Saturday, July 5, 2014

30: Public Library Scenario in USA

इस ब्लॉग्स को सृजन करने में आप सभी से सादर सुझाव आमंत्रित हैं , कृपया अपने सुझाव और प्रविष्टियाँ प्रेषित करे , इसका संपूर्ण कार्य क्षेत्र विश्व ज्ञान समुदाय हैं , जो सभी प्रतियोगियों के कॅरिअर निर्माण महत्त्वपूर्ण योगदान देगा ,आप अपने सुझाव इस मेल पत्ते पर भेज सकते हैं -

30: Public Library Scenario in USA  

1. Objectives

After reading this module, you will be able to:

l  Understand the overall scenario of public libraries in the USA
l  Discuss the role of  library associations in the promotion of public libraries in the USA
l  Identify the institutions and organizations involved in the development of public libraries
l  Enumerate leading public libraries
l  Explain the recent trends in the field of public libraries

2. Introduction

Public libraries were the product of socio-cultural maturity. As civilization advanced in various parts of the world, the public libraries came into existence. While earlier public libraries were by-products of civilization process, now they are the agent of change. This phenomenon has been verified in various ways in many parts of the world.

Public libraries institutionalise democratic values. In the USA vast expansion of public libraries is the result of the American belief in knowledge diffusion and equality of rights. USA is also referred to as the United States (US), America or the States. USA is a federal union of 50 states.

The present module seeks to present an overall scenario of public libraries in the USA and covers various aspects of public libraries. It is well known that public libraries play a significant role in the development of all the sectors of society.  People, societies, and states take various steps to promote learning and literacy including digital literacy. Now in the USA many public libraries are open 24x7 to serve the community’s informational needs. Public libraries even provide internet access free of cost to community to have access to digital information. Governmental as well as non-governmental organizations in the USA are greatly associated in the development of public libraries.

3. Public Libraries in USA: Early Efforts

In the USA, people who loved books initiated the concept of public libraries. In American colonies, various efforts were made to provide public access to the people, such as:

v  In 1656, Captain Robert Keayne willed his collection of books to his community. The books kept at the Boston Town Hall were treated as a society library.
v  In 1698, King Chapel Library was founded in Boston.
v  Astor Library was founded in 1848 at New York and it was the first public library in the USA.
v  Lenox was founded in 1870.
v  In 1895, New York Public Library was formed by merging Astor Library and Lenox Library. Tilden Trust provided $ 2.5 million for the library.
v  In 1854, Boston Public Library was opened.
v  In early days, New York took a decision to support public libraries with funding by tax raised by local school districts. This system failed.
v  Melvil Dewey was the key person in the development of the librarianship as profession.
v  It is notable that, a number of public libraries were established  with the financial help of  the American buisnessman  and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
v  In the 20th century, General Federation of Women’s Club (GFWC) established 474 free public libraries in the USA. (><)

4. Acts and Public Libraries in USA

American Library Association (ALA) has played an important role in the development and enactment of Library Acts in the USA. With the efforts of ALA’s Division of American Library Trustee Association, the Library Services Act was enacted in 1956, which was followed by the enactment of Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) in 1962. This LSCA was replaced by the Library Services and Technology Act, 1996 (LSTA). This Act provided for a federal library grant program for the creation of technological infrastructure. . (><)

4.1 Federal Depository Library Programme (FDLP)

The Federal Depository Library Programme was launched by the Congress. This programme guarantees all the public of USA to have free access to the all Governments’ publications (print or online) and for this purpose public can visit any Federal Depository Library. Following the enactment of the Depository Library Act of 1962, the number of depository libraries was increased in the USA. There are 1252 depository libraries in USA (June 2008).  (><).

5. Library Associations and Public Libraries

Associations play a significant role in the development of public libraries. USA has the distinction to have oldest and largest associations in the world.  Associations are playing a pivotal role in the promotion of public libraries and in coping up with ever growing unfolding of ICT driven changes.

5.1 American Library Association (ALA)


American Library Association is one of the oldest, largest and leading professional associations of the library and information sciences. ALA was founded in 1876 and founder members were: Melvil Dewey, Charles Ammi Cutter, Justin Winsor, Samuel S. Green, Fred B. Perkins, Charles Evans, Thomas W. Bicknell, and James L. Whitney. Its headquarter is at Chicago. The purpose of ALA is ‘to promote library service and librarianship’.

ALA published a document ‘A National Plan for Public Library Service’ in 1948. This document advocates for the financial support for public libraries. ALA also conducted a study ‘Public Library Inquiry’ between 1947 and 1952.

ALA Council adopted ‘Library Bill of Rights” statement on June 19, 1939 and amended that in 1944, 1948, 1961, 1980 and in 1996. ALA is associated with advocacy, legislation issues, ALA- Accredited Programmes, awards, grants, education and careers, online learning, etc.

5.2 Public Library Association (PLA)

Public Library Association was founded in1944 and it is a division of American Library Association. PLA has more than 9000 members. PLA is actively engaged in the development of public library staff and services in the USA. PLA has Board of Directors and it works through various committees, task forces, advisory groups, and award juries. PLA runs various types of programmes, such as continuing education, advocacy, publications etc. As per the data released by the American Library Association, State of America’s Libraries, April 2009, there are 16,600 public library locations, and more than 25 million Americans use public libraries.

PLA has  some notable publications to its credit under “Result Series.” (>< accessed on November 6, 2013). Details of such 17 books are shown on the above mentioned  site under the result series . Some of the books are :
  • Public Library Service Responses 2007 by  June Garcia and Sandra Nelson.
  • Strategic Planning for Results by Sandra Nelson
  • Demostrating Results : Using Outcome Measurement in Your Library by Rhea Joyce Rubin
  • Technology for Results : Developing Service- Based Plans by Diane Mayo, etc

PLA  has initiated The Public Library Data Service  (PLDS) (>< accessd on November 6, 2013). Data on information on finance, library resources, staffing, technology  use among others are collected annually through surveys under this service from US and Canadian public libraries. The database - Plmetrics : A PLDS Online Database - is available on subscription basis. Data can be accessed on ><.

PLA also offers various awards  and grants to honour and assist library professionals. These are :
v  Allie Beth Martin Award
v  Baker and Taylor Entertainment Audio Music/ Video Product award
v  Charlie Robinson Award
v  Demco New Leaders Travel Grant
v  EBSCO Excellence in Small and/ or Rural Public Library Award
v  Gordon M. Conable Award
v  Polaris Innovation in Technology John Iiiff Award
v  Romance Writer of America Library Grant
v  Upstart Innovation Award, and
v  Public Libraries Features Article Contest.(><)
PLA organizes conferences, symposium, webinars, online courses, etc for the enrichment of the profession. PLA is actively enganged in providing online learning through various programmes, such as : Live Webinars, On–Demand Webinars,Online Courses virtual conferences, etc. These tools provide an interactive learning tool and autonomy to the learners.

5.3 Urban Libraries Council (ULC)

Urban Libraries Council (ULC) founded in 1971 is a membership association of leading public library systems in the  US  and Canada. It has been serving the citizens of US and Canada for  more than 40 years. ULC took initiatives in 2012, Edge and Learning Labs, for devising new service delivery systems, best practices and tools for value to libraries . Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the initiatives. ULC is working for the betterment of society by expanding the role of public libraries and striviing for innovations in the functioning of public libraries. (> _ report.pdf<.)  ULC organizes conferences and Webinars. ULC  has  some notable publications to its credit, such as :

  • Maximizing the Library- Foundation Partnership.
  • Libraries Igniting Learning.
  • Library Leaders Owning Leadership.
  • Library priority :Community-Civic Engangement.
  • Five Leadership Roles for Library Trustees.

  • Making Cities Stronger : Public library contributions to local economic development.
  • Welcome, Stranger :Public libraries build the global village.
  • Civic  Engangement : Stepping up to the civic engagement challenge.
  • The Enganged Library :Chicago stories of community building, etc.

6. Federal State Cooperative System for Public Library Data (FSCS)


This is a national public library statistical agency working under National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES), US Department of Education, Washington, DC. Initiated in 1986, NCES provides funds to FSCS for conducting public library surveys. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) and the Census Bureau to implement the Public Libraries Survey collaborate in this programme. It is to be noted that Public Libraries survey has been  shifted to Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) now.

7. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)


Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)  was established in 1996 and is an independent agency of the United States. This institute works at national level and promotes libraries and museums. The Institute provides grants to  museums, libraries and institutions. This institute has been conducting public library survey annually since 1988. It collects data from nearly 9000 public libraries with approximately 17,000 individual public library outlets in the 50 states of USA. Various   types of survey reports on public libraries  can be accessed at ><. The institute has also taken initiatives  and partnerships to promote public libraries. IMLS also gives “National Medal for Museum and Library Service” award to American museums and libraries for their outstanding contribution to the community.

8. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


Various individuals and foundations have been playing a significant role in the promotion of public libraries in the US. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation  was founded in 1994 by Melinda Gates and Bill Gates. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working for ensuring public access to computer and internet in public libraries in the world. It  financially supported various projects in the U.S. Since 1997, the foundation has given grants to more than 5,800 libraries in the US, installed 25,000 personal computers, and trained 7000 library professionals. Up to 2003, nearly 10,000 libraries in 50 states benefitted from the $ 200 million grants of the Foundation.(><)

9. Carnegie Libraries

Carnegie Libraries were established with funds donated by the businessman and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. Total 1689 libraries were established in the USA with the financial assistance from Carnegie. He gave more than $40 million for libraries in the USA.  Most of the libraries were built as per ‘the Carnegie Formula’, which sought strict adherence to it with regard to public support for establishing a library. A detailed list of Carnegie Libraries is available at ><.

10. Largest Public Libraries of USA

There are series of largest public libraries of the world in the USA and these libraries are providing various types of services to fulfil the information needs of  the people. In USA, public libraries are well equipped to meet the ever-changing and ever-growing need of the people, especially in the digital environment.

10.1 Library of Congress


Library of Congress   is one of the largest libraries in the world and it was instituted for the Congress in 1800. Located in Washington D.C., the Library’s mission is “to support the congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties and to further the progress the knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American People”(><). It acts as legal repository for copyright protection and 35 million works have been registered under copyright registration so far.

The Library of Congress is having more than 34.5 million books and printed material in 470 languages. More than 61 million manuscripts, 33000 bound papers, 500,000 microfilm reels, 177 million maps, 3 million sound recordings, etc. Library has nearly 3600 staff members and caters services to more than 1.7 million readers annually.

The Library of Congress is open for general public. Readers can avail its various services such as: ask a librarian, cataloguing services, duplication services, interlibrary loan, library standards, national library service for the blind and physically handicapped. In addition to various services, Library of Congress is deeply involved in various projects and standards, such as: MARC 21 Format, MARC XML, Metadata Object Description Standard (MODS), Metadata Authority Description Standard (MADS), Z39.50, ISO 639-2, etc.

10.2 New York Public Library (NYPL)

After the Library of Congress, New York Public Library (NYPL)  is the second largest public library in the USA and third largest library in the world. (><) NYPL was established in 1895. Right now the library has 91 locations and provides free access to its collections, print as well as electronic. NYPL holds more than 51 million items. Nearly 18 million patrons visit library annually. NYPL provides online services and user can access these services. Its popularity and importance can be determined by this fact that library’s website receives    32 million visits annually from more than 200 countries.

Other larger public libraries of the USA are:

n  Boston Public Library
n  Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
n  Detroit Public Library
n  Country of Los Angeles Public Library
n  Chicago Public Library
n  San Diego Public Library
n  Free Library of Philadelphia
n  Dallas Public Library
n  Cleveland Public Library
n  King County Library System
n  Hawaji State Public Library System
n  Mid-Continent Public Library
n  Allen Country Public Library
n  Houston Public Library.

11. Recent Trends

In USA, public libraries are playing a significant role in the overall development of the society along with contributing to local economic development and businesses, entrepreneurship,, employment, health awareness and extending government information.  Public libraries are associating with other similar agencies in order to reach the wider community and make  value additions to its services. Libraries are playing an important role in promotion of digital literacy, career development, and access to technology. 

Role of public library in the promotion of business can be traced back to 1904, when the   first business branch was established in the  Newark ( New Jersey) public library( Pankl, 2010).

Institute of Museum and Library Services and Bill & Melinda gates Foundation’s supported report ‘Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet access at U.S. Libraries’ (2010)   records  that there are 169 million library users, nearly 69% of U.S. population, and 77 million public library internet users, that is 45% of library users and 32% of US population. This   means  that about one third of the U.S. population over the age of 14 uses library Internet computers. (>https// For All.pdf<) It has been also noted that most of the public libraries have a web presence in the USA.

12. Conclusion

Public libraries are the main resource centres for communities for availing various services free of cost. Indeed it is a place where people come and benefit from services provided by the government and other agencies. Learning, libraries and democracy are associated or interdependent factors. Learning is a lifelong process, in which libraries boost the process of learning. Libraries stimulate the process of learning and provide environment to satisfy various types of curiousities. Ultimately  this process strenthens the pillars of democratic values. Public libraries in the USA are palying an important role in all walks of life.  Public libraries are no longer  the place for only lending the reading materials and answering the queries, they are now playing much wider role in the overall development of the society and associating with similar institutions for value additions and expanding the horizons of its space.

In this module the overall scenario of public libraries has been discussed. Historical development, as well as the role of various associations such as ALA, PLA,  Urban Libraries Council, has  also been mentioned.  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Carnegie Libraries are also playing an important role in the development of public library system in the USA. Public libraries in the USA  are playing an important role in bridging the  digital access gap between haves and have nots to technology.  They are also playing a pivotal role in e-learning and lifelong learning.

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