Update Six (October 9, 2009)
from Bernard A. Margolis, New York
Please feel free to pass along this update to colleagues, friends, and anyone you think would benefit from reading about library matters in New York State. If you want to receive the State Librarian's Updates directly, send your e-mail address to email@example.com.
State Aid: Typically by this time in the fiscal year over 95% of the State Appropriation for library aid would have been paid to libraries and library systems. This year is different. The State's cash flow challenges and shrinking revenue have delayed the distribution process. We just received approval (known as certification) to pay an additional $15 million of the total of $91.08 million approved in the 2009-10 budget. This means that 63% of the appropriated funding has now been paid. My understanding is that another $15 million (about 16%) will be provided by our control agencies at the beginning of November and the balance will be approved and hopefully fully distributed by the end of December. I know that this late distribution poses many challenges. I know that the calls of many library supporters to legislators urging the speedy payout of library aid made a difference. I wish there was a way to insulate libraries from the dreary economic picture. Education of public policy makers on all the issues of delayed aid payments is very important.
New Training Calendar: Elizabeth Carrature-Brown of the State Library's Library Development staff has developed a new on-line "New York Library Careers Information Calendar." Please check it out at: http://librarycareersny.org/calendar.html. It is devoted to listing upcoming training and professional development activities across the state. It will include the widest range of training from "free" webinars to multi-session training programs. I hope you will contribute if you offer or provide training to the library community. It's free. As practitioners of lifelong learning, we need to not forget our own educational and training needs. Next year new regulations will take effect which will require newly certified public librarians to provide evidence of continuing education to maintain professional certification. This new requirement will rely heavily upon the wonderful continuing education offerings of our state's library schools, statewide library associations and public library, school library and 3Rs systems. Ideas to improve this new service will be welcomed by Elizabeth (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Regents Advisory Council on Libraries: The Regents Advisory Council (RAC) is the oldest of the advisory groups to the State Board of Regents. Its critical role is to advise the Regents, and the State Librarian, about important library matters and to reflect upon the issues which impact upon all of the state's libraries. The Regents, at their September meeting, appointed four new members of the Regents Advisory Council: John Hammond, Executive Director of the Northern New York Library Network; Dionne Mack-Harvin, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Public Library; Mary Muller, President of the Board of Trustees of the Troy Public Library and Principal of Market Block Books; Louise S. Sherby, Associate Dean and Chief Librarian of Hunter College Libraries, City University of New York (CUNY). Congratulations to our new members. In welcoming the new members of the RAC, I ask that you share your concerns with them about matters that require the Regents' attention. Contact information is posted on the RAC webpage at: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/adviscns/rac/index.html. The RAC makes regular reports to the Regents, through the Regents' Cultural Education Committee. At the September 25th RAC meeting, the Council voted to endorse the development and implementation of a separate New York State Learning Standard for Information Literacy. The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has promulgated Standards for the 21st Century Learner which is widely used. It can be accessed at http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards. This could serve as a great model for New York State. Our special thanks to Norman Jacknis, Ellen Bach and David Ferriero who have completed their RAC service. We appreciate their major contribution of time, energy, skills and interest.
Google Book Search: I was especially pleased to learn that the court hearing scheduled for October 9th on the Google Book Search settlement has been postponed until November 7th. The parties to this class-action suit, the Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers have gone back to the bargaining table with Google. Libraries are NOT parties to the suit but will be significantly affected by its outcome. The governments of Germany and France are opposing the settlement along with the Attorneys General of six (6) states. I have weighed in to advocate for a list of 14 improvements to the settlement which I believe will help libraries and mitigate some of the expected long term financial consequences. You can see my perspective at http://librarian.lishost.org/?p=2729. Obviously there are many views about the settlement, pro and con. The U.S. Department of Justice has shared its "concerns" with the Court and the U.S. Register of Copyright testified about her serious disagreements and concerns before Congress. I am somewhat optimistic that the settlement can be re-constructed to give libraries better access. School libraries were completely forgotten in the original settlement proposal. State libraries, law libraries and medical libraries also were not included. While economic issues have been widely discussed the settlement needs a great deal of work to protect user privacy and to prevent censorship of materials. Stay tuned. There probably will be a google number of e-mails about the Google Book settlement.
Libraries and Broadband: And speaking of Google….The national "Fiber to the Library" (F2L) movement begun by Digital Village Associates has recently received a boost with the announcement of support by Google, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) and the Fiber to the Home Council (FTTH). The Fiber to the Library movement aims to bring 100 Mbps Internet connections to all of the 16,500 public libraries in the United States by 2012. "Libraries serve as the most logical community hub and gathering place to provide access to emerging technology and information" according to Digital Village founder Donald Means. The short term goal is to influence the broadband planning now being undertaken by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC plan is due to Congress in February 2010.
Cultural Education Fund: The Cultural Education Fund is the vehicle for financial support for the State Library, the State Museum, the State Archives and Public Broadcasting. Fees, collected by County Clerks, often from real estate transactions, support the fund. The fund is bankrupt. If all obligations were included the fund would have a negative balance of over $5 million. Revenues experienced an uptick in September and we are buoyed by this possible symbol of economic recovery. Discussions are continuing about raising the level of fees collected to support the fund. Fees have not been increased in about ten years. This continues to be our best avenue of support for this fund.
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA): The LSTA is the primary federal funding support program for libraries. I am pleased to announce that we have looked at this program and done some internal review and re-prioritization to be able to increase the funds available for grants to libraries by $300,000 each year over the next two years. A total of $1.6 million ($800,000 a year) will be allocated for two year grants (April 2010-March 2012). While this is not a huge increase, we believe that every little bit will help. Systems will be hearing more about the program deadlines and priorities from Mary Linda Todd, the State Library's LSTA Coordinator.
Election time: New Yorkers have reason to celebrate as elections to support the creation of new library districts have resulted in success. Congratulations to all the library supporters and dedicated staff and board members working long hours to educate the public about the role that well-supported libraries play in the vibrancy of every community. Special kudos to the people of Troy with a huge election victory supporting a new district with a healthy funding base and a newly elected Board. Despite the challenging economic times New Yorkers do understand and appreciate the value of library service!
Library leadership: I predict that you will be reading more and more about library leadership in the coming months. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is looking at ways of supporting and developing leadership as one of the best ways of moving libraries forward. So it is especially appropriate that New York's library leadership is being tapped for national leadership. Sara Kelly Johns has just been nominated as a candidate for President of the 67,000 member American Library Association. Sara is an acclaimed school librarian/school library media specialist (Lake Placid Middle/Sr. High School), formerly served as President of the Association of School Libraries and is a current member of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries. And, to amplify the importance of our state as a source for great leaders and because one New York leader is not enough, James G. Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian, Columbia University has been nominated to be Treasurer of the American Library Association. Long active in ALA and the Association of Research Libraries, Jim is a distinguished and sought-after speaker and wonderful library thinker…and doer! I have the privilege of knowing them both and am thrilled with their nominations. If you are not a member of the American Library Association, I cannot think of a better time for you to consider joining and exercising your vote for two highly qualified New Yorkers in next spring's ALA election.
State Library Staffing: The voluntary severance program for state employees will result in the loss of eleven full-time library positions (down from the originally expected 18 departures) for the State Library. Hardest hit will be our services to the blind and physically handicapped, the Talking Book and Braille Library (TBBL) and our preservation work. Under this state program, designed to reduce state expenditures, all the vacated positions will be eliminated. We are strategizing on the best ways to sustain our service levels in these vital areas.
New York Library Association Meeting: I hope to see you at the upcoming New York Library Association (NYLA) confab in Niagara Falls. The State Library, along with NYLA and the New York State Association of Library Boards will be hosting the always popular Friday morning (9:45 am, Conference Center II and III, Porter & Deveaux Rooms) program on legislative matters. Joining Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Cannell and myself will be Regents Chancellor Emeritus Robert M. Bennett; Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Libraries and Education Technology; Assemblyman Sam Hoyt; Senator Antoine Thompson; Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte; Kevin Verbesey, NYLA Legislative Chair; and Mary Ellen O'Connor, NYSALB President. Please come with your questions about critical legislative and funding matters facing libraries of every type. I will also be hosting a "talk to the state librarian" session on Friday at 2:15 p.m. (Conference Center IV, Whitney Room). Needless to say, the NYLA Annual Meeting is a great way to learn about all the "new" professional trends, to become acquainted with best practices and to continue your own individual learning and networking.
ARIA and the Library Community: On September 10th the State Senate gave overwhelming approval to ARIA (Academic Research Information Access) (A.7229/S.5419) legislation designed to make state financial resources available for high-cost database resources for the academic and research library community. The Senate vote came after an earlier vote in the Assembly approving the legislation with almost no opposition. The legislation, as passed, creates a concept and mechanism but includes no funding support. The legislation is about to move to the Governor's desk. He will have ten days to review and to either sign or veto. Regardless of his action it is a major achievement that the need for database resources, as an economic development tool, is acknowledged in this visible way. This is a great building block for the Comprehensive Information System that I have been talking about and have been calling NYSCIS (New York State Comprehensive Information System). I have supported the ARIA legislation. As with most legislation, it has a few areas I believe could be strengthened and broadened. Clearly the State Library needs a more direct role in the operation of ARIA. Sadly, ARIA has created a division in the library community. In challenging economic times, it has been seen by some as a potential dilution of the state's resource commitment to public libraries and school libraries. For others it creates an "exclusive" class of libraries for expensive database resources. For others it appears to be an initiative of the New York State Higher Education Initiative (NYSHEI) in conflict with the goals of the New York Library Association (NYLA). Of course, there are even many more views and perspectives. This diversity of beliefs, viewpoints, and opinions generally helps us as a community. It provides a basis for fruitful and productive discussions where we come together, share our common goals, understand our disagreements, and build new understanding. I am planning to bring people with a variety of perspectives together in the next months and will invite the NYLA Council and NYSHEI Board to meet with me soon to discuss this matter. I invite your assistance in helping to bring the library community together. Our strength and effectiveness must be built on a foundation of trust, respect and appreciation of our similarities and our differences. Thanks, in advance, for your help.
Bernard A. Margolis