April 9th, 2012

Banned Books, eBooks and Facebook: Highlights from the State of Americas Libraries Report for 2012

The New York Public Library at Bryant Park

At The LAMP, we love our public libraries. It’s not just because we’re based in New York City, which is blessed to have one of the most famous public library systems in the world, but also because libraries are key to our mission of building a critical mass empowered to make smart decisions and demand more from our mass media producers. Where else can you go for access to hundreds of thousands of print and digital resources, free public programming (like ours), and a safe, quiet space to focus?

However, like so many others, we’ve sadly grown accustomed to increasingly dire news about the plight of our beloved public libraries during an economic crisis. The release today of the American Library Association’s State of America’s Libraries Report for 2012 does little to assuage fears of even further budget cuts, but it does present a useful snapshot of how libraries are evolving with new media and technologies, and how people nationwide are more dependent than ever on these pillars of their communities. A few highlights:

The Top Ten Challenged Books of 2011

Let the eye-rolling begin. While I personally don’t think any of these books should be banned, I understand why some would be offended by a few of them. The first book in The Color of Earth series is certainly explicit, opening as it does with a beetle threesome and a literal pissing contest, and ttyl hits you with a pubic hair chat by page two. Brave New World hit the Top Ten list for the second year in a row, having been spared at least since 2001, and while it was one of my favorites in high school, I do see how the book’s politics are abhorrent to some in our current hyperpartisan, fear-mongering culture. But, To Kill a Mockingbird? In 2011? You’ve got to be kidding me.

ePublishing is Breaking the Book Bank

You might think that even though publishing companies are just like any other in their need to make money, they’d be a bit more altruistic in their approach towards sales to libraries. Not so, apparently, when it comes to ebooks. Last March, Random House increased its ebook price to distributors by 100%-200%; the distributors can then add their own increases when selling to libraries. Also in March 2011, HarperCollins’ absurd 26-loan policy went into effect, meaning that its most popular titles (and only its most popular titles) can be loaned as ebooks for a maximum of 26 times, at which point the library has to repurchase the lending license. Previously, ebooks could be loaned an unlimited number of times on a single license purchase.

LLFB: Libraries Love Facebook

Facebook is far and away the most widely-used tool for promoting library services and events, with 88.8% of surveyed libraries using the platform to connect with patrons and followers. At 45.8%, Twitter comes in at a distant second place. As of January 2011, Facebook had more than 15,000 urls which included the word “libraries,” and eight out of ten libraries serving 500,000 or more patrons have a Facebook presence. The report also notes that while only a handful of libraries (including the New York Public Library) are using Google+, the service only allowed organizations to create their own pages beginning in November 2011. Be on the lookout for the numbers coming in for next year’s update.

–Emily Long

Follow The LAMP on Twitter: @thelampnyc

Follow me on Twitter: @emlong

 

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