Susan H. Hildreth was appointed director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) by President Barack Obama on January 19, 2011. Her nomination had been confirmed by the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on December 22, 2010. Prior to joining IMLS, Hildreth served as Seattle city librarian, California state librarian, and San Francisco city librarian, as well as president of the Public Library Association in 2006. Under her leadership, IMLS made $857,241,000 in total grants to libraries and museums. As Hildreth’s four-year term draws to a close, she shares with LJ some of what she learned at the head of the institute and what she hopes the library community will build on in the future.
Much of the mainstream media coverage concerning libraries these days is focused on the challenges they face, escalating budget cuts, and questions about their relevance in today’s world. Library resource vendor Gale, part of Cengage Learning, wants to help turn those perceptions around and show libraries in a more positive light. On September 30 Gale launched My Library Story (MLS), an online community where people can share the many different ways libraries have changed and enriched their lives.
Only about 12 percent of an average U.S. library budget is for books and other content. Antilibrary zealots will latch onto this statistic eventually, downplaying that libraries are about much more than books. A good proactive response would be a national digital library endowment and separate but allied digital library systems—one for public library patrons, the other mainly for academia, even though everyone could access both. New digital efficiencies could help libraries offer taxpayers even more value than they do now.
REFORMA (National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking) presented the first Elizabeth Martinez Lifetime Achievement Award to Sandra Ríos Balderrama at the at the Third Annual Denim and Diamonds Gala, a fundraising event for the REFORMA Educational Foundation, which was held at the 2014 American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Las Vegas. The award is named after one of the founding members of REFORMA, and was established to recognize excellence in librarianship, as well as substantial contributions to REFORMA and the Latino community.
South Carolina’s public library directors, confident they have the necessary votes in the state legislature locked up, plan to press ahead with efforts to see a library trespass bill adopted into law, even after a recent veto by Gov. Nikki Haley scuttled their hopes, at least temporarily.
The continuing struggle to fund library service in Miami, Florida, and surrounding Dade County took a happy turn for a librarians and advocates in this month. On Tuesday, July 16, Miami-Dade County commissioners voted to increase the property tax in the county slightly, increasing the funding available to the Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS).
The hike would leave libraries with a budget of approximately $52 million for the coming year. That figure is short of the $64 million that advocates were aiming for, but represents a major step up from the $30 million earmarked earlier this year in a budget proposed by Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Most libraries know what its’ like to struggle with finding funding. Getting a levy or tax hike passed is hard work. Living through lean times that freeze hiring and stifle collection development can be trying. But when the rug gets pulled out from under you suddenly, it can be even worse. In order to provide some assistance when eleventh hour budget cuts come knocking, EveryLibrary, the political action committee devoted to strengthening the place libraries have at the civic table, is working on a new program with just these sorts of dilemmas in mind—the Rapid Response Fund.
I have a theory that too many library trustees are underutilized in their board work. In far too many libraries, fear of meddling and of losing control have meant that directors don’t take advantage of the expertise and talent on their Board of Trustees. Where that is true, library leaders are squandering critical capacity and losing a potent edge in the key task of connecting to the community.