February 2014, Volume 6, Issue 1
Check Your Calendars!!
Digital Learning Day
Read Across America Day
Teen Tech Week
PLA Virtual Spring Symposium
School Library Month
National Library Week
World Book Night
Featured e-Resources of the Month
Welcome, Learning Express Library 3.0
"The Haves and the Have-Nots"
By Daria Bossman, State Librarian
You have certainly heard the common phrase, "While the rich get richer, the poor get poorer." Well, I don't know if you could categorize any of our public libraries as "rich," but it certainly is true that there is a growing disparity between those with tight, but healthy budgets and those with few resources and diminishing funding. Unfortunately, we are a state of the haves and the have-nots.
The 2012 SD public library statistics have recently been analyzed and reviewed. For more statewide details, see our recently published "2013 Public Library Data Digest". You can download a copy at library.sd.gov. As board members, you should already have a copy of your library's Public Library survey, and if not, ask your library director for a copy or give us a call. The 2013 survey should be completed by the end of March.
When looking at the data, what we find are many positives: For instance, statewide circulation is up, e-book usage is way up and in-house library computer usage is up by nearly 20%---Now that is a wild statistic that should give us all some pause. Wi-Fi is available in 80% of our public libraries so folks are also bringing their own devices and plugging in "@ their local library"! Hours open are slightly down, but this may not be such a bad thing with electronic access 24/7 becoming the norm. Total expenditures and total income budgeted for local public libraries - both county and municipalities – has basically not moved.
What is most concerning to me is the great divide between those whose overall budgets were raised this past year and those who sustained cuts … some quite drastically. Of the 111 public libraries, 46 had decreases in their budgets, while 65 had increases. Of those that received decreases, several were in the 20% to 45% range. I understand that city and county officials are faced with difficult decisions when it comes to funding, but I do worry about the long-term impact of sustained cuts on services to library patrons.
On a brighter note, six public libraries across the state saw significant increases in their overall budgets. The increases at these locations ranged from 24% to 79%!
An Economical, Cost Effective Option
Nationally the number of folks served by e-book access is exploding. South Dakota was ahead of the game for a few years. This past year the national number reached 76% of the state's population coverage up from 67% the previous year. South Dakota is now at 78% coverage. The argument to keep open tiny, minimally used library facilities is usually geography. In truth, that has been a valid argument in the days before good roads and the Internet. However, in the 21st century, “geography” is precisely the issue for going forward with digital electronic access, whether or not there are valid reasons for maintaining a local facility. It is difficult to face the realities of rising costs and minimal programming at some of our tiniest facilities, but that is precisely the time to think about combining and/or redirecting resources for the most efficient 21st century model. Now that sounds like value!
Perhaps a good New Year's wish would be that the 78% coverage for e-books would continue to grow to 90 or 95% of the state's population. South Dakotans have a right to access information. It would seem that in the most remote areas of South Dakota, online access to resources and books would be the most cost efficient and desirable for all citizens. As technology changes, our libraries can respond in new, more efficient and effective ways to the information and literacy needs of our communities. Information is power and access to information builds strong communities and local economies.
Local citizens and local library boards need to be asking themselves these critical questions: Are we serving our public in the most effective and efficient way? Are we maximizing the State Library's free access to the 40 online databases currently available? Are we collaborating with our local businesses and agencies to communicate their value to our community? How have information needs changed in our community? How can we grow and change? Are we spending the tax-payers money wisely? Today there are many models and a variety of options for public library services. One size does not fit all. The State Library staff is here to assist local library boards sort out their options.
However, when it comes to information and library services, let's have a solid 2014 resolution to use our resources wisely and be a state of haves and not needlessly be a state divided between the haves and the have-nots.