We heard about some really interesting programs at our recent meeting of BCR’s Public Libraries Advisory Group.
Sweetwater (WY) County Library System is holding their 2nd annual Zombie Walk and Prom (?! what a combination). Sioux City (IA) Public Library got a grant to help seniors with internet literacy via Generations on Line and on Halloween there, kids practiced their reading skills on Reading Dogs in full costume.
Iowa City Public Library has put displays on materials in local businesses – so e.g. when you’re learning about knitting at the local craft school, you’ll be reminded that the library has loads of free pattern books.
One library will soon install a vending machine with 300 items at a public transportation hub. (I’d love to hear how these types of machines are doing – if you have one, please send in your comments.) Bitterroot (MT) Public Library is heavily promoting downloadable audios and their virtual reference service. Both these efforts have the added advantage of helping the environment since they reduce the number of cars driving to the library.
King County (WA) Library System is opening an unstaffed Library Express at a shopping center in an area far from any branches. Customers can pick up holds, browse a small collection and get phone reference help. They’ve also purchased five Sprinter Vans which house materials and computers. Smaller than bookmobiles, staff can take them into neighborhoods or park them at transit stations. Since staffers working the Library2Go service will know what their patrons need, they’ll make the decisions about where the vans should be and what items will be on them.
On a darker note, almost everyone is seeing or anticipating budget cuts and reductions, though luckily most libraries have avoided laying off staff so far. Even the normally flush WY libraries seem to be affected as Sweetwater took a 13.5% cut. Washoe (NV) County Library System has been devastated – they’ve lost half their funding in the last two years. Let’s hope the customer testimonials their advocacy group is recording help their funders see how important a well financed library is to the community. And King County will be able to help libraries reduce costs. They got an IMLS million dollar grant to assist other libraries with implementing the Evergreen open source ILS software.
We also discussed how to help libraries retain and increase funding. It seems libraries that get the biggest budget cuts are the ones competing for funds with other public entities. We need to know how to articulate to local government and politicians that the library is a service worth funding. We also felt that in many states, we need to lobby for new laws or models that allow libraries to be funded independently, so they don’t have to compete for monies with police and fire departments.