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System Director's Report:

January 2005

The "State of the System"

In the past the Personnel Committee has asked me to report at six month intervals concerning my progress toward meeting my annual performance goals. In fact, these goals are largely synonymous with those you have set for the system as a whole, and require the efforts of a great many very talented people (both staff and members) to become reality. I therefore try to use this opportunity to present a general update concerning the state of our system and some of its key directions for the near future as well as discussing where I fit into the picture. Your comments concerning either these goals or my progress toward meeting them are very welcome.

1. Long Range Plan: Ensure that a strategic planning process, involving members, staff, trustees, and other stakeholders is undertaken in 2005. Ensure that goals and objectives of the existing Long Range Plan continue to be carried out. Prepare and submit annual plans, budgets, and reports to the state as required by law. The annual plan required by DLTCL was passed by the Board and filed along with the SCLS 2005 budget in October of 2004. Additionally, our five year Technology Plan was also completed, considered, passed and submitted. All staff continue to carry out the provisions of these plans. Tasks that lie before us in early 2005 include completing the annual report process required by the state in February, conducting our annual audit in March (although the final results will not be ready for some time after that), holding our annual membership meeting in April, and then undertaking the strategic planning processes required to update our long range plan (upon which our annual plans are based).

2. Advocacy: Ensure that SCLS continues to advocate effectively for needed resources at both the system and local levels. Continue to develop and utilize advocacy databases, provide member and trustee training as required, and organize (in conjunction with member libraries) citizen based advocacy campaigns. The money to adequately support library service in Wisconsin is desperately lacking, and what we do have continues to be in jeopardy. The next biennial budget session kicks off with the Governor's presentation of his budget recommendations on February 8, to be followed by several months of legislative deliberation before we will know what our future will be. Our advocacy program is therefore vital to us all. The SCLS Board Advocacy Committee has completed its training of local member library trustees, and those same trustees and member libraries held a number of listening sessions (orchestrated by Mark Ibach, our Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator) for legislative candidates last fall. Among many other efforts, Mark is following up these events by helping libraries to create a new advocacy database of citizen volunteers who wish to help libraries at both the state and local levels. SCLS should be well represented at the Wisconsin Library Association Legislative Day in February, and also plans to send three trustees to the American Library Association National Legislative Day in May. I am doing my best to help out by serving as the WLA Legislative Advocate for 2005, and as a member of the WLA Library Development and Legislative Committee. All these (and many other) efforts are directed not only at the ongoing budget process, but also toward our long term goals of establishing and maintaining an effective advocacy mechanism to advance the needs of the entire South Central library community, including both member libraries and the system itself.

3. Automation: Ensure that SCLS continues effective progress toward the projected 2006 upgrade of the Dynix system. Ensure that SCLS learns about, and makes effective use of, new technologies in the library and information field. Ensure that SCLS is represented as adequately as possible in the design of the next generation Badgernet statewide telecommunications system and that SCLS obtains access to sufficient bandwidth for current and projected future operations. The contract for the upgrade to Horizon was signed last year and the real work of the upgrade is now underway. While we wait for some final developmental work to be done on the new Horizon product before it is fully functional in our environment, staff are beginning the demanding process of shifting workstations throughout SCLS from the Windows NT operating system to Windows XP. The cutover date to the new Horizon system is currently anticipated as being mid-2006. Automation staff are ensuring that the current system is secure and functions effectively in the interim, and are also in the process of bringing up another member library on LINK, helping members shift equipment and operations to new buildings, and planning for a major upgrade to our telecommunications network. This upgrade will enable us to take advantage of the next generation Badgernet statewide telecommunications system, in whose development we are well represented by Greg Barniskis of the automation department. Most recently, we vastly upgraded the primary SCLS connection to the Internet by shifting over from T1 lines to fiber optic through the City of Madison.

4. Consulting: Ensure that SCLS consulting services continue to meet the expressed needs of the members, and redesign them should they fail to do so. Maintain open communications with member libraries, and ensure input is acted upon as part of ongoing planning process. As noted in our long range plan, we provide consulting services and information to member libraries in areas including, but not limited to, public library administration and governance, adult services, youth services, library automation, building and remodeling, technical services, interlibrary loan and resource sharing, staff development (certification, CE, etc.), orientation for new directors and youth services librarians, establishment and maintenance of library Friends groups, intellectual freedom, local and county planning and evaluation, standards, collection development, legal issues, public relations and advocacy, Internet usage and resources, reference and information services, special needs, new technologies, multitype activities, delivery and communications, marketing and business partnerships, reportage to the state, grant opportunities and procedures, and pretty much whatever else any member needs to operate effectively. We actually provided consulting services in virtually all of these areas during 2004 and additionally supported non-LINK computers and equipment out of the administrative office (anything on the LINK network is supported by the automation staff.) Our consultants responded to direct member requests and made on-site visits to almost every member library in 2004, and visited many more than once. In 2005 further discussion of our consulting activities will be undertaken along with consideration of a great many other things as part of our strategic planning effort.

5. Delivery: Continue internal and intersystem delivery service development to cope with increasing service demands in an efficient and effective manner within the funds available. Seek out additional funding sources for delivery operations as feasible. Due to the cooperative efforts of staff and members (particularly concerning "best practices" for delivery), the delivery service continues to operate efficiently although demand continues to grow. The choice to move to mid-range trucks as our others wear out (these can carry about 55 baskets as compared to the 36 in the smaller panel trucks) appears to have been a good one. This choice has cut down the number of route splits even in the face of growing volume, and one mid-sized truck is still far cheaper to operate than two smaller ones. In late 2004 we were once again awarded the University of Wisconsin Delivery Contract. This is fortunate because it is the keystone upon which our intersystem delivery service is based. We are still concerned with the budgetary plight of public library systems which may also have a significant impact on the future of this service. We continue to work with the state Delivery Advisory Committee to address many issues, including both funding and how to make the network more inclusive (especially with regard to school libraries), and our own SCLS Delivery Advisory Committee continues to address the challenge of continued growth with the possibility of fewer resources. Additionally, as part of our shift from WISCAT to OCLC for interloan purposes, Delivery has become a formal "pickup" location on the automated system to eliminate much unnecessary paperwork in Madison's Interloan Department. Last but not least, the Library Emporium project is still going strong. This is intended to increase library revenues by helping them dispose of unwanted material through E-bay. This project has not yet at a level to reclaim all its costs for SCLS, but the many members who are turning a profit are very happy indeed.

6. Personnel: Continue ongoing processes of staff development and evaluation, including necessary documentation of both successes and problems. Continue to develop staff in preparation for inevitable retirements of current key SCLS personnel. All key staff members are formally evaluated once per year (and more frequently in the case of new hires, doubtful performance and/or job redesign). Ongoing staff development is a key SCLS priority, and training opportunities of many sorts are made widely available. SCLS has a strong central management team, but these individuals also have backups who stand ready to step in should the situation require it. Although SCLS frequently hires talented individuals from outside the agency, we also have a proven record of developing our own "best and brightest" to take on positions of increased responsibility.

7. Communication: Ensure that both trustees and members are kept "in the loop" on developments in the library community, understand clearly the issues facing public libraries, and that their input is both sought and acted upon. Work to maintain close ties between SCLS and member library trustees. Continue to encourage member libraries to nominate new representatives to the SCLS Board. Continue the redesign of the SCLS web structure as time permits. SCLS trustees are kept informed by reports such as this one, and by addressing key issues in committee deliberations and/or as a full board. Input to the SCLS Board from members is provided on a constant basis by our key advisory groups, and by special processes, such as our annual survey and meeting and the upcoming strategic planning effort. SCLS trustees have created closer ties with local library boards than have ever existed before through the direct contacts initiated as part of the advocacy training process. Additionally, minutes of the SCLS Board and many system committees are posted on our web site on a regular basis. The opportunity is offered on the agenda for member library representatives of major planning groups to make presentations to the SCLS Board each month, and further arrangements for special reports are made as the year unfolds and the need arises. The communications structure of SCLS has been extensively re-designed, and this process, including the re-design of the SCLS web structure, is ongoing.

8. Representation: Ensure the interests of SCLS are represented at both the state and national levels in such areas as library funding and legislation, automation, delivery, interlibrary loan, continuing education, technology, youth services, services to special users, and public relations and advocacy. Although we are always very cautious about travel expenses in an era of tight budgets, SCLS staff, members, and trustees nevertheless continue to keep abreast of developments in the field. Satellite downloads of programs are good (and affordable) alternative sources of continuing education in many cases. Despite budget shortfalls, many of our members, staff, and trustees continue to provide the SCLS library community with necessary representation at the state and national level. For instance, Vickie Teal Lovely is now past president of the national Dynix users group, and provides us with an important voice with regard to automation design issues. Stefanie Morill represents us on the national QuestionPoint/24-7 board (our virtual reference provider), and Shawn Brommer is a member of the prestigious Batchelder Award Selection Committee which honors outstanding books originally published in other languages and now translated into English. SCLS trustees continue to represent us on COLAND (a statewide library advisory council appointed by the Governor), the Board of the Wisconsin Library Trustees Association, the Library Services and Technology Act Advisory Committee, and at legislative events, including our state legislative day as well as the American Library Association legislative day in Washington D.C. SCLS staff participates in state level activities in all the areas listed above, and we are often asked to be presenters at such events as WiLSWorld and/or the Wisconsin Library Association Annual Conference. Phyllis Davis and I represent the System in SRLAAW (the state organization for system directors and resource librarians) and on the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium Board (a contractually organized group which runs the netLibrary project, among other things). I also represent the system on the DLTCL LITAC (Library Information and Technology Advisory) Committee, and along with SCLS delivery personnel, serve on the Statewide Delivery Advisory Committee. Many from the SCLS library community will be attending the American Library Association Annual Conference (our major industry trade show) in Chicago this summer, and we should also have good representation at the WLA annual conference in the fall. 2005 is still a year of careful balancing of need versus cost, but as things stand now, SCLS is well represented in many areas and at many levels.

9. Funding: Pursue adequate funding for SCLS through legislative processes, ensuring an active role for members and trustees. Work toward the enactment of legislation enabling library districts as this appears to be best available strategy to ensure a healthy fiscal future for SCLS and its members. As time permits, pursue alternative funding sources including grants, entrepreneurial activities, and enhanced cost recovery as required. Most of our plans to pursue funding through the legislative process are noted in the advocacy section above. We are also involved in the push for enabling legislation for library districts as well as for the "reform bill", which provides better ways for libraries to recover costs from non-resident borrowers. We continue to pursue LSTA and other grants, both for central projects and in support of member library efforts. With regard to either private bequests, corporate gifts, and the like, we still face the problem of competition for these resources with our member libraries, and have usually chosen to assist them in these efforts as best we can in a consulting role rather than seeking the funds for ourselves. We are however, beginning to solicit donations for database support (especially for genealogy databases) on our web page, as any such contributions offset costs for all members and are not in conflict with their local fundraising efforts. Our most significant strides over the years are in the areas of cost sharing. We have a network of contracts with libraries and agencies throughout the state for delivery service, are part of a consortium largely dedicated to the provision of electronic books (WPLC) and, of course, act as the agent for LINK, our automation consortium. Additionally, we continue to cooperate with SCLS member libraries to fund several electronic databases, with everyone contributing a small amount for the service. Such cost sharing makes products available at far less cost than if each library purchased them individually, and is therefore highly advantageous both to our members and to the public. Our newest experiment in alternative funding is the Library emporium, discussed in the delivery section, which appears above. We will continue to make such projects a high priority, and to utilize system funds as "seed money" to make good things happen.

10. New Directions: Ensure that SCLS and member libraries explore new technological advances of value to the public. Continue to attempt to expand member access to databases of all sorts and undertake cooperative and other processes necessary to fund such access. Continue to "level the playing field" (between LINK and "unchained" libraries) with regard to authentication to such databases and the development of a virtual group catalog. Continue to explore and implement better ways than WISCAT for SCLS libraries to conduct interloan beyond our borders. Continue to develop and implement electronically based "virtual reference" among libraries, and other new products (books on mp3 format, for example) as they become available. Expansion of member access to databases on a shared cost basis was discussed earlier. An authentication solution to level the playing field between LINK and non-LINK libraries has been implemented. The upgrading of our Automated system was also discussed above.

We have completed our shift from the use of WISCAT to the use of OCLC for interloan purposes, to the joy of some and the consternation of others. This shift has thus far proven to be highly effective in terms of both cost and service efficiency. This decision was not made lightly, but was forced on us by the rapidly rising and unsustainable labor costs demanded of us as a lender by the WISCAT mode of interloan operation. I served on a SRLAAW committee which recommended a change from WISCAT to OCLC to improve state level interloan processes. I also serve on a committee of the WILS board that has been charged to cost out this change for any libraries that may be interested in undertaking it. As a result of these and many other processes, interloan in Wisconsin is in a state of flux, and it may take several years for everything to be sorted out.

Other new technologies continue to play a key part in the operations of South Central. Seventeen member libraries have deployed an automated workstation time management system at 25 locations. Our 24/7 virtual reference service continues to be fully deployed for the public and has proven to be a useful adjunct to more traditional reference alternatives.

Other projects and services include provision of wireless labs to member libraries for training purposes and the use of the WisLine system to facilitate remote training, teleconferencing to make meetings cheaper and more efficient, the continued provision of on-line e-books along with our other databases, assisting member libraries to obtain funds to digitize local historical materials, and continued experimentation with new electronic formats such as MP3.

The research and development needs of SCLS and Wisconsin's library community go far beyond just the area of technology. Libraries have long known that they have to clearly understand the needs of their customers in order to be effective and efficient. To that end the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium, with financial support from the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation and netLibrary/OCLC completed a study of the demographics of the Wisconsin public library user and made it widely available throughout the library community. One of its findings was that some 80% of adult library users vote regularly. This finding has become the base of the WLA advocacy campaign, "I love libraries and I vote!" This study, conducted out of our training room evenings and Saturdays, has provided us with the data necessary to offer that same facility, on a cost recovery basis, as a call center for other surveys of this type.

And In Conclusion:

There you have it. Many challenges and opportunities lie before us in 2005 and in the years to follow. My favorite part about rapidly changing technologies and a fluid political situation is that I have no idea what will face us next week, and I very much look forward to finding out. People often think that I am very confidant. I am. Not because I know what is coming, but instead because I know, from more than 23 years experience at SCLS, that our library community will rise to the challenge.

See you on February 14th.