Sunday, December 02, 2007

For New Yorkers: Quick thoughts from Regents Advisory Council on Libraries meeting

* NOTE: This are my thoughts and not the thoughts of other Council members. Feel free to pass along to others. *


In September, I was appointed to the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries in New York State. This 12-member Council advises the Board of Regents on matters concerning libraries within the State. Every member was nominated to the Council and then had to supply information to the Regents regarding his/her background so that the Regents understood what knowledge the person would bring to the position. Once appointed, each member affirmed that she/he will voluntarily serve on the Council for generally a five-year term. Yes, we are all connected to libraries in some way, even if some of us don't work in a library (for example, I'm an MLS who has libraries and library consortia as some of my clients). Although some might think this is an honorary position, the Regents look to this Council to present proposals concerning the future of libraries in New York State. And...yes...the Regents do listen to this group.

The Regents Advisory Council on Libraries meets four times per year: a conference call meeting in January, a meeting with the Regents in May, and two face-to-face Council meetings in the fall (or at least this is the current pattern to the meetings). We also communicate between meetings via email. We are encouraged to meet with out legislators and some of us will be traveling to Albany in February 2008 just to do that, so we can advocate for libraries.

Our goals give you an idea of what we do. In order to ensure that our proposals (advice) are appropriate, we need to gather information from libraries across the State. We also need to provide information to the libraries in the State, so they know what we are considering. Each Council members likely goes about this information transfer in a different way. However, what I've learned since September is that librarians in the State may not realize that member of the Council (or RAC as it is generally called) can help them be heard in Albany, both with the legislators and with the Regents. At our meeting on Nov. 30, we talked about doing more outreach to libraries within the State to enhance the flow of information. (More to follow on this soon, I'm sure.)

If you look at the list of RAC members, you will see that we live/work in various parts of the State. Although we are geographically dispersed, we do not represent different parts of the State. Therefore, librarians are encouraged to contact any Council member. (For example, if you are a school librarian, you might want to contact someone on the Council who is a school librarian.)


I attended my first RAC meeting in September as an observer, since my term did not start until October 1. I was pleased to see the breadth of knowledge and experience on the Council and awed by the details covered in the meeting. For example, we discussed the Statewide Internet Library, the budget requests for libraries in the next budget cycle, activities at the State Library, and what "bold initiative" we might present to the Board of Regents in May 2008. (My understanding is that Governor Spitzer is asking all government agencies to think of "bold initiatives" that will help New York State to provide better services to its residents.)

It quickly became apparent to me that I need to learn more about the State budget, especially where money to libraries is allocated in the budget. Money for public libraries, school libraries, and library construction, for example, may be in different line items. Thankfully, members of the NYS Division for Library Development attend our meetings and are very willing to explain these details that are not yet common knowledge to me. I also look to the other members of the Council to explain details that are new to me, but not new to them (and they happily comply).

I just attended my second RAC meeting as well as an orientation session for new members (there are three new members this year). With the information from the September meeting and other materials, I felt much more comfortable with the discussion. I understood the budget better, as well as the things that we must do in the coming months. It was clear to me at the first meeting that I have ideas to contribute and, after this meeting, I'm pleased to know that my ideas are respected.

Our big task is to present a "bold initiative" to the Regents in May. In order to do that, the Council must look at what has been done within the State, consider the priorities that have been set in previous years (i.e., recommendations made by the Board of Regents Commission on Library Services in 2000), and then decide what to recommend that will ensure that our libraries continue to serve our changing population in New York State. Our population is diverse in age, education achievement, cultural heritage, digital comfort, and language. Our population comes into our physical libraries and also visits our libraries via the Internet. They use our books, CDs, DVDs, videos, digital collections, databases, and local history collection. And by the way, one million NYS residents live in areas that are not covered by chartered public libraries.

What we recommend in spring 2008 to the Regents will impact their proposals for the 2009-2010 budget; therefore, we must be sure that our recommendations are good for "today" as well as for many tomorrows. In order to do that, it is clear that we need input from librarians within the State. (Yes, we've talked about digitization being part of this.)

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO: These are MY thoughts/ideas based on conversations I've had with librarians and with Council members.
  1. Know who is on the Board of Regents.
  2. Talk to you library consortia about how you might interact with the Regent in your geographic area.
  3. Know who is on the Regents Advisory Council for Libraries.
  4. Talk to your library consortia about how you can provide information to the Regents Advisory Council as well as how you can receive information from this group.
  5. Watch NYLINE and your library consortia distribution lists for news from the Regents Advisory Council.
  6. If you have stories you can share about users that have benefited from NOVELny (formerly called NOVEL and now part of the Statewide Internet Library), please send them to me (or another Council member). We need real stories about how individuals have used NOVELny to locate useful information, especially when they could not find useful information on the open/general Internet. It would be great to have stories that said "I used an Internet search engine and couldn't find what I needed, and then I used NOVELny and found...."
  7. Check to see who is on the NOVELny Steering Committee and give them input about the resources that are there as well as what you believe is needed. (BTW meeting minutes are here.)
  8. Look at the Shubert Award information and consider applying for it. My understanding is that the award is given to a project that was significant (at least to that library) and that might be seen as inspirational. In the last few years, 12 - 14 libraries per year have applied for the award. It would be wonderful to have more apply.
  9. Leave a comment on this blog post and let me know what questions you have about the Regents Advisory Council. I'll answer them.
Nine (9) items may seem like a lot, but you don't have to do them all at once. In fact, you could delegate some of them! However, please do #6 soon, if possible. We need real stories that we can share that demonstrate the value of having access to the content in NOVELny. Thanks!

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