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 Maryland’s Assistant State Superintendent for Libraries Irene Padilla. Read more about the Maryland Division of Library Development and Services’ priorities in IMLS’ state profile for Maryland.
James: Looking at the 2008-2012 plan, could you talk about the three most important community needs from that plan and some specific programs that helped to meet those needs?
Irene: We developed a wide variety of partnerships so our libraries would have more services and programs to offer, specifically in the community needs of family engagement, digital literacy, and increasing accessibility. We worked with the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Early Childhood on the receipt of a Race to the Top Early Learning grant that allowed us to set up family councils within our public libraries. These “Parent Cafés” established a statewide model for family engagement. We also cultivated and expanded our One Maryland One Book program with the Maryland Humanities Council to foster intergenerational conversations through book discussions. Secondly, we saw rising community needs around digital access, particularly for e-books via e-readers, towards the end of our 2008-2012 plan. This resulted in an e-book summit, attended by approximately 300 Maryland public, school, academic and special librarians. We also followed up with a number of programs to help libraries gear up for the e-book demand from local communities. Thirdly, we identified the accessibility needs of the Maryland community through the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped programs. We developed several new programs within 2008-2012, and the demand continues in this current plan.
James: Looking at the evaluation of the 2008-2012 plan, could you talk about how that influenced your new plan?
Irene: We found in our evaluation that we had accomplished the majority of the objectives in our previous plan, and we wanted to build on Maryland’s strengths in the areas of community engagement and professional development of the library workforce. Technology and innovation was an indicator of success in the 2008-2012 plan, which influenced partnerships in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)-related and workforce development initiatives for libraries. The increased usage of the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped encouraged us to continue meeting the demands of this demographic in Maryland.
James: Could you talk about the three most important needs in the new plan and programs that you’re planning to offer or continuing to offer to meet those needs?
Irene: The three most important needs that Maryland’s current plan addresses are empowering libraries to be anchors in their communities, supporting inclusive and accessible educational experiences, and strengthening Maryland’s library workforce. We have continued to offer innovative programs throughout the state with partners such as the Maryland Veterans Association, FutureMakers, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension, the Center for a New American Dream, and Blind Industries and Services of Maryland to help address the needs of libraries’ local communities.
Due to an IMLS initiative, Maryland public libraries were already part of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). During the FY2013 legislative session, the state adopted a bill that includes libraries as part of MEMA (Maryland Emergency Management Agency). This ensures that our local libraries are involved in the necessary communications and formally acknowledged as an essential component of emergency management and disaster relief.
The Maker Meetup that we organized at the close of the previous plan served as a springboard for additional statewide projects that introduce STEM educational experiences to Maryland libraries. We are focused on strengthening partnerships with STEM and education organizations to develop models with the potential to reduce summer slide in STEM and reading literacy, regardless of socioeconomic background.
We have also continued to strengthen our staff development and learning programs. The consistent statewide staff development initiatives, such as Skillsoft courses, Maryland’s Library Associate Training Institute, and leadership workshops all continue to evolve and reflect the shifting needs of our librarians.
Two initiatives that emerged as a result of the e-book summit from the last plan include expanding the commercial availability of e-books for our patrons while also looking at additional partnerships to create our own e-content with multiple types of libraries. One of the outgrowths of the summit was an e-book advisory committee, whose membership represents various library types.
The division coordinates the Maryland Library Consortium (MLC), comprised of all types of libraries that serve Maryland residents. Through cost sharing and coordination of library collections, it provides Maryland residents with equal opportunity access to information resources. Five years ago, the MLC implemented the cooperative purchase of databases for the state. The MLC also oversees e-content including e-books, digital magazines, streaming video, and music. Through partnerships that leverage public resources, it provides a foundation for personal and community development.