Archive for July, 2010

So long, farewell, amen

Posted by Peter Bromberg

This week I came to the end of two wonderful chapters in my life.

First, this was my final week of employment at the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative (SJRLC), where I have enjoyed working for the past nine years.  And second, this is my final post at the Library Garden blog, where I have had the pleasure of writing for the past four years.  Both departures are bittersweet, filled with sadness and loss, but also mixed with excitement for the what lies ahead.  On Monday, August 2nd I will begin as Assistant Director at the Princeton Public Library, and at the same time I will launch a new blog at http://blog.peterbromberg.com.

I would like use this opportunity, my final post at LG, to do something that I have never done before.  I am going to break my cardinal Library Garden blogging rule and write a post that is intended primarily for the New Jersey library community.  If you are not a member of the NJ library community I encourage and invite you to read on, as the topic I’m about to address has broader implications for librarianship.  But again, I am writing directly to you my NJ colleagues.

CONGRATULATIONS, I’M SORRY
Those of you in NJ know that we have just emerged from a partially successful four-month advocacy campaign to restore state funding for library services.  In March we received devastating news that the Governor had slashed library funding 74% in his proposed budget, effectively putting an end to vital library services including delivery, interlibrary loan, shared full-text databases, and the New Jersey Library Network including the four Regional Library Cooperatives.  In late June, after an advocacy campaign that generated tens of thousands of letters of support, we learned that much of the funding was restored, and many services would be saved.  Unfortunately, as in other states (including Colorado,  Massachusetts and Illinois), the Cooperative system — a system in place for nearly 25 years — is being downsized, as the State Librarian has made a decision to consolidate the four Cooperatives into one.

I have been approached by a number of people who have asked me to either write or co-write an article on the phenomena of merging and downsizing regional library cooperatives.  We’ve seen a similar pattern with many former OCLC affiliates like Palinet and Solinet merging into Lyrasis.  What is the impact of merging library cooperatives — of effectively de-regionalizing?  Are regional library cooperatives even necessary in this day and age?

I’ve been pondering the requests to write about these questions over the past few weeks as I clean out my office, thinking about the different angles and struggling to clarify for myself the core questions to be explored.  Part of my struggle is this: I place great personal value on transparency, dialogue, and fact-based decision making, and have been feeling a great deal of disappointment in not seeing those values honored or expressed to the extent I would have liked as the decision to consolidate the Cooperatives was made.  It distressed me that a very important decision with far-reaching ramifications was made so quickly and with what I regarded as little input from the library community. (The State Librarian put together an Advisory Committee to advise on budget/spending priorities but the Committee was not asked to give input on the consolidation of the Regions– a decision that had been made before the Committee convened on July 6th.)  I resisted writing anything because I was aware that my own disappointment in the process, and my very personal and emotional connection to the results of the process, were making it difficult for me to think clearly or objectively about the issues.

BRIDGING THE PAST AND THE FUTURE
For weeks I have struggled to get clarity on my mix of emotions, experience them, and release them, in an attempt to get to a place where I could reasonably address the broader topic of the value of libraries cooperatives in 2010 in a relatively dispassionate manner.

And then, a bit of providence.

As I cleaned my office, finding all manner of interesting artifacts, I came across this document, a record of a focus group convened for the State Librarian in 1992 to explore the challenges then facing the New Jersey Library Network, then only six years old.  The questions got directly to the heart of the matter:  Are Regional Library Cooperatives of value, and if so, how and to what degree?  Seeing these questions and answers helped me get to the heart of my questions and my concerns.

What, in 2010, is the value of having a Cooperative system?  With the consolidation of our Regional Cooperatives, something is gained and something is lost. Looking forward, it is important that the New Jersey library community have an open and informed dialogue that addresses our reduced resources, and determines which spending priorities will most benefit the libraries, and hence the library customers.  With regard to the consolidation of the Regions, I think it would be fruitful to ask:

  1. What has been gained by consolidation, and how do we maximize those gains?
  2. What has been lost due to consolidation, and how do we mitigate those losses?

As I write this I am at a point in my life of great change.  At this moment I stand at a personal and professional juncture between my past experiences, accomplishments, and failures, and my future challenges, struggles, and (hopefully) victories and successes. Perhaps it is because I am straddling this brief period of time, bridging what was and what is about to be, that I have a desire to build another bridge.

VALUE OF COOPERATIVE SERVICES:  TAKE THE SURVEY! (open until Sept 15!)
The focus group document from 1992 provides a useful historical context for exploring the questions we are struggling with in 2010.  In the interest of furthering the dialogue — the open dialogue I firmly believe we must have to make wise and fiscally sound decisions that will strengthen our libraries and our library community — I have created a survey modeled after the 1992 focus group. It is a bridge between then and now, between where we were and where we need to be.  I invite all members of the NJ library community to participate in whole or in part.  The direct survey link is: http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dG4zYmx1SEM1VGV4ZFFGdVBodHp4U1E6MQ.  Note: Extended until Sept 15!  the survey closes on August 9th.

There are 12 questions, and all are essay/short answer.  You may be as brief or as detailed as the spirit moves.  Answer one question, or answer all of them.  I appreciate any and all feedback that you can provide.  It is only by generating this information that we can begin to have an informed and productive discussion regarding the future of Cooperative service for NJ libraries, and the best use of our increasingly limited state resources.  I will use the survey information to inform my future writings, and will also share the results with the State Advisory Committee, the State Library, Infolink, and the New Jersey library community.

It is of course difficult to discuss resource allocation without knowing what the resources are, so for your convenience I am providing links to the FY2010 and FY2011 budget allocations from the state:


SO LONG, FAREWELL, AMEN

I’d like to conclude this post by thanking my co-writers at Library Garden, especially Janie Hermann and Robert Lackie who were instrumental in founding and building this blog along with me.  It has been an honor to write with all of you.  I value the relationships that we have formed and know that we will continue to enjoy many adventures together.

I would also like to thank my co-workers at SJRLC:  Sandi Augello, Beth Cackowski, Anne Marie Hering, and most especially Karen Hyman who has offered so much support and wisdom and from whom I have learned so very much.  You are all my family, and it has been an honor and a pleasure to work so closely with you.

Finally, I’d like to thank the readers of Library Garden for any eyeball time you’ve given my posts over the past four years.  If you’ve enjoyed or been otherwise engaged by what you’ve read, please join me as I continue the conversation at blog.peterbromberg.com. And I will join you as I transition from Library Garden writer to faithful Library Garden reader.

Links to documents referenced

July 31, 2010 at 8:57 am 5 comments

On Andy Woodworth and the Old Spice Guy discussing libraries

Let's eat peanut butter

Let's eat peanut butter

Andy Woodworth, popular NJ Librarian and friend, suggested that I illustrate the response to his tweet from the recently retired Old Spice Guy (OSG). The response, if you’ve not seen it, is a video in which OSG talked up some of the benefits of libraries, which in turn started some larger conversations and discussions about the interactions of commercial ventures and libraries and what that means. Andy details the exchange here.

The video stated, in typical genius, free-thought OSG style:

“I’m handsome. You’re pretty. Let’s eat peanut butter. Stop throwing pigeons. Jump onto that giraffe.”

Nice work, Andy, for keeping the discussion on libraries public and active, and we’ll miss you, OSG.

July 22, 2010 at 9:08 pm 4 comments

Congrats to Amy Kearns!!

Posted by Peter Bromberg

Congratulations to Amy Kearns on her appointment as Assistant Director at the Middletown Township Public Library!

————————————————————————–

MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP PUBLIC LIBRARY
55 NEW MONMOUTH ROAD 9 MIDDLETOWN, NJ 07748
PHONE: 732.671.3700 * SUSAN O’NEAL, DIRECTOR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JULY 14,2010

CONTACT: Susan O’Neal, Director
671-3703

SUBJECT: MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIPS LIBRARY NAMES NEW ASSISTANT DIRECTOR

The Middletown Township Public Library is pleased to announce that Amy J. Kearns will join the staff as Assistant Director / Manager of Adult Services on July 27, 2010. She will replace longtime library employee and Assistant Director JoAnn Strano, who is retiring.

Amy has her undergraduate and Master of Library and Information Science degree from Rutgers University, where she is a part-time instructor on the topic of information technologies. She previously worked in the Clifton and Paterson public libraries before her most recent position as the Program Coordinator for the Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative.

Her experience in information technology includes the development of new programs and workshops for the CJRLC, a consortium of over five hundred member libraries, presentations at state and national library organizations, workshops in libraries and one-on-one training. “Amy is an unabashed change agent,” said Susan O’Neal, Director of the Middletown Library. “We have every expectation that Amy will help us use the same technology that our customers favor and channel it to meet library needs and improve services.”

Ms. Kearns has experience developing and using webinars for training purposes. According to O’Neal, use of web-based training has reduced continuing education and training costs for the library, and that Ms. Kearns will be putting her skills to work to create a series of information literacy webinars for the public to access from work, school or home. A sample class might be on how to do research on the library’s databases, replicating instruction that is provided in-house, but for participants, who, for whatever reason, cannot come to the library itself.

Duties will include management of the Adult Services Department, selection of reference department materials, personnel administration, staff continuing education and subscription database management. The Assistant Director is on the management team, participates or leads several internal committees, and is the person-in-charge in the absence of the library director.

When asked to comment on this appointment, Ms Kearns said, “The Middletown Township Public Library is a model of excellent and creative library service and I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Susan O’Neal and the talented staff. I am very excited about joining the library team and providing service to the Middletown Township community.”

The Middletown Township Public Library is located at 55 New Monmouth Road, just off Hwy 35. For information about the library and its services check out the website: www.mtul.org.

July 16, 2010 at 2:56 pm 7 comments

Hard Times

Posted by Emily Knox

It’s the beginning of July and another American Library Association conference is over. One of the most amazing things about conferences is how tiring they are–at the end of the day it’s all one can do to simply crawl into bed. ALA is huge and just getting to a particular meeting via bus from the conference center to a hotel can take up to 45 minutes depending on traffic.

This year I volunteered to recruit for the Rutgers School of Communication and Information’s Department of Library and Information Science. It was so exciting to meet people who are interested in research in our field. Throughout the recruitment session I was reminded of why I started the program in the first place–I have a question that I want to answer and getting a doctorate provides me with the background and resources I need to answer it.

It will come as no surprise that the conference was filled with budget talk and the precarious state of library funding. In the midst of an economic downturn people, people tend to focus on how much libraries cost to run. Recently the Fox affiliate in Chicago asked “Are Libraries Necessary?” And all of us are aware of the budget crisis in New Jersey library funding.

However, I noticed another undercurrent to many of the sessions that I attended. People also turn to the library as a symbol of their fears in a changing and somewhat frightening world. I heard about a library board member who used the library collection as a political football. Librarians not wanting to “make a big deal” out of controversial materials and quietly removing them. (This practice increases in hard financial times – librarians don’t want to put their budgets at risk for one item). Inevitably, all of these discussions turned to policy. It is incredibly important that library policies are up-to-date and easily retrievable.

Have you looked at the policies for your board of trustees and/or library committee? Do they include a code of ethics? (This was recommended by the librarian whose board member had played political football with the library’s collection). What about the library’s form for reconsideration? Does it include a final arbiter? Do all stakeholders have a copy of your all policies and forms including the Board of Education or whatever governing body you report to? I encourage you to take the time to look through all of your policies and update any that are not current. Unfortunately, in these hard times libraries will be attacked from all sides and good policies are one of our best lines of defense.

July 6, 2010 at 8:38 am 1 comment


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