Update #3 (April 9, 2009)
from Bernard A. Margolis, New York
Please feel free to forward or pass on this update for librarians, library trustees, library friends and anyone with an interest in New York's libraries.
State Budget: I join many of you in being disappointed with the news about the state budget adopted last week by the Assembly and Senate and expected to be signed today by the Governor. Preliminary estimated figures show that the final budget includes roughly an 8% reduction from last year's funding levels for libraries. While this represents a far better budget than that proposed by the Executive, it will have serious consequences for many libraries. The 18.5% cuts proposed by the Executive would have simply put some of our library systems out of business. Though less, we know that this cut will be difficult. Please take the time to express thanks to your legislators for the restoration of $10.581 million but also be candid about the results of this lower funding level on public services, staffing levels and hours of service. All of those in public policy positions need to be reminded about the importance of libraries, especially in times of economic crisis. Our work on next year's budget starts now. We can't give up on making the case for the importance of adequately supported libraries of every type. Carol Desch and the Library Development Division staff are working on the details of the various state aid programs. This process includes several levels of approval within the State Education Department and the Division of the Budget before we can share anything but very preliminary information. We will try to expedite the sharing of this information as quickly as possible so that you can plan and assess the impact in your area.
One important part of the state budget which was approved at the SAME level as last year is the library capital (building) program which has been maintained at $14 million. This is excellent news and will provide important resources for many library building and improvement projects.
The impact of the state budget on State Library operations is still being assessed. The reduction in support from the state means that the "maintenance of effort" (MOE) requirements of the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) will not be met. This could translate into an additional loss of approximately $1 million to New York State in federal support for libraries.
Additionally, the Governor has announced layoffs of up to 8,700 state workers. We do not yet know if any State Library employees will be impacted by this proposed workforce reduction. All pay increases for managers have been suspended, out of state travel has been frozen (with few exceptions) and spending approvals have ground to a halt. The state's economic situation is serious and our internal sources suggest it may get worse before we see improvement.
State Library Funding: The State Library, along with the State Museum, State Archives and Public Broadcasting, make up the Office of Cultural Education (OCE) (part of the State Education Department). The primary funding for OCE is the Cultural Education Fund which was created about 8 years ago. This fund receives revenue from fees collected by county clerks for the processing of various official documents, mostly related to real estate transactions. In part, because of the slow real estate market and because monies in the fund have been "swept" or removed for other purposes by the state, the fund is virtually bankrupt. There is not enough money in the fund to meet the ongoing expenses of OCE including staff, books, etc. Legislation has been proposed in the Assembly and Senate (A.6783/S.3640) to increase the fees collected by the county clerks. This will significantly help address this funding crisis. The proposed legislation has received widespread support. For additional details, including the proposed legislation, see http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A06783&sh=t.
Board of Regents: The New York State Library is one of four major units in the Office of Cultural Education within the State Education Department. The State Education Department and the over 10,000 educational institutions that comprise the University of the State of New York are governed by the State Board of Regents. The Regents have made history with the selection of a new Chancellor (Board Chair) Merryl H. Tisch. The first woman selected as Chancellor since the founding of the Regents in 1784, Dr. Tisch has told me of her support for libraries. Please join me in congratulating her on her new role. Both the policies and advocacy of the Regents is critically important to our efforts. Chancellor Tisch can be reached at 9 East 79th Street, New York, New York 10021 or by e-mail at Regenttisch@mail.nysed.gov.
The new Vice Chancellor of the Board of Regents is Dr. Milton L. Cofield of Rochester. Also a library supporter, Dr. Cofield is an amateur poet. I will be working on creating some opportunities for the new Chancellor and Vice Chancellor to be part of major library events throughout the state and will especially want Vice Chancellor Cofield to have an opportunity to share his poetry skills. Please do not hesitate to keep them, and all the Regents, informed about your library programs and activities and to invite them to your libraries. If I can help in this area, please do not hesitate to contact me.
We are especially pleased that Regent James Dawson will continue to chair the Regents Committee on Cultural Education. Lucretia McClure has stepped down as Chair of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries. Vice-Chair Norman Jacknis has been elected to serve as Chair and his first major task will be to present a report to the Regents Cultural Education Committee later this month. The report will be posted on the State Library's website after the April 2009 Regents meeting. I will soon be issuing a call for nominations for members for the Regents Advisory Council and for members of the NOVELNY Steering Committee. The Regents Advisory Council is the oldest advisory council to the Board of Regents - and I think, the most important. If you or other good people you know have an interest in serving, please watch for the announcement.
Federal Front: The State Library and its staff are well represented in the State Education Department's efforts to bring as much federal stimulus resources to New York as possible. We are focused now on securing support for broadband initiatives which will increase capacity and hopefully support greater content delivery as well. I will be giving a presentation at the next meeting of the state's Broadband Council on May 12th. You are receiving regular communications on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Please address questions to Maribeth Krupczak at firstname.lastname@example.org
There has been some unnecessary panic over the recently enacted Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. This federal legislation has been misinterpreted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to expand their scope of authority to cover books for children. First, you should know that the implementation was formally delayed by the Commission for one year until February 10, 2010. Secondly, legislation has been introduced (HR 1692) to exempt ordinary books and to carryout the original congressional intention. There is no need to remove any books from your shelves, to restrict access by children to any books, or to stop buying children's books because of this law. Please contact Karen Balsen at email@example.com if you need help with understanding this controversy.
Gates Foundation Grants: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has now qualified 104 public libraries as eligible to receive funds to increase broadband speed/capacity. The Foundation and the State Library are hosting a statewide Summit meeting on June 3 and 4 at the Sagamore near Lake George to acquaint these libraries with the details for the grant program and to work to create a sustainability plan for all library broadband in New York. The State's Chief Information Officer, Melodie Mayberry-Stewart, will be one of the keynoters. Because of the space and resource constraints, this is an invitation-only event. I apologize that we will not be able to accommodate everyone from the library community and also provide space for the critically important "influencers" and policy officials who are essential to our long-term success. I am, of course, always open to persuasive arguments supporting participation by individuals who you believe are important decision-makers and can help promote library broadband.
NOVELNY: After many years of renewing the same databases for NOVELNY, major changes to the menu of products were recently made. By coordinating different expiration dates with the agreement of existing vendors to provide service until the same date, March 31, a true comparative evaluation across the products was possible and a more competitive pricing environment was successful in increasing the number and scope of products without additional funds. NOVELNY is supported fully with federal LSTA funds - no state funds have been allocated to date. On the basis of a statewide survey and with the help of an advisory group, priorities were established for the selection of new content. Some long-standing needs were addressed, such as the annual pleas for a good encyclopedia (Grolier). Full content coverage in a general periodicals database was expanded (ProQuest Platinum). Newspaper coverage, Business and Company Info and Health and Wellness Information from Gale/Cengage was maintained, as was Twayne's Authors Series. In retrospect, the date of implementation became an issue for some libraries and we will continue to work with the field to find a date agreeable to everyone in the future. There were also some problems in rolling out the new products where ID's and passwords were required. We are still working on cleaning up our contact information and/or finding efficient ways to achieve connectivity for everyone. Your patience is appreciated and we have found your feedback very constructive in evaluating the process and the changes necessary in going forward.
There are dozens of other items to report but time (yours and mine) is too limited. We are approaching the formal start of National Library Week. For me, and I hope for you, every week is library week. Please enjoy and use the opportunity to appreciate the important work which you and your colleagues around the state provide every week!
Bernard A. Margolis
New York State Library