IMLS staff interviewed state librarians to discuss how their new five-year plans for LSTA Grants to States funds (2013-2017) differ from their past plans (2008-2012) and how they see the needs of library users in their states changing and evolving. This post is part of a series and features IMLS Senior Library Program Officer James Lonergan interviewing Arizona State Librarian and Director Joan Clark, Library Development Director Holly Henley, and then-Library Consultant Laura Stone. Read more about the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records’ priorities in the state profile for Arizona.
James: Looking at the 2008 to 2012 plan, could you talk about the three most important community needs that you were trying to address?
Holly: We invested a good chunk of LSTA funding in lifespan learning, including summer reading programs and early literacy work. We have grown the summer reading program during the last five years from one that is primarily for school-aged children, to keep their reading skills up over the summer, to one that goes from cradle to rocking chair.
Joan: Our second area is virtual access and trying to connect people digitally. The Arizona Memory Project, our digital collection of collections, grew up over the last six years and was perfectly timed in its growth for the celebration of our state centennial in 2012. Many of the organizations who take advantage of it are so small they don’t even have a website to share their special collections, so the Arizona Memory Project continues to grow.
Then there’s training, with its intertwined areas of statewide access to databases and technology outreach. The databases that we’ve purchased, mainly in collaboration with Maricopa County Library District and Pima County Library, have really involved two levels of training: first for library staff and then for their audiences.
Holly: Also in terms of training, ALIVE [Arizona Library Institute, Virtual Extension] is a blended learning experience that allows people who can’t come for face-to-face training or participate in our week-long Library Institute to learn in a way that’s more robust than a webinar. It combines a self-paced course, homework, and online discussion.
James: In looking at the evaluation, can you tell us how it influenced your new five-year plan? How did the community needs change?
Laura: One of the things that I was pleasantly surprised to see was how resilient our previous five-year plan was, because it was focused on growth. And then we hit the downturn, and somehow this growth-focused plan managed to carry us through a period of no growth and even backtracking. Building on that plan and on our evaluation, I think the overall goals for our next five years are resilient enough to carry us forward.
Holly: We did find that the three categories of needs identified as most important from the last plan are still important for the next five years. If we were prioritizing them, virtual access would probably bump up to the top; that’s something that came out in the evaluation. Arizona librarians are really looking to the state library to help with virtual access and resources, including databases and e-books.
With our new plan’s focus on partnership building, we are trying to work with the Governor’s Office of Education Innovation and the Arizona Department of Education to promote summer reading. In the past, there have been multiple summer reading programs. The conversation now is about using our suggested summer reading lists and annual theme from the national Collaborative Summer Library Program along with a Lexile tool from the Department of Education to help parents to identify what books are at the appropriate reading levels for their kids. It’s such a natural for the Department of Education to promote summer reading at the public library. It also helps for classroom teachers and principals to say to students as they dismiss them for the summer, “Go to your local public library, join your summer reading program, and keep reading over the summer!” I think we’re having some really good conversations through this partnership-building.
Joan: Overall if I look at our plan, I think the three areas that we’re focused on are new technology, new skills, and new services, so all the details that we’ve given you fit under that umbrella in some way. It doesn’t mean that we’re putting the past investment behind us, but we realize we have to keep moving forward.