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System Director’s Report:

January 2007

The new year is bringing us some new SCLS Board members from Dane county, as you will see from the Board roster in your mailing this month. We are also very pleased to welcome Jean Anderson, our new Continuing Education Coordinator, who started work today. And next week the ribbon will be cut to open the new library building in Albany.

Speaking of new libraries, some of us toured the Seattle Public Library last week during the American Library Association Midwinter meeting. There are some amazing new technologies for handling library materials that I will tell you about when we meet. But being in Seattle, I missed Library Legislative Day.

Here is a letter I will be sending to the Governor and adapting for my legislators.

Dear Governor Doyle,

I attended your inaugural address and listened carefully to the State of the State message last week. I applaud your emphasis on improving education in Wisconsin, expanding services to children and helping Wisconsin innovators create jobs. And while I know and appreciate that you and Mrs. Doyle are both library supporters, I am writing to highlight the importance of libraries and public library systems in achieving the goals you have articulated.

No time is more important in human development than the first three years of life, when the brain begins to learn the skills upon which all further physical and mental growth depend. Wisconsin libraries recognize the important role they can play to educate parents of young children about early learning concepts. As a result, birth-to-three story times and reading programs in libraries are increasingly being offered to help all children enter school ready to succeed. And kindergarten readiness is crucial for future success in schools.

Children who don’t read over the summer return to school in the fall behind in reading comprehension skills by as much as three months. And lower-achieving students are already less likely to read out of school. More startling is the fact that this sort of reading loss is cumulative, which means that by the end of sixth grade these students can be as much as two years behind their peers. But Summer Reading Programs in libraries across the state help children maintain their reading levels through the summer, ready to return to school in September.

And libraries are important to job creation. A May 2006 Business Week article stated that, “Across the county, public libraries are giving would-be entrepreneurs a helping hand with resources and expert advice. It would not be a stretch to say that many could rival an MBA program in terms of the tools they offer for instruction and information – available for little or no cost.”

But as we know, these vital services do have a cost. Public library service in Wisconsin is a partnership between cities, villages, counties and the state. State funding for public library systems should be at a level equal to 13% of municipal and county expenditures for library service under a long-standing agreement. Unfortunately, state support has eroded over the years to less than 9%.  Under budget caps, local funding for libraries has also not kept up with increased service demands. Checkouts of library materials at libraries within the South Central Library system grew by an average of nearly 6% in 2006.

For libraries in the state to continue contributing to our shared goals, we need as much help as you can possibly give in the upcoming biennial budget. Thank you for your time and past support.

 

And I’ll see all of you on the 12th.