Update Five (August 13, 2009)
from Bernard A. Margolis, New York
New Commissioner: The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has a new Commissioner and the University of the State of New York (USNY) has a new President. Dr. David M. Steiner, currently Dean of the School of Education, Hunter College at the City University of New York (CUNY), will begin his new duties on October 1st in both of these capacities. In introducing him after the Regents vote of appointment, Chancellor Merryl Tisch made special note of the Regents role in cultural education and the new Commissioner's interest in this area. I join many others in feeling great excitement about Dr. Steiner's appointment. His credentials are remarkable and include a stint as Director of Arts Education at the National Endowment for the Arts. Clearly books and culture have played an important role in his life and career. While you can Google the many articles about/by him, I want to especially call to your attention the autobiographical piece he wrote for the National Association of Scholars simply titled: An Education Lived. It is not only a great read but also an insightful piece about the person who will give important leadership to all matters about education and lifelong learning in New York, including libraries. The URL is www.nas.org/polArticles.cfm?doc_id=572.
P.S. I would encourage you to add Dr. Steiner to your mailing lists and include him on your invite lists. Thanks.
Cultural Education Fund: The fund which supports the State Library, State Museum, State Archives and the Office of Public Broadcasting is still bankrupt. Legislation to improve this situation is not moving and we continue to face the realities of a dismal state funding picture. Adding to this situation is the expected impact of the voluntary severance program now being implemented in order to reduce the state payroll by at least 4,500 employees. It appears that over 10% of the State Library staff will participate in the program which provides a $20,000 cash incentive to the employee and results in the elimination of the position which they vacate. We expect to lose up to 18 members of the State Library staff, most with many years of service and knowledge. We will need to reorganize our work and assess the impacts on our services. The dollars saved by the State will have a negative impact on our federal funding situation because the result will be a reduction in the State's required "maintenance of effort." It's a rollercoaster ride and we are just trying to hold on through a series of steep and fast turns.
Library Aid Update: Thus far, the Division of the Budget has released $42 million of the $91 million appropriated for 2009-2010 Library Aid. The State Library immediately processed $42 million in basic aid payments to the 73 library systems. All systems should now have their basic aid payments. The Governor is asking the legislature to return in September to make further budget reductions in order to address New York's growing budget deficit, which is now estimated at over $2 billion.
Broadband: The State Library, working with a wide variety of State Education Department partners and libraries and organizations across the state, will submit this week two (2) grant proposals under the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). The grants request federal funding of over $34 million to support the role of libraries in providing public computing access and to fund major computer literacy and fluency initiatives as well as a major public awareness/marketing campaign. My thanks to all of the partner organizations for help with this. I believe, at last count, over 60 organizations representing hundreds of libraries and other organizations are included in the proposals. The timeframe was short and the application process filled with challenges, but a rather ambitious proposal was developed and will be submitted. The Public Computing Centers initiative includes expansion of capacity and the addition of the BroadbandExpress, a mobile public computing center capacity. The Sustainable Broadband Adoption initiative includes the creation of curricula, the creation of specialized training for school and library professionals, the delivery of public training, the creation of Broadband Buddies and Cyber-Sages programs and a comprehensive public awareness and marketing campaign. The executive summaries of the proposals will soon be available online. We will keep you updated as we learn more about funding success.
Library Procurement: I had an opportunity to present testimony at a recent hearing hosted by Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, Chair of the Assembly Government Operations Committee and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Libraries and Educational Technology. Michael Borges of NYLA, Jason Kramer of NYSHEI, John Smith of the Westchester Library System and Carla Rasmussen Chiaro, Deputy Commissioner of the Office of General Services (OGS) and her colleague Anne G. Phillips, Associate Counsel, (OGS) also presented testimony. The focus was on database resources. There was consensus that greater flexibility is needed for libraries to realize savings from aggregating the purchase of databases. I proposed, again, the idea of a New York State Comprehensive Information System (NYSCIS) with some state funding support. I have a follow-up meeting with Deputy Commissioner Chiaro to see if some of the State's procurement rules could be helpful in lowering the cost of databases for everyone. You can read my testimony at www.nysl.nysed.gov/library/about/testimony.htm.
New Netherland: The New York State Library and the New York State Archives are home to a treasure trove of early records of the Dutch in America. You may have seen a recent CBS Sunday morning television piece on the New Netherland Institute here at the New York State Library. Library staff (Charles Gehring) have been at work for 35 years translating these early records. The Prince of Orange, the Crown Prince of the Netherlands and the Crown Princess Maxima will be visiting the United States and the New York State Library on Tuesday, September 8th to view our work and support our efforts.
Summer Reading: It's not too late…to read just another one before the summer comes to an end!
Regulations on Deaccessioning: This fall, the Board of Regents will be considering converting what has been emergency rules on deaccessioning for museums and historical societies into permanent rules (Amended Rule 3.27). The permanent rules being proposed are only applicable to museums and historical societies chartered by the Board of Regents. While there is proposed legislation which would significantly broaden the impact of deaccessioning requirements on more institutions, including legislatively-chartered museums and libraries, the proposed regulations do NOT include those changes. I know there has been great concern about the impact of any expanded law or regulations on libraries. We will continue to monitor this and keep you apprised of developments. The underlying public policy issues are significant and important. When material is given to museums, libraries and historical societies does the "public trust" in which it is held have certain rules which must be followed? When times are tough is maintaining the collection more important than staying open? If material is no longer appropriate should another institutional home be found before it is sold? The ages old quandary comes to mind: do we save the painting or do we save the cat? There are good questions to be asked about how materials are removed from collections, what transparency should be expected/required and what should the limits be on how the funds that might be realized could be used. The proposed regulations will be published on August 26 in the State Register and will be accessible at www.nysm.nysed.gov/charter/ .
In a few weeks I hit the road again with visits to different parts of the state with workshops, speeches and library get-togethers including the important NYLA Conference in Niagara Falls. I look forward to meeting you and providing help and guidance. If we are now in the "dog days of summer," please enjoy them.
Bernard A. Margolis
August 13, 2009