State of America’s Libraries 2018

New report affirms the invaluable role of libraries and library workers

April 9, 2018

Voters frequently visit libraries in person and online. From The State of America's Libraries 2018 report

On April 9, the American Library Association (ALA) released The State of America’s Libraries report for 2018, an annual summary of library trends released during National Library Week, April 8–14, that outlines statistics and issues affecting all types of libraries. The report affirms the invaluable role libraries and library workers play within their communities by leading efforts to transform lives through education and lifelong learning.

During this time of rapid social change, libraries of all types are providing welcoming spaces to an increasingly diverse population; working with the community to offer social service support and health resources, career, and small business development assistance; and combating fake news by providing tools to assess and evaluate news sources.

State of America's Libraries 2018 CoverThe function of libraries as community centers is readily recognized. A Brookings Institution article even referred to librarians as “ad hoc social workers and navigators” who “help local people figure out the complexities of life.” This role is especially evident, and never more essential, than in times of crisis, and 2017 had its share of adversity—from natural disasters to shootings on school campuses.

The report found that libraries continue to face challenges that carry with them the potential for censorship, to a variety of books, programs, and materials. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) tracked 354 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2017. Some individual challenges resulted in requests to restrict or remove multiple titles or collections. Overall in 2017, 416 books were targeted—direct attacks on the freedom to read.

Through an analysis of the number of books challenged, the OIF produced the “Top Ten Most Challenged Books” of 2017, which includes:

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
    Reason: Suicide
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Profanity, Sexually Explicit
  3. Drama, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reason: LGBT Content
  4. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    Reasons: Sexual Violence, Religious Themes, “May Lead to Terrorism”
  5. George, by Alex Gino
    Reason: LGBT Content
  6. Sex is a Funny Word, written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    Reason: Sex Education
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Reasons: Violence, Racial Slurs.
  8. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
    Reasons: Drug Use, Profanity, Pervasively Vulgar
  9. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole
    Reason: LGBT Content
  10. I Am Jazz, written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reason: Gender Identity

Additional information regarding why books were challenged, a Top Ten List video announcement, and infographics regarding the 2017 Top Ten List of Most Challenged Books are available on the OIF’s Banned and Challenged Books page.

Other library trends addressed in the State of America’s Libraries 2018 report include:

  • Voter perceptions, use, and attitudes toward public libraries
  • Health and digital literacy initiatives
  • Sustainability as a library’s core value
  • School libraries and student outcomes
  • Three major trends that are affecting libraries
  • Library advocates and federal funding

The full text of the State of America’s Libraries 2018 report is available in Flipbook format, PDF format, and HTML.

This is the 60th anniversary of National Library Week. First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is observed each April by ALA and libraries across the country. National Library Week celebrations include the release of the ALA’s State of America’s Libraries 2018 report, April 9; National Library Workers Day, April 10; National Bookmobile Day, April 11; and Take Action for Libraries Day, April 12.