural stereotypes
  • “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie Reasons: for profanity, sexual references, religious viewpoint
  • “This Day in June,” by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten; Reason: for LGBTQIA+ content
  • “Two Boys Kissing,” by David Levithan; Reason: for LGBTQIA+ content

Additional information regarding why the books were challenged, access to a Top 11 List video announcement, and infographics regarding the 2018 Top 11 List of Most Challenged Books are available online. A video of this year’s Top 11 List is available on Youtube.

Other library trends are available in the full text of the 2019 State of America’s Libraries report.

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 9; National Bookmobile Day, April 10, and Take Action for Libraries Day, April 11.

For more information on National Library Week, please visit ILoveLibraries.org/NLW or follow #NationalLibraryWeek.

American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, ALA has been the trusted voice of libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit ALA's website.

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