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System Director’s Report:

December 2005

Of Some Things:

What, am I still here? I had every intention of turning the responsibility for this report over to Phyllis, but circumstances conspired against me. We all suddenly realized that the January meeting falls earlier than usual in 2006, Phyllis is still in Costa Rica trying to use up some well earned vacation before I depart, and Heidi is off from the end of this week until early January. This means that we are short one system director’s report for our Thursday mailing. I tried to duck the issue, but Char and Heidi both pointed out that since I am still on the payroll for the next week, I could darn well do something useful. Therefore, here it is.

In fact (and fortunately) not too much is going on. Jodi Sweeney, our foundation consultant met with member librarians, and things seem to have gone well. A couple of libraries were very gung-ho about utilizing the foundation immediately, and while most of the members viewed the project with some very understandable caution, nobody rejected the concept outright. Most member concerns centered around making very sure that we would not unduly compete with local fundraising efforts (especially for building projects), and also that whatever was raised would be used for purposes of real and measurable value to the membership.

Both of these are entirely legitimate concerns, and must be addressed.

In answer to the first, it seems only reasonable for SCLS to always support local efforts, even to the exclusion of our own. We need to have a shared understanding with the members that local dollars should go first for local projects, and we should express this clearly to potential donors. Our efforts should always be carefully coordinated so as not to interfere with what a local library may be doing, and perhaps we can even make these local efforts more effective by sharing both contacts and expertise.

As to the second concern, I believe that there is a very legitimate reason for SCLS to begin building a centralized endowment, and I believe that such an endowment will be of clear and direct benefit to the members.

In an era of rapid technological change and increasing customer demand, our library community must constantly explore, deploy, and support new products and services if we are to remain relevant to the public. This costs money. In a time of scarce resources, our answer thus far has been to undertake desired services on a shared cost basis. In particular, automation, delivery, and many online products (such as Telus and our shared databases) simply wouldn’t be available were it not for member contributions. But the money supply is finite. State dollars have never been easy to come by, and in these days of tax freezes, local dollars are also both scarce and insecure.

This leaves us with three choices. We can simply cease to offer new technologies and perhaps also reduce or eliminate existing shared services. I believe this course of action would swiftly make us obsolete.

We can charge the public directly for what they get. I have always opposed this, except in cases of direst necessity, on the simple grounds that it is hard enough to get a kid to do his homework now, without also charging him a dollar or two out-of pocket for the information he needs.

The third choice is fundraising. There are those out there who will support new library buildings. There are also those who will give to fund new databases or technologies, or even to help underwrite existing cooperation between libraries. These two groups are not necessarily the same people. In a time of scarcity, we need to approach them all. This is why I support an SCLS Foundation, and why I hope that our members will also.

And Of Other Things:

My very favorite sister suffered a burst appendix a few days ago. It was touch and go for a bit, but she is now recovering. While she was in the hospital, Ann and I went out with her husband to cut their Christmas tree in anticipation of her return home. It was snowy and fun, but all in all, I’m even happier that she is getting well. In a season whose hallmark is joy, sometimes that joy shows up in the most unexpected ways. May you find it also.

Now I really am leaving.

All the best.