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System Director’s Report:

April 2006


Reports and Libraries

“Libraries are not what they used to be. They’re more – and better.” So begins the first-ever annual report on the “State of America’s Libraries” released earlier this month by the American Library Association. The report is based on a survey conducted by an independent firm (KRC Research) that looked at citizens’ opinions about, support for and use of libraries in America. Though libraries are struggling with political and budgetary challenges, large numbers of Americans continue to use and support them. Eighty-nine percent of Americans surveyed early this year reported being satisfied with their public libraries. Most agreed that public libraries are under-funded and need more support. A copy of this very readable 13-page report can be found at www.ala.org/2006state.

“The Engaged Library: Chicago Stories of Community Building,” is a colorful and enlightening report produced in late 2005 by the Urban Library Council. Researchers from the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University investigated the role of libraries in neighborhoods by visiting several branches of the Chicago Public Library. “This report illustrates a variety of ways local libraries contribute to community development, looking at multiple layers of involvement: individual, voluntary associations, institutions, economy, place, and, importantly, the stories they tell about themselves in their communities.” Though based in a very urban area, the lessons learned and the toolkit included could be useful to any library. In fact, it fits well with the theme of our 2006 Annual Membership meeting, which is “libraries as essential services.” You can find the full report at: http://www.urbanlibraries.org/publications/details.html

And another report that will be of interest to libraries in Wisconsin should be available in the next year or so. In April, the Wisconsin Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Advisory Committee recommended allocating $50,000 for an Economic Impact Study of Libraries in Wisconsin. Studies from other states showing a $4 to $6 return each for every $1 invested in public libraries have been cited in the Wisconsin Library Association’s Campaign for public libraries, but having our own data should be even better. The Wisconsin Library Association Foundation has pledged about $30,000 to support this study.

Library News

On April 24th, SCLS staff Mark Ibach and Stef Morrill arranged for Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to "ask the first question" at a media event to kick off the AskAway Day for our virtual reference service www.askaway.info. Though SCLS introduced and announced the service two years ago, our name, logo and tag line were adopted for the expansion of the service statewide in Wisconsin and Illinois. There was brief coverage on Madison’s WISC-TV (Channel 3) news and we are expecting some newspaper coverage soon as well. By all accounts, Chief Justice Abrahamson was very enthusiastic and quotable.

At the Joint Technology Committee on April 25th, Madison staff reported that historical city directories from Madison and plat books from Columbia, Dane, Portage and Wood County libraries participating with Madison Public Library in a 2006 LSTA Grant are now available online through the UW Digital Collections Center. All titles are fully searchable and images can be enlarged for easier viewing. You can find
information about this collection at:
http://www.madisonpubliclibrary.org/history/citydirectories.html

It is Wednesday on the last week of April as I write this. Today we heard about another possible problem with getting SB 272 passed in this session. Tomorrow evening I get to go with Deb Haeffner, our Building and Design Consultant, to Verona for a “sneak peak” at their new building. Next week many member library and SCLS staff members will be spending a few days at the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries conference hosted this year by McMillan Library in Wisconsin Rapids. So, I’ll have a lot more to tell you about at the board meeting in May.

See you on the 8th!