February 27, 2009 Message (Update #2)
from Bernard A. Margolis, New York
I hope you were as proud and pleased as I was to hear President Obama in his address to Congress this week mention, while introducing a remarkable young girl working to improve her school, that she went to the public library to type her letter to Congress. The recognition feels good but more importantly it shows how important libraries are to the basic fabric of America. What librarians and libraries do everyday is vitally important work.
I wanted to give an update on several fronts. The Regents Advisory Council on Libraries with Regent James Dawson, Chair of the Regents Cultural Education Committee, Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Cannell, Carol Desch, myself, and a great group of student interns visited 17 legislative offices and met with Assembly and Senate members to discuss the importance of restoring the proposed cuts in library support. We had a very positive reception and a flurry of legislative inquiries and discussions have followed. While the Governor and legislative leaders agreed that the shortfall of anticipated revenue is $1 billion more than earlier estimates I remain hopeful that we can persuade the leadership to reconsider the 18.5% cuts proposed. Please use every opportunity to educate your public officials about your own funding situations. They want to know and need to know the impact of any cuts. NYLA's Legislative Day on March 10th will be a particularly good time for legislative communication but a phone call or e-mail now can also be helpful.
A separate e-mail will be sent about the stimulus package. The State Library staff is at the table putting in place ways for libraries to maximize participation in the recovery programs. It is important to remember that all the funds are designed to create jobs quickly. Some of the funds will be highly competitive and most will require local match. Maribeth Krupczak of the New York State Library's Office of Library Development represents the entire Office of Cultural Education (Library, Museum, Archives & Public Broadcasting) on the State Department of Education team working on the stimulus. To give you an idea of the quantity of work - the team meets EVERY day! We are in discussions with the Department of Labor about programs to support a wide array of job and career activities in libraries. We have met with the Office for Technology and are working with them in the Broadband funding arena. If you have worthy projects (remember again that job creation is the goal) you may want to be sure they are in written, presentable form. They need to be shelf-ready and construction related projects need to be shovel-ready.
The federal budget, for the current federal fiscal year, should be voted on by Congress this week. LSTA funds remain at $171.5 million for the country. This is good news. The budget also includes $29 million in the Library of Congress appropriation for talking book services which should be enough to complete the long awaited transition to digital formats.
I want to thank the NOVELNY Steering committee which worked so hard surveying the library community and helping to develop a process for input in the difficult task of selecting databases. We will continue to refine and improve this process. We are receiving enormous return in expanded access to information resources. I value your input about this service for which I hope we can receive additional financial support to expand and enhance. If you are not maximizing your use of NOVELNY, use these great resources - and maybe even save some money! They can be reached at www.novelnewyork.org or contact the NOVELNY Help Desk at: (toll-free) 877-277-0250 or in the Capital District: 518-486-6012. The Help Desk is staffed Monday-Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invited New York to be part of a new pilot program called Opportunity Online. The focus is for libraries to increase broadband capacity. One hundred and one library facilities in 12 different public library systems will be eligible for support under this program. I am calling the group "the Dalmatians." They will receive matching funds to move their bandwidth higher than 1.5 mbps. Additionally, an invitational statewide summit meeting on library broadband will be sponsored to plan for the sustainability of library broadband statewide. The tentative dates are June 3rd and 4th in Albany. You will be hearing more about this.
I am beginning to plan my calendar for the months ahead and hope to have a chance to visit many parts of the state. Please alert me or my secretary, Paula Paolucci (firstname.lastname@example.org), if you are planning events and my presence would be helpful to you. I am anxious to both meet you and to be of assistance to you and your work.