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Friday, January 11, 2013

Library Survival By The Numbers


Libraries seem to be under threat. First, budget cuts in a recessionary era could potentially close or severely limit a library’s ability to function. Second, the needs of the community change with technology, and the libraries will have to change with them. But libraries are still so important to us. Here are some reminders why libraries must be preserved:

1.      With the closing of bookstores and a society that increasingly connects through technology rather than in person, libraries serve the community by bringing people together.

2.      They serve the poor, young parents, seniors, and anyone looking to find a reading oasis.

3.      Publishers need them because libraries buy books and authors need them as speaking venues.

4.      They set standards, based on its collection, as to what information is important and which books are truly worth reading.

5.      They offer databases and expensive directories that most individuals would never buy but would like to access.

6.      The librarian’s knowledge, experience, and training is invaluable in helping to teach others about books, research, and archiving information.

7.      The library has historical and local materials, such as century-old publications, that are not readily available elsewhere.

I cannot imagine a world without libraries. But unless funding increases from the government or fundraising efforts improve, libraries will need to look at how to run a non-profit like a business.

According to Library Journal, in a survey of hundreds of libraries across the country, 60% of libraries reported an increase in their operating budget, but 36% suffered a drop. The increases were tiny, while expenses and needs increased. The budget to purchase materials, such as books, increased by as much as 2.9% for some library systems and yet decreased by 2.4% at the largest ones. Overall, budgets were up 1.2% from a year ago, which does not outpace increases in salaries (2.2%). One in four surveyed libraries said they cut staff in 2012.

Of materials spending, 60% goes for print books. Only 5% goes for ebooks. Audiobooks account for 7.5%. Music only gets 2.7% but DVDs and movie downloads garnered 10.3%.

One may think with the expensive offerings of the Internet that libraries are obsolete. But even if there is now access to more information on our smart phones than libraries used to have on their shelves, libraries play a valuable role in society and I hope we find a way to support them – as tax payers, as patrons, and as donors. Give back the gift of literacy and community by supporting your local library…before it is too late.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2013 ©

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