Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Sunday, March 3

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This week, April 18-24, 2004, is National Library Week -- a week when librarians across the U.S. abandon their desks to go on "team building" retreats and play paintball and trust games.

No, not really.

National Library Week is celebrated during the second full week of April each year as a way to honor and publicize our nation's libraries by focusing our attention on the contributions libraries and librarians make in our communities and in all aspects of our lives. Public libraries, school libraries, academic, corporate, medical, law, and even government libraries participate in the observance.

According to the American Library Association's Public Information Office, the first National Library Week was celebrated in 1958 in response to statistics in the mid-1950s which showed that spending in the U.S. on books was decreasing while spending on televisions and radios was rising. Concerned about the long-term effects of such a trend, the ALA, in co-operation with other organizations, developed National Library Week to strengthen support for our libraries and promote reading and literacy.

To that end, I am doing my part this week by offering a few facts about libraries that may surprise you (statistics courtesy of the ALA):

• There are more public libraries, including branches, in the U.S. than there are McDonald's restaurants (16,420 vs. approx. 13,000).

• According to the most recent statistics, public library cardholders in the U.S. outnumber customers by almost 5 to 1.

• U.S. libraries circulate more items every day than FedEx ships packages (5.4 million vs. 5.3 million).

• The national average shows American visit libraries more than twice as often as they go to the movies.

• In 2001 (the most recent year for which statistics available), public libraries alone recorded nearly 1.2 billion visitors. This is more than double the 507 million visits recorded in 1990.

• On the downside, Americans spend seven times as much money on home video games ($7 billion) as they do on school library materials for their children ($1 billion).

• And how much money does the average American taxpayer spend to support their public libraries? $25.25 -- less than the average cost of one hardcover book.

Visit the ALA National Library Week website for more statistics and information about what libraries and librarians across the country are accomplishing.


Every Library in Illinois!
This directory from Secretary of State Jesse White and the Illinois State Library lists, well, every library in Illinois. You can search by name of library, city, zip code, and more. Directory listings include address, contact information, and a link to the library's website where available. Libraries range from the obvious (local public libraries) to the specialized (hospital and corporate libraries) to the obscure (the Learning Center for the StreetWise newspaper). Go find a library near you.

Libraries on the Web: U.S.A. Public Libraries
If you’re not in Illinois and just want to find the website for your local public library, check out this directory from Libweb. You can also find links to directories for academic, school, special libraries and international libraries on Libweb’s main page.

Chicago Authors: First Lines

"During those years between Korea and Vietnam, when rock and roll was being perfected, our neighborhood was proclaimed an Official Blight Area.

"Richard J. Daley was mayor then. It seemed as if he had always been, and would always be, the mayor. Ziggy Zilinsky claimed to have seen the mayor himself riding down Twenty-third Place in a black limousine flying one of those little purple pennants from funerals, except his said WHITE SOX on it. The mayor sat in the backseat sorrowfully shaking his head as if to say "Jeez!" as he stared out the bulletproof window at the winos drinking on the corner by the boarded-up grocery."
--Stuart Dybek, "Blight" from The Coast of Chicago

Stuart Dybek was born in 1942 and grew in Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods, and he later earned a master's degree in literature from Loyola University Chicago. His short story, "Blight," is a winner of the Chicago Tribune's Nelson Algren Award.

"Blight" is just one of the collected stories in The Coast of Chicago, which was first published in 1990 and is now the current selection for the Chicago Public Library's One Book, One Chicago program.

The Chicago Public Library celebrates National Library Week as the culmination of programming and events for the One Book, One Chicago series. To find out more about Stuart Dybek, The Coast of Chicago, and current One Book, One Chicago events, visit the Chicago Public Library website.

Have a topic you would like to see in "Ask the Librarian?" Send your suggestions to librarian and it may be featured in a future column.

GB store


Ian Olsen-Clark / April 22, 2004 8:32 AM

Very nice piece Alice. I am suprised at some of the quoted statistics, but it's great to see libraries still thriving and finding value in the community.

Keen readers wishing to save a few bucks, can cross check any title on Amazon, B&N etc against the stock the Chicago Public Library, using this browser based bookmarklet I have created.

Alice / April 22, 2004 9:27 AM

Awesome. Thanks very much, Ian. What a great tool.