Frequently Asked Questions

This page has merged with the Ask the Librarian section and is no longer updated here. Please see that site for these and all current questions.

The American Library is often asked questions about getting a list of all libraries and about how to get a new book (or new music or software CD or new movie DVD) into libraries across the country. We're also asked various questions about book publishing and book sales and if we have statistics on reading. We're often asked about book donations. And naturally, we're often asked how to start a library. See the answers to all of these below.

Where can I get a list of all libraries? Do you have a list of e-mail addresses for all libraries?

ALA does provide mailing list rental and labels of members. But please be aware that not necessarily every library in the United States is a member of the American Library Association. ALA is a private professional nonprofit organization to which members must pay dues to belong. For more information on library mailing lists and labels and library directories, see the ALA Library Fact Sheet 3 - Lists of Libraries. ALA does not sell a list of e-mail addresses of libraries. Check with the companies on ALA Library Fact Sheet 3 for availability of a library e-mail list.


I've just written/published a book (or CD or DVD). How do I get it into libraries? Doesn't ALA tell libraries what books (or other materials) to get?

Individual libraries are responsible for their own collections. There is no one place that distributes books to all libraries, and that includes ALA. For a more detailed answer and further assistance, see the web page compiled by the ALA Library, Frequently Asked Questions from Authors and Publishers.


How many books were published last year? What was the average price of a book?

This information usually appears in the Information Today publication, The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac, in a section called "Book Title Output and Average Prices."


How many books were sold last year?

That same Information Today publication, The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac, has a section called "Book Sales Statistics" which is prepared by the Association of American Publishers. In-depth purchasing information is compiled by the Book Industry Study Group for its annual Book Industry Trends publication.


How many books were read last year?

There is no reliable way to obtain this information. The closest reliable statistic is the number for how many hours were spent reading in the United States, which appears in the annual Statistical Abstract of the United States series of books put out by the U.S. Census Bureau. The table that reports the numbers of hours spent reading books (as well as hours spent on other activities, such as listening to the radio, watching television, etc.) is titled, "Media Usage and Consumer Spending" and most recently appears in the Information & Communication section.


What are the most popular books checked out of libraries?

Up until 2004, there was no way to obtain this information. Understand that library circulation statistics are collected by the numbers only, with no accompanying details, such as the title of the book or whether it's fiction or nonfiction. However, starting with the June 1, 2004 issue, the non-ALA library trade magazine, Library Journal (LJ), introduced LJ's Bestsellers: The Books Most Borrowed in U.S. Libraries, for both fiction and nonfiction book titles.


I have some books I no longer want. How can I donate them to libraries?

ALA does not accept or distribute donations of books or any other materials. We do have information on book donation programs on ALA Library Fact Sheet 12 - Sending Books to Needy Libraries: Book Donation Programs.


I don't have a library in my community. How do I get one?
I want to build a library in another country. How do I do this?
How can I get books for my new library?

Please see the detailed web page compiled by the ALA Library, ALA Library Fact Sheet 16 - Setting Up a Library: A Resource Guide. For book donations, look to ALA Library Fact Sheet 12 - Sending Books to Needy Libraries: Book Donation Programs with a different perspective, one of finding an organization to which you can apply and get book donations sent to you. Groups overseas may be best helped by the web page, Donation Programs For Books, Journals and Media, a list compiled by the University at Buffalo prepared by the State University of New York, Health Sciences Library.