While there is no question that tight government budgets have been a big factor in these reductions, some people point to a shift from traditional stacks of books and periodicals to digital devices that can be used for reading and information gathering.
Yet many librarians, vowing to avoid the fate of the Garden City library, are not taking these problems lying down. Far from fighting the digital revolution, they're joining it by greatly expanding libraries' electronic offerings. They're also emphasizing some of the free things in a library that go beyond books – including children's programs and an experienced staff that can help with everything from research to job hunts.
It's all an effort to try to ensure that such institutions are a vibrant and relevant part of communities, which could then make it harder for funding to be cut or for buildings to be closed.
In the past few years, more than 66 percent of US libraries have expanded their digital offerings, ALA says. The most common step: giving patrons the ability to browse virtual stacks and download titles to electronic devices.