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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Noteworthy and newsworthy
Noteworthy and newsworthy
State libraries in the news – not often enough
State libraries are not really “sexy,” so perhaps when you hear the word “newsworthy” you might not immediately think “state library”. But sometimes they hit the media. The Florida State Library was definitely national news last year when Governor Bush planned to save the state some money by transferring the circulating collection of the state library from Tallahassee to Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Fort Lauderdale. Fortunately, the state legislature did not support the project.
Now rumors about a renewed attempt to transfer the Florida State Library to Nova Southeastern University have surfaced again and were published in an editorial by columnist Joe Crankshaw in the January 20 Stuart News. Crankshaw hinted that “people working for Gov. Jeb Bush appear to be raising money privately” to finance the move of the collection to the university and quoted Florida Historical Society Executive Director Nick Wynne as saying that more than half of the $10 million needed for the move has been raised by “private donations to Nova” (American Library Association, 2004).
The materials to be transferred included more than 354,800 books, periodicals, and audiovisual materials that are used by the public. It was predicted that this would save the state $10.2 million over the next 4 years by eliminating at least 41 library positions along with other operating costs. To save this $10.2 million, the state was going to pay NSU $5 million in state funds over the next 4 years to move and maintain the collection (American Library Association, 2003). However, the state legislature did not appropriate the funds needed, and the library is still housed in the capitol in a government building.
The current rumors may well be just that – rumors – and come to naught. At least American Libraries reported that there is vigorous denial of any plans to resurrect the plan. Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood as well as a spokesperson for the governor both insist that these reports are “absolutely false”. Hood said in the February 6 Orlando Sentinel, “We are not planning to move any collections – anywhere. I would oppose it. I don't support it, so it ain't going to happen” (American Library Association, 2004).
Nonetheless, cutbacks do continue, even when they are couched in terms of improved services. The Florida State Library stacks have been closed to public browsing since November 3 of last year. State Librarian Judith Ring told LJ that this will give patrons one access point to all collections. “We predict this will also increase use of the collections and reference statistics, since users will have materials recommended to them that they otherwise may not have found... This single point of service will increase our interaction with the library's users, since there is no service point in these stack areas and thus no staff stationed there” (Rogers, 2003).
Florida is not unusual. The details differ from state to state, but the fact is, state libraries are very much behind the scenes, and yet they play a crucial role for public libraries. These state agencies have as their mission to enhance library services throughout the states they serve. This is not just a nice idea – it has real financial implications for all library systems in a given state. The services differ. Many state libraries have circulating collections; some are state document depositories or distributors of state aid. There are those that provide services to people who are disabled or institutionalized, as well as members of the legislature and state government. They may have law libraries, data coordination centers, and consultants for all aspects of library service; they may administer statewide information networks and interlibrary loan service. Of crucial importance is that all of the state libraries administer their states LSTA federal funds (Himmel, 2002). All of these services affect the budgets and the services of the other libraries in the state.
However, not only do the functions differ, but each state has its own idea of what governmental unit is the proper home for the state library. They are found in departments of education, offices of the secretary of state, departments of administration, or they can be independent agencies. Two years ago, the president of the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA, a division of the American Library Association) wrote something that is repeated in various terms in the present political climate: “No location is secure in today's economic environment. The big issue today is gaining the recognition of elected officials, funding bodies and the users of information services that libraries, regardless of what they're called, are key resources for all people and must be adequately funded” (Himmel, 2002).
Even when state officials are willing to spend money, they bear watching since they tend not to have the perspective that librarians have. For example, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois is eager to do his part for literacy and has allocated funds to give each child born in Illinois a book each month until the child is five. Nice for the children, but think what that kind of money could do for public libraries. Many more titles for many more children for many more years. However, increasing library funding is not as splashy as giving children their own little collections of books, and, so far, Blagojevich does not seem impressed by the arguments of librarians (Associated Press, 2004).
However, given the present economy, when Medicare and Social Security are prime targets for federal cuts, state libraries need advocates more than ever.
As with every gloom and doom story about libraries, there is a bright spot for state libraries. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the first of three rounds of Staying Connected challenge grants, totaling $5.8 million. These grants are going to 18 state library agencies: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. The grants are two-to-one matching funds, and library agencies will have to guarantee local, state, or private funding – or a combination of these sources – in advance in order to qualify. In all, the three rounds will distribute more than $17 million to states that demonstrate a need for ongoing technical support and training programs, Internet connectivity upgrades, and hardware improvements (Blumenstein, 2004).
It would be wonderful if we could rely on our government's seeing library funding as an absolute must, but, lacking that, we are fortunate that there are philanthropists eager to make libraries their causes.
Review of global issues
OCLC recently published The 2003 OCLC Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition, described as “a comprehensive review of global issues surrounding research, learning and community as it relates to the future of libraries and other knowledge organizations”.
The 150-page report is based on interviews with more than 100 knowledge experts around the world and represents a wide variety of organizations. According to OCLC, “The collective input from these interviews, in addition to literature review and extensive research, yielded a wealth of insights on the real, day-to-day issues facing information professionals”. The report is divided into five “landscapes” – social, economic, technology, research and learning, and library – covers such areas as funding, collaboration, digital archiving, e-learning, digital rights management, open source movements, increased use of the Web in libraries and education, and scholarly publishing. The document is available on OCLC's Web site (www.oclc.org/membership/escan/introduction/default.htm), or a print version may be ordered through OCLC for $15.
Eileen FitzsimonsFitzsimons Editorial ConsultantsChicago, Illinois, USA
American Library Association (2003), “Gov. Jeb Bush set on breaking up Florida State Library”, American Libraries Online, available at: www.ala.org/ala/alonline/currentnews/newsarchive/2003/march2003/govjebbushset.htm
American Library Association (2004), “Officials insist Florida State Library will remain”, American Libraries Online, available at: http://ala. org/al_onlineTemplate.cfm?Section=alonline&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=56318
Associated Press (2004), “Illinois adopts Dolly Parton's children's reading program”, HoustonChronical.com, available at: www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/ae/books/news/2366467
Blumenstein, L. (2004), “State libraries get $5.8M from Gates”, Library Journal, available at: www.libraryjournal.com/index.asp?layout=articlePrint&articleID=CA379264
Himmel, E. (2002), “The (perilous) state of state libraries”, Interface, Vol. 24 No. 3, available at: www.ala.org/ala/ascla/asclapubs/interface/archives/contentlistingby/volume24/theperilousstate/perilousstate.htm
Rogers, M. (2003), “FL state library bars stack access”, Library Journal, available at: www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA339627?display=searchResults&stt=001&text=state+libraries