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Libraries - Feature Article

Challenges Libraries Face
by Samantha Bise, Library Resources Intern -

Challenges Libraries Face - Feature Article on

Some are saying that libraries and librarians are no longer a necessity in the world of information and knowledge, while others are saying they are more necessary now than ever. It’s a source of disagreement among communities, but one thing is unarguable: libraries are facing challenges and changes recently. Budget cuts, the digital age, and growing demands of librarians are creating challenges, but libraries are pushing through these hard times and adapting.

Budget Cuts

Arguably, the greatest challenge that American libraries are currently facing are financial issues. The budget cuts in higher education affect academic libraries, and recent government budget cuts affect public libraries. This directly impacts the services libraries are able to offer, but librarians and other library staff are trying to do the best with what they have.

These cutbacks have forced some libraries to cut back their hours, lay off staff, creatively budget, and in some cases, close their doors entirely. Some libraries are raising money on their own within their communities. The first step most libraries take to save money is to stop purchasing new materials—books, DVDs, and CDs—for the time being. In 2010, the American Library Association reported that libraries in 45 states and the District of Columbia have been struggling with the recent taxes and troubled housing market.

Libraries still serve as a focal point within a community, and many people are fighting to keep libraries an important part of society as we know it. “Closing a library in a recession is like closing a hospital during the plague.” When people are suffering financially, they are more apt to go to their local library for free books, movies, Internet access, and other materials. People are reported to go to the library to apply for jobs online, which seems like a small step, but it is vital to improve the economical issues.

In attempt to keep the library up and running, some public libraries are offering additional services. Most libraries offer tech. services, like computers. Some have started offering passport processing to bring in more annual revenue.

Most libraries are striving to simply maintain their collections and to avoid having to make any drastic cutbacks. Brian Downing, president of Library Ideas, said “Libraries have to buy DVDs, they have to get them into their inventory and on the shelf, and then they have to have the labor to manage the transactions. Any activity at the library costs money.”

Academic libraries are mostly linked to state budgets and grant funding. They are facing challenges, because the price of scholarly journals are inflating, but scholarly journals and access to databases are necessary for students and professionals conducting research. A lot of academic libraries are in the transitions of going digital to conform to the needs of the 21st century academic world, and this, unfortunately, is not a free process.

Maintaining a library costs money—purchasing materials, maintaining collections, allowing patrons to access material, etc. Libraries nationwide are doing their best during this time of struggle to keep the library alive for the community. Access to information is symbolic of freedom. People should have free availability to information, no matter what the country’s financial situation is. Libraries, as an information-based institution, have a duty to fulfill to communities.

The Digital Age

Ruth A Wooden says in her article The Future of Public Libraries in an Internet Age, “The feeling that libraries are central to healthy communities is even more common among those who are most actively engaged in communities: the voters, volunteers, and contributors who make communities strong and can usually be counted on to raise a ruckus when things go wrong.”

A fear that many have is that technological advancements will replace libraries and librarians. We are currently experiencing a transition to a more digitally literate world. New information/communication-based technology has allowed students, scholars, professionals, and the general public to conduct research from the comfort of their own homes; some people take advantage of this luxury, but they do not realize that libraries have access to resources that can take you deep below the surface of any topic. Libraries have databases, books from throughout times, and research librarians. These things cannot be accessed through a simple Google search.

The Librarian Revolution

Books are not the only aspect of librarianship, like some people seem to think. It is easy to assume that the only responsibility of librarians is to check out books to patrons, because this is the only part of their job that the general public witnesses.

A librarian’s job is to connect people and information. They choose the material available in their library, organize it, help patrons access it, and maintain their collections. These same basic duties are still present in the job description of a librarian, but they are evolving.

Librarians must adapt to the needs of their patrons and the public. The general public contains people with varying demands. Students, scholars, professionals, and other community members are constantly demanding information in multiple formats. Librarians are responsible for making these formats—books, websites, databases, etc.—easily accessible for all patrons. Some people are under the impression that librarians have been replaced by computers, but there is more to research than a Google search. There is an enormous amount of information that can be found in formats only available to those willing to purchase—i.e. libraries.

A search on the worldwide web can bring up hundreds of millions of results. Librarians are trained to narrow down the results and stay up-to-date with evolving electronic resources. Librarians are not library-based professionals; they are information-based professionals, so they are also responsible for networking with other information professionals and institutions.

With access to information, comes liability. Written word, whether it is on paper or digital, must be cited. Librarians must choose what databases to purchase and are accountable for copyrights.

Librarians must be extremely computer literate. They maintain a strong web presence by creating a user-friendly library web page with available resource links. They also manage databases and other electronic resources.

The library as a physical place still plays an important role within a community, but the role of the librarian and how they link patrons to information is undergoing a change. Librarians are lifelong learners, on a quest to aid other lifelong learners.


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As a free educational literacy initiative, features information, recommendations, and resources about libraries below.  From blogs about libraries to the challenges and opportunities facing libraries today, you'll want to explore the below information, but more importantly, visit your local library and share your experience here on

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