Library officials across Kentucky exhaled with relief on Friday, March 20, after the state Court of Appeals ruled that systems in two northern counties correctly and legally set their annual tax rate based on a decades-old law that allows revenue to be raised without voter approval. The decision reversed two lower-court verdicts and means the Campbell and Kenton County systems will not have to roll back their tax rates 35 years or more, which would have triggered staff layoffs, branch closures, and other draconian cuts.
In a significant victory for supporters of Net Neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today reclassified broadband Internet as a public utility, and established a new Open Internet Order that applies to both fixed and mobile broadband. The new Open Internet Order includes three “bright line” rules, specifically banning broadband providers from blocking access to legal content, applications, and services; impairing access to content, applications, and services; and prioritizing Internet traffic in exchange for “consideration of any kind.”
On February 1 the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) hosted a session at the ALA Midwinter meeting in Chicago to answer the question, “What is a policy revolution anyway?” The answer: the Policy Revolution! Initiative (PRI)— the exclamation point is important, panelists advised—is a three-year grant-funded program to advance library policy at the national level, led by ALA OITP and the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA), with guidance from a Library Advisory Committee.
“When a library goes out for a vote, the librarians shift from being partners in education, skills building, personal enrichment, and community identity. We turn into the Tax Man,” write political action committee EveryLibrary’s John Chrastka and Rachel Korman in their take on 2014 referenda. This predicament is true for all libraries, but it is especially pointed for libraries that struggle at the polls.
On the face of it, 2014 looks like it was a pretty good year for libraries at the ballot box: some 148 libraries reporting for this tally won and 42 lost. About 78% of libraries passed funding, bonds, or authority measures in 2014. Over 1.7 million Americans voted yes for their libraries. Only 22% lost. While unfortunate, it doesn’t seem tragic or perilous. But at EveryLibrary, we’re worried about the 1.1 million Americans who voted no this year.
On January 15, 2015, Susan H. Hildreth completed her four-year term as director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Under her leadership, IMLS provided nearly $1 billion in support to libraries and museums, with a strong emphasis on early learning, STEM-related projects, and connectivity in libraries across the country. Prior to her tenure at IMLS, Hildreth served as Seattle City Librarian, California State Librarian, and San Francisco City Librarian. On March 1, she will return to California, her “adopted home state,” to serve as executive director of three linked organizations: the Peninsula Library System, a consortium of public and community college libraries in San Mateo; the Pacific Library Partnership, a California Library Services Act system; and Califa, a nonprofit membership cooperative that provides services and programs to libraries throughout California.
The award-winning Library of Birmingham (LB), which garnered applause and approval across the U.K. when it was built in 2013, is about to fall on hard times. After opening to great fanfare a little over a year ago, the library has been finding it hard to keep up with costs, citing a lack of private sponsorship and the Birmingham City Council’s (BCC) failure to raise promised money from land sales. Then at the end of 2014 the BCC announced a round of austerity measures that will cut some £72 million in funding for the arts, parks and recreation, care services, cemeteries, and children’s care services for 2015–16. Approximately £1.5 million will be cut from LB’s annual £10 million operating costs, meaning that 100 of the library’s 188 staff could be eliminated, and its hours reduced from 73 to 40 per week.
Last week, President Obama announced his proposal for America’s College Promise, an initiative aimed at making community college free for all students who maintain a grade point average of 2.5 and make steady progress toward completion. The proposal also requires community colleges to offer academic programs that would transfer fully to public colleges and universities or provide occupational training in areas of high demand by employers.
Since the American Library Association (ALA) announced its collaboration with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, for ALA’s the Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities, in 2012, the organizations have provided a variety of venues for libraries to engage deeply with the question of how they can and should enable change in their communities. At the upcoming ALA Midwinter Meeting, the Institute will lead a series of four hands-on workshops on Turning Outward To Lead Change in your Community. However, Harwood is also leading this charge beyond the conference circuit, holding longer, more intensive Innovators Labs for libraries. The first took place Oct. 8–10, 2014, at the Loudermilk Convention Center in Atlanta. Michael Casey, Division Director, Information Technology at Gwinnett County Public Library, GA, and an LJ Mover & Shaker, attended the lab and reports below, giving Midwinter attendees a hint of what they might find in the sessions.