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Tumbling budgets and closed doors marked 2004 as a year in which libraries across the country were asked to do more with less and sometimes buckled at the prospect. Counteracting the bad news, library use continued to rise, as did librarian salaries, albeit at a lower rate than those of other professionals. New facilities continued to open, culminating with the spectacular new central public library in Seattle and the unveiling of the Clinton presidential library. Meanwhile, ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano made "grassroots advocacy" her theme, and the first Advocacy Institute is scheduled to take place next month during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston. "No matter what type of library you work in, we all struggle with many of the same issues," she says. What follows is an American Libraries recap of the most compelling news stories in a contradictory year.
1. Opening Acts
Building projects refused to be pushed to the back burner, as 2004 saw the openings of some of the most ambitious facilities in recent memory, foremost among them the $165.5-million Seattle Public Library (left) by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, which dazzled patrons and architectural critics alike, earning praise as "the most important new library to be built in a generation" from the New Yorker and sending usage statistics through the roof. Smaller-scale projects around the country--dozens of which got the spotlight in AL's April issue--may have …