Interview: State Library of Louisiana

Rebecca Hamilton, State Librarian, State Library of Louisiana

Rebecca Hamilton, State Librarian, State Library of Louisiana

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 Timothy Owens interviewing Louisiana’s State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton and Deputy State Librarian Diane Brown. Read more about the State Library of Louisiana’s priorities in the state profile for Louisiana.


Timothy:  Looking back at the prior five-year plan, what did you see as the three most important community needs that you were trying to address with library services?

Rebecca:  We always try to address the needs of our special populations, and one example of that is our Talking Books and Braille Library. The program serves almost 7,000 patrons and really is the only place in Louisiana for those citizens to get books.

Technology is always an issue in many different ways. We have an in-house, computer services group that goes as far as it can to provide tech support, both in-house and in the field when we can afford to do it. So we provide a service that public libraries would normally hire a local computer company to handle for them. Most of them just can’t afford it. Then, with our interlibrary loan program and the databases that we provide at a statewide level for the public libraries, it’s like a ten-to-one cost savings for them.

Continuing Education (CE) is an important need for public library staff, so we try to keep our CE programs very relevant and easy for them to attend. We hold an administrative conference every year for the library directors and administrators; we hold an annual staff day, focusing primarily on paraprofessional staff; and we offer the support staff certification program from the American Library Association (ALA). As much as we are able to with the funding we have, we try to keep the CE program really packed.

Timothy:  Then, looking at the recent evaluation, how did that affect the development of your new plan?

Diane:  We use LSTA funding for statewide initiatives, and most of those initiatives have continued. We did deemphasize some things like early literacy, simply because we no longer had the specialist on staff. There are also other people out there doing early literacy – ALA has put together some materials – so we are taking what others have done and repackaging it. We also reemphasized some things here and there, but the evaluation basically confirmed our existing activities.

Timothy:  That segues us into the question of the three most important community needs you see in the new plan. 

Rebecca: One is building a culture of literacy in Louisiana for the libraries, because until we have that culture of literacy we won’t ever really be successful. The second one would be to expand the use of technology. We still have a very high number of people in Louisiana who do not have Internet connections – around 38 percent. Those people are either going to go without or go to their local library, and if libraries don’t stay on the front end of technology changes, those citizens are going to be left behind. The third would be 21st-century skills for library staff, which Diane and I both see as extremely important. We periodically take turns teaching the public libraries course at Louisiana State University’s School of Library and Information Science, and we infuse 21st-century skills throughout that class. We also try to do that with some of our CE programs.

If I had to pick one thing that Louisiana’s public libraries do really well, with 100 percent commitment and participation, it’s our Summer Reading Program. We are really proud of the fact that it has a high participation rate, but of course we would love to see every child in the state participating in some kind of reading enrichment program, just to be school-ready at all times.

The only other thing I could add is that I’ve got the most amazing staff that has stuck through all of the terrible things that we have had to deal with budget-wise and politically. They are taking these programs as far as they can take them with all of the resources and the energy that they’ve got.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Accessibility, Afterschool/Out-of-School, Broadband, Early Learning, Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational | Comments Off

Public Record from IMLS Hearing on Libraries and Broadband Released

By Susan H. Hildreth
Director, IMLS

On April 17, we convened the first public hearing we’ve ever held. We chose this moment because it is full of potential: Tom Wheeler, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman, is working to modernize the E-rate, an important source of telecommunications discounts for libraries and schools. And, considering the analysis of FCC data that IMLS released just prior to the hearing, this moment is perhaps of even greater importance than many of us may had realized. More than 90 percent of public libraries, a total of 15,551 individual libraries, have used the discounts provided by the E-rate.

Chairman Wheeler & the board

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler at the IMLS Hearing on Libraries and Broadband pictured with members of the National Museum and Library Service Board  (L-R) Charles Benton, Carla Hayden, Christie Pearson Brandau and Winston Tabb

Chairman Wheeler was the first speaker; he pronounced that, “We’re moving from supporting 20th Century technology to 21st Century high-speed broadband technology. It’s not just the external connection but it’s how do you get Wi-Fi to the individual in the library.” He noted, “We’re bringing the application and administrative process into the 21st Century. The key is not just more money, although if more money is warranted, we will deal with that. But the key is money well spent by encouraging consortia, by creating longer support periods so you can have longer contracts with lower rates, and by establishing a system of reference pricing so that people know that it is a fair process.”

He was followed by Tom Power, deputy chief technology officer for Telecommunications, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Mr. Power asserted that, “The whole community has to be focused on education. It’s the home. It’s the school and it’s the library.” He affirmed that strategies with the greatest chance of succeeding are the ones that have the support of the whole community: the library, the school, the business community, the mayor or the city council, the county, and the governor.

Audience at the IMLS broadband hearing

The audience members listen to panel speakers at the IMLS Hearing on Libraries and Broadband.

Our first panel examined what’s working and made a clear statement about the role of libraries in creating opportunity. We heard from Clarence Anthony, executive director of the National League of Cities, who found that the library opened his eyes to new worlds as a young boy in rural Florida. Chris Jowaisas, senior program officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, took this idea from an individual to a national and even global perspective as he described how “Bill, Melinda, and Bill Gates, Sr. believed that access to information and technology was absolutely essential to allowing people to live healthy, productive lives, and they felt that public libraries were the best places to provide such services.”

The second panel focused on data and demonstrated that broadband speeds in libraries, even when they get faster, are deemed insufficient to meet current and future needs. Larra Clark, director of the Program on Networks at the American Library Association drew from 20 years of research on library technology to provide a technology snapshot. Miriam Jorgenson, research director of the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and research director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, described the special needs of tribal communities, saying, “two-thirds of tribal libraries are in communities where no more than 30 percent of homes have Internet access.”  And independent consultant John B. Horrigan described how libraries are needed to “prepare all segments of society [to be] ready for next generation innovation in information and communication technology,” an idea he called “digital readiness.” He pronounced “digital readiness is the next great social policy challenge for those interested in equity and the Internet.”

The third panel focused on solutions. Omaha Public Library System Executive Director Gary Wasdin kicked off the panel calling libraries the “technology incubators” for cities. He was followed by Connect Michigan Executive Director Eric Frederick who emphasized that broadband is needed in rural communities especially because “education, healthcare, economic development, and all sectors are setting their course and including broadband in a critical role.” Finally, Maine State Librarian Linda Lord called libraries “the gatekeepers, the innovators, and the service providers,” and said, “We must stay ahead of technology so our communities and our citizens can prosper.”

Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt speaking at the IMLS Hearing on Libraries and Broadband

Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt speaking at the IMLS Hearing on Libraries and Broadband

Following the third panel, former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt provided summary remarks. He said, “The reality is this: Internet access in the United States was led by access in schools and libraries. The United States led the world in having a generation come onto the Internet. We have, in fact, in that generation the highest percentage of Internet-savvy people of any country in the world. And we did it on a narrow band, not on a broadband platform. And what Tom Wheeler came and told you today is that now you’re going to re-imagine the whole thing on a broadband platform and your vision is going to be realized.”

It was quite an exhilarating three hours!  IMLS has a statutory mandate to “advise the President, Congress and other federal agencies on museum, library and information services.” We will provide the record of this hearing to the Administration, Congress, and the FCC, and we look forward to continuing the conversation.

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Broadband, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy) | Comments Off

National STEM Video Game Challenge Winners Honored

By Christopher Reich
Senior Museum Advisor, IMLS

A remarkable group of 14 young innovators were honored last week as the winners of the 2013 National STEM Video Game Challenge. As one of the national sponsors of the competition, IMLS was delighted to participate in recognizing these middle school and high school students during an award ceremony at the 11th Annual Games for Change Festival in New York City. It was inspiring to see these students from diverse backgrounds and locations across the country gather with their parents and teachers to be recognized for their achievements from a field of nearly 4,000 entries.

Winners of the 2013 National STEM Video Game Challenge accept their award.

Winners of the 2013 National STEM Video Game Challenge accept their award. photo was taken by Allison Mishkin.

The National STEM Video Game Challenge began in 2011 in response to President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate Campaign” to promote science, technology, engineering, and math education. During the past year, IMLS has worked with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and other sponsors to expand the capacity of libraries and museums to help students create games and participate in the nationwide challenge. Participation in this event allows IMLS another opportunity to showcase the role that museums and libraries play in making a difference in communities, offering safe and trusted places for young people to gather together, share ideas, learn from mentors and each other, and explore new pathways to learning.

The STEM Video Game Challenge demonstrates the power of video games to inspire learning and to foster a variety of skills ranging from critical thinking to collaboration, problem solving, and systems thinking. The competition builds on the passion for gaming shared by so many young people, taking it to a new level that goes beyond winning and captures the potential to test ideas, experiment with technology, and create something new. Entries in the challenge were judged using three criteria: engaging gameplay, innovative/creative vision, and well-balanced game play.

Talking with the winners after the award ceremony was a privilege and an inspiration for me. These modest yet enormously talented young people are excited about learning and are already harnessing the power of imagination and technology to impact future change. Learn more about the STEM Video Game Challenge and read some blogs that feature the recent awardees.

Posted in Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) | 1 Comment

Interview: Hawaii State Public Library System

Photo of Richard Burns, Hawaii State Librarian

Richard Burns, State Librarian, Hawaii State Public Library System

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 Hawaii’s State Librarian Richard Burns. Read more about the Hawaii State Public Library System’s priorities in the state profile for Hawaii.

James: What would you say were the three most important community needs that you sought to address through library services between 2008 and 2012?

Richard: I think our first and primary need was to provide reliable and faster connectivity to all our libraries and thereby to all our patrons. That’s a huge challenge for us with our island geography. The primary example of how we were able to do that was over the last year-and-a-half to two years, when we moved from having two libraries with wireless Internet access to all 50 of our public libraries with wireless Internet access, which is a huge move forward for us.

Second was to provide access to the information in our collections. Speed was a critical factor in that, but also we went to federated searching, so our patrons could search all our collections with one search at the same time. Third was to provide support in enhancements for our integrated library system, to better organize the collections. Those were the three needs that we sought to address, and they’re all basically around providing our patrons with better access to information all across the state.

James: Now could you talk a little bit about how the evaluation of the programs over the 2008 to 2012 cycle affected your state’s plans for the next five years? 

Richard: The evaluation process gave us a chance to look at our initial goals, see how well we met them, and to provide a direction for the future. We’ve been very fortunate to use the LSTA funding to meet those goals of providing better and increased access for our patrons across the state. It shows we’re providing the technology resources our public needs to access the materials and collections that we’ve developed. We still have a long way to go in a number of areas, but I think the process confirmed for us that we are moving in the right direction.

James: Could you talk more about the upcoming five-year plan and if your three most important community needs differ in big or small ways from the previous five years?

Richard: The future goals are similar to those in the past cycle: Supporting collections management through our integrated library system, and perhaps in the next five years exploring the option of moving to a different integrated library system. We want to continue to develop public access computing to reinforce digital literacy and IT knowledge. That will help our patrons gain access to not only our information but the world’s information in all its forms. It’s providing access to information as we did in the past, but expanding it and making it a broader, deeper access.

I think the third most important community need would be to increase digital literacy throughout the state. There are probably half or more of our communities that still do not have access to the Internet, or where libraries are the only point in the community for free access to the Internet. We want to enhance that role. We also want to provide resources and opportunities for our patrons to develop their digital literacy skills, and to not only provide technology learning tools but also a number of lifelong learning opportunities.

Technology helps us to quite literally bridge the gaps that we run up against due to geographic challenges. Without LSTA we’d be in a big hole, because technology is expensive, especially for us. We have very high connectivity costs in Hawaii, and LSTA allows us to move forward in a number of areas that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

Posted in Broadband, Collections Care/Preservation, Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, Information Infrastructure/Systems/Workflows, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy) | 1 Comment

Interview: State Library of Ohio

Beverly Cain, State Librarian, State Library of Ohio

Beverly Cain, State Librarian, State Library of Ohio

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 Ohio’s State Librarian Beverly Cain and Associate State Librarian for Library Development Missy Lodge. Read more about the State Library of Ohio’s priorities in the state profile for Ohio.

James: What were the three most important community needs you sought to address in the five-year plan from 2008 through 2012?

Beverly: One was early childhood literacy. We used IMLS funds for a program called Ohio Ready to Read, in collaboration with the Ohio Library Council, and we offered competitive grants for services to youth in poverty, with special emphasis on children from birth through age five. A second was to provide all Ohioans with equal access to authoritative resources as well as to virtual reference services. We had a number of statewide initiatives in this area, such as Libraries Connect Ohio, a partnership of the state library and three networks serving public, academic, and K-12 school library communities. We worked together to purchase a set of core electronic resources called the Ohio Web Library, which is available to all Ohio residents, schools, and universities at no cost to them. In our LSTA five-year evaluation it was cited as one of the best uses of IMLS funds, and it’s used heavily by the K-12 community, which is important as more Ohio schools lose their librarians.

Missy: We also used funds to help support the Ohio eBook Project, which makes e-books available to libraries, primarily public libraries, on a more cost-friendly basis. A lot of the libraries in the project would never be able to provide e-books on their own, but we help make it possible.

Beverly: The last thing in this area is facilitating and promoting resource sharing around the state. A couple of years ago we saw that there were 111 small and medium-sized public libraries in Ohio that were still running standalone integrated library systems to organize their collections. We set up a grant program using LSTA funds to help them migrate to one of the state’s existing consortia. Those grants were very successful, and we had 20 libraries take advantage of this program. We’ve seen a lot of movement in this area, and now the libraries with standalone systems number in the 70s. We didn’t intend it, but two new consortia actually formed as the result of our promoting the benefits of resource sharing.

James: Could you talk about the evaluation of your previous five-year plan, and how that evaluation influenced your current five-year plan?

Beverly: It was a good process, and it had a big influence on our current five-year plan through a series of recommendations that came out of the evaluation. One was to develop regional digitization sites. We’d already done some good work in the southwest corner of the state, and now we’re working with partners, including the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and the Ohio Public Library Information Network, to set up digitization hubs around the state. We know it’s not going to happen overnight, and we may have to implement it in phases due to funding, but it became a focal point with so much emphasis placed on it in the five-year evaluation.

James: Looking at your current plan, what are the three most important community needs?

Beverly: The priorities for this plan are quite similar. We still have a focus on early childhood literacy. We have a stronger focus on digitization than the last time around; it’s become more of a standalone priority in this cycle. We’re still maintaining our statewide projects that provide equal access to information, but we’re also placing an emphasis on workforce development and collaborating with other agencies and libraries around the state.

Missy: We found that a lot of libraries don’t know what other agencies are doing and who their potential community partners are, so we’ll be doing some of that initial work in trying to reach out to those organizations. Hopefully it will benefit the unemployed and underemployed as well as help raise awareness of the library in the community.

Beverly: The Grants to States program is very important in Ohio, and all the things we’ve talked about wouldn’t be possible without that funding.

Posted in Early Learning, Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), Workforce Development/Job Assistance | 1 Comment