Despite Flat Budgets, State Library Agencies Invest in Technology Services

March 18, 2010
 
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

IMLS Press Contacts
202-653-4632
Jeannine Mjoseth, jmjoseth@imls.gov
Mamie Bittner, mbittner@imls.gov

Washington, DC—Despite the lack of real growth in their budgets in recent years, state library agencies are working strategically to assist library professionals and local libraries to meet patrons’ needs, according to State Library Agency Service Trends: 1999–2008, a new research brief by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Limited resources are being shifted as libraries services are being redefined. Over the past 10 years, for example, real dollar expenditures on statewide database licensing more than doubled, reaching a total of $65.8 million in 2008. These databases provide all library users access to a wide range of online resources, such as reference sources for homework, job search and training tools, and specialized magazines and newspapers. This finding indicates one way that state library agencies are making the most of limited resources.

Library services for hard-to-reach populations, such as services for people in nursing homes, individuals with physical or learning disabilities, assistive technologies and devices, and non-English speakers and migrant workers, declined from a high of $57 million in 2004 to $31.6 million in 2008, according to the study. While changing definitions and survey changes may have affected reporting in this area, this important finding may be a harbinger of difficult times ahead. An upcoming study, Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries, demonstrates that vulnerable populations rely on libraries for Internet access. Among young adults (14-24 years of age) living in households below the federal poverty line, 61 percent used public library computers and Internet for educational purposes. Among seniors (65 and over) living in poverty, 54 percent used public library computers for health or wellness needs. The study, scheduled for release on March 25, was conducted by the University of Washington with support from IMLS and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

IMLS allocates federal funds to state library agencies using a population-based forumula. State library agencies develop plans for the delivery of library services in their states and provide leadership and library development. While there is tremendous variation among state library agencies, this research brief aggregates data in order to characterize trends in services supported by state library agencies. The study examines services such as basic literacy programs, library services for hard-to-reach populations, and state database licenses for public libraries, public school media centers, and library cooperatives.

Funding for state library agencies, which includes a mix of federal, state, and other sources, remained flat from fiscal year (FY) 2004 to FY 2008. The current economic downturn will likely decrease agency budgets and could affect the quality and quantity of state library agency services in the future, according to the brief.

Twenty-first century patrons expect more technology resources in schools, public libraries, colleges, and universities. While current and future information technologies provide exciting new opportunities to extend library services to patrons across the U.S., they require significant investment and coordination, the study found.

IMLS will continue to document the trends highlighted in this report to better understand how changes at the state level affect the quality of library services to the public.

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.