Excerpted from the American Library Association's 2021 State of America's Libraries Special Report: COVID-19.
Nothing about 2020 was business as usual in any part of American society, and libraries and their workers, users, and services were all deeply impacted by the pandemic. In reflecting on the year, the only way to tell the stories of America’s libraries is through the lens of the challenges and opportunities presented by COVID-19.
Every year, The State of America’s Libraries report aims to present a complete picture of the activities and trends in libraries of all kinds during the previous calendar year. This year, we are taking a different approach. Rather than a broad focus, we have narrowed our scope, and the result, we hope, provides library users a more nuanced understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on libraries in their schools, communities, and campuses and offers library workers, and everyone
associated with the profession, some insight into best practices during an extraordinary and challenging year.
Although there are statistics and figures in this report, our primary goal was to spotlight the resilience, determination, and innovations of library workers in unprecedented circumstances. These human stories, ultimately, can tell us more than numbers ever could.
Writing a report about the impact of the pandemic on libraries while we are still in the thick of it is a bit like flying a plane while still building it. We know that we cannot possibly capture everything that happened in 2020. Our hope, instead, is to provide a snapshot of a moment in time that might encourage conversation, reflection, and ultimately, action. While historical in nature, this report is also about change and perseverance. We hope it will inspire appreciation for the essential role that libraries play in our world and persuade you to take steps to help them thrive.