Update Eight (February 12, 2010)
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 email address to firstname.lastname@example.org. This update and past updates are posted on the New York State Library's website at: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/library/about/statelibrarian.htm.
State Aid for Libraries: For the fifth time in two years, another cut has been proposed for the 25 state aid to libraries programs in the state budget. The Executive Budget Proposal, which includes an additional 2.8% cut, is now one of the many items being discussed in the legislature as the deliberative process works towards the April 1st deadline for the new budget and the start of the new fiscal year. This additional cut, if it comes to fruition, means that State Aid for Libraries would be $18 million or 18% less than it was in 2007-2008. In context, it should be noted that state aid to schools is proposed for a 5% cut in funding after multiple years of funding increases. Funding for many other programs is left untouched. I have been persistent in telling all who will listen that these cuts, if enacted, will result in layoffs, branch closures and reductions in services and service hours. The cuts to public and school library systems and reference and research library resources systems will mean less for databases and materials, reduced interlibrary loan and delivery, challenged technology services, and less support for specialized services for youth, seniors, speakers of English as a second language, the blind and disabled, the unemployed and the incarcerated. If any of these impacts are being considered by your libraries or systems, pick up the phone today and call a legislator to convey your story. Legislators will be making choices. Your information will help them make wise choices.
SnapshotNY: States across the country are engaging in "Snapshot" days to showcase the essential work that libraries do as the heart of their communities – whether that library serves the general public, a school, a college or a special clientele. I applaud the leadership of the New York Library Association in offering New York's libraries the opportunity to participate in this important initiative during February, which is also national "Love Your Library" month. I encourage every New York library and system to participate in SnapshotNY. To learn more about SnapshotNY and how your library can participate, visit the NYLA website at http://www.nyla.org/.
Federal Library Support: During the Great Depression, one of the priorities of the federal Works Progress Administration was to build and staff libraries. This stimulated the economy, created jobs and helped educate the nation. Unfortunately, the lessons of the past are not being replayed in the Great Recession. The President's proposed budget freezes all federal Library Services and Technology Act funds at this year's level of $214 million. Many education programs and initiatives are being eliminated completely and support for school libraries and school librarians is being minimized with greater focus on other programs. The pressure is on to include library staff in the "Jobs" bill about to be introduced in the Senate. We hope this will prove successful in creating new employment opportunities for library staff.
Additionally, we are pleased that the Secretary of Agriculture has recently announced the addition of $100 million to USDA Rural Development Community Facilities funding for libraries in rural communities. The funds for eligible libraries will be available to support shelving, furniture, computers, bookmobiles, and equipment and to construct, enlarge and improve public library facilities. Links to program details and a list of USDA field offices in NYS which are handling applications may be found at: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/btop/ under the announcement for 1/27/2010.
Passings: We just lost J.D. Salinger and before him the Kirkus Review and Gourmet. Stalwarts all! Salinger gave us some great, uniquely American literature and banned books to read. Kirkus gave us a keen and precise critical reviewer's eye on most books considered for library purchase. Gourmet gave us more than morsels to digest. All are a significant loss.
Broadband: Waiting is no fun! The New York State Library/State Education Department's Public Computing Center proposal under the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program is still in the running. As of last count, ten (10) grants have been awarded, about 160 rejected, and 52 left for consideration. We have completed the "due diligence" phase, supplied additional information, and now await word. The proposal will expand public computing in libraries in 41 counties.
E Rate: Support to libraries in the form of subsidies for telecommunications and internet access from E-rate makes it one of the most important federal library funding programs in history. New York libraries receive over $10 million annually to pay the phone bill and provide internet connections. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has received public comment on a new national broadband plan and E-rate is likely to play a key role in providing financial support for the goals which will be outlined by the FCC. We will have to be prepared to fight hard to keep our piece of the E-rate pie and to hopefully expand what E-rate services will be supported for libraries. The FCC received a time reprieve from Congress and has another month to submit a report on its planning proposals (due March 17, 2010).
Google Book Search Settlement: The Department of Justice (DOJ) has just filed its review of the revised Google Book Search settlement with Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Once again, the Department of Justice suggests that the revision is not acceptable in part because it grants rights that are inconsistent with the "core principle" of U.S. copyright law and which attempt to use a class-action suit to create "business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the Court in this litigation." The DOJ suggests that the settlement gives Google "anticompetitive" advantage. The next step is the fairness hearing before Judge Chin on February 18th. Stay tuned, this matter is far from concluded. The revised settlement now before the judge will be costly to New York's libraries. While Google has yet to reveal how much libraries will be charged for access to the thousands of books (many from publicly supported libraries) which it has digitized, it is clear that there will be charges which many libraries will be unable to afford.
Exclusivity in Magazines: I was surprised last year when I learned that New York's (and the nation's) leading consumer organization, Consumers Union, had signed an exclusive distribution agreement for its popular and important periodical; Consumer Reports. That meant that only one database/periodical aggregator could sell online access to libraries. The State Library received a quote of over $1 million to purchase statewide access to Consumer Reports. This was beyond our budget! This exclusivity trend continues with Time, Inc. and its top popular periodicals (Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, etc.) also now entering into an exclusive online distribution agreement. The announcement came during the Midwinter meeting of the American Library Association and has been the subject of much blogging and public and private comment since. I think the trend represents a restraint of trade which is bound to raise costs for every library. The New York State Library, which supports the NOVELny databases (ideally including many of the now exclusive periodicals), is particularly impacted as we try to secure a wide array of databases at the lowest cost. I hope that our national organizations will pursue every avenue to advance the widest access to information without exclusivity.
Leadership….Again, I take the opportunity to mention prominent New Yorkers being considered for important national leadership positions. The American Library Association ballot, soon to be sent electronically to all 63,000 members, includes Sara Kelly Johns, seeking to serve us as President-elect/President and James (Jim) Neal seeking to serve as Treasurer. Also in the queue for President-elect/President of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is Frank D'Andraia, Service Professor in the Department of Information Studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York. These are three great librarians who will serve us well. Please vote early and…..
At the federal level, the most important agency for libraries (and museums) is the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). It is an independent agency whose Director is a Presidential appointee who sees to it that the President's perspectives on libraries and museums are demonstrated in policies and programs. The IMLS administers over $214 million in funding for libraries, much of which is distributed on a formula basis to the states. The IMLS Director term is four (4) years and the Directorship rotates between a museum professional and library professional. Anne-Imelda Radice, after four years of important work, will be ending her term at the end of March and the President will be appointing a librarian to lead this very important agency for the next four years. A prominent New York librarian is being considered for this critical position: Suzanne E. Thorin, University Librarian at Syracuse University. I have had the good fortune to know Suzanne for many years. The agency which she seeks to run needs a vibrant, thoughtful, energetic leader who will advocate for more resources for libraries. The leader will need to support museums and the broader cultural community as well and will be relied upon to speak to library issues in every part of the federal government. I believe that Suzanne can do this job – and more - and I have endorsed her in a recent letter to the President. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have also given their endorsements among many others. It is exciting when we see New York colleagues considered for positions of national leadership in our work. Good luck Suzanne!
Regents Advisory Council on Libraries: Bridget Quinn-Carey, (Director, Buffalo-Erie County Public Library) has been chosen by her colleagues to Chair the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries (RAC). The RAC recently presented its endorsement of separate Information Literacy Standards for Schools to the Regents Cultural Education Committee. Regents reacted positively to RAC members Sara Kelly Johns and John Monahan who persuasively shared insights into the work of school librarians, the importance of school libraries, and the need for separate standards. The RAC is now working on its annual presentation to the Regents scheduled for April.
Transparency and Privacy: Libraries have a unique role in the current public discussion about transparency. "Transparency" could be our middle name as libraries serve as the repository and primary access point to the workings of our government(s). We may have invented the term "freedom of information," and clearly we work hard to celebrate that freedom and also to assure its practice for everyone we serve. I am happy to sing the praises of all our government documents librarians. On the other hand, we work to guarantee the privacy of our users, customers and patrons. We protect their right of access and their right to access materials of every sort without anyone else knowing. We make the important distinction between full access to material and access to information about those using the material. It is appropriate that we celebrate Choose Privacy Week this May 2 to 8. It is a chance to remind people of all the dimensions of transparency and privacy. This year is especially important when we overlay the work of the U.S. Census Bureau as it seeks to collect private information which is protected for privacy but which is essential for the operation of the government at every level. For more information on Privacy Week go to: privacyrevolution.org.
Renewal: Spring is not far away! Can we begin thinking about renewal and the opportunities created by the dismal financial picture? The opportunities may seem like obstacles. I am, however, buoyed when I read a blog or a news article that recounts the amazing and positive experiences which people around the state are having in their libraries. People are discovering, again, the rich resources and services and staff. There is reason to appreciate the importance of the work of all libraries and librarians. Don't you just love libraries. Happy Valentines Day to all.
Bernard A. Margolis