CHICAGO — As job-seekers, families and students rely on free library resources, more than 25,000 library leaders and library supporters gather July 9 – 15 here to discuss the challenges facing U.S. libraries caused by increased usage during tough economic times. The American Library Association’s (ALA) Annual Conference is the largest library gathering of its kind in the world.

Budget cuts are just one of the many challenges library face, and will be among the key issues discussed during the ALA Annual Conference. Other issues include the surge in library use; the changing role of libraries; technology; bandwidth challenges; new technologies; literacy; and issues affecting school libraries.

“Libraries are part of the solution in every community that is struggling economically. From coast-to-coast libraries have been the first responders to the economic crisis, helping level the playing field for job seekers,” says ALA President Jim Rettig. “Library staff report a surge in use of library computers and Internet access to find work, apply for jobs online, type resumes and cover letters, open e-mail accounts and further their education in a competitive labor market.

“As people have looked for ways to cut costs during the recession they have rediscovered the many free resources libraries offer. Americans depend on libraries not only for free access to computers, books, videos and other resources, but also for the assistance and training opportunities library staff offer. From free computer training to access to resources that support education at all levels and that can enhance resumes and cover letters, libraries are helping get Americans back on their feet,” says Rettig.

Some libraries are facing tough economic times.. Data found in the ALA’s 2009 State of America’s Libraries Report, shows 41 percent of states report declining state funding for public libraries in fiscal year 2009. Declines in state funding often are compounded by reductions at the local level — creating a snowball effect that threatens library staffing, hours open to the public, collection development and technology maintenance.

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. On July 14, during the 2009 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast, attendees will celebrate the valuable contributions of current and past winners of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. The Coretta Scott King Book Awards honor African American authors and illustrators of children’s literature.

Also on July 14, author and journalist Steve Lopez, will keynote the Closing Session. Lopez is the author of “The Soloist: A Lost Dream,” a story of a remarkable bond between a journalist in search of a story and a homeless musician struck down in his prime. The Soloist was recently adapted into a major motion picture starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx.

For more information on the ALA Annual Conference, please visit .