As part of a wider emphasis on digital publishing and the relevance of humanities scholarship, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEH) are giving new life to out-of-print humanities books. In January the two organizations announced a new joint pilot grant program, Humanities Open Book, which will help publishers identify important out-of-print works, secure rights to them, and convert them to EPUB format ebooks freely accessible under a Creative Commons (CC) license. Awards range from $50,000 to $100,000 per recipient, and will cover a period of one to three years.
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.
The McLean County Public Library, a one-branch system in the tiny rural community of Livermore, KY, is a valid special taxing district, a state appeals court affirmed in a Jan. 30 decision, enabling it to continue raising revenue without voter approval. McLean County is one of almost 100 county library systems in Kentucky operating as a special taxing district, so the decision was welcome news for the entire Kentucky library community, which is still awaiting the outcome of another pending appeals court case challenging the funding mechanism.
Eager to promote strategic priorities for 2015, officials for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) trained a spotlight on the various federal funding resources available through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) during a recent American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter session in Chicago. At a talk entitled, “All Eyes on IMLS: Funding Priorities and Reauthorization,” IMLS Acting Director Maura Marx and Robin Dale, the associate deputy director for state programs, outlined the scope and focus of LSTA’s grants to states and other discretionary spending for libraries.
If last year’s budget theme was cautious optimism, LJ’s 2015 library budget survey of U.S. public libraries, distributed geographically by size and type, continues the general upward trend. Libraries of all sizes, across the board, showed an increase in operating and salary budgets, and most, though not all, saw materials budgets rise as well. Of the 416 libraries that responded, 73% reported an increase in their total operating budgets from 2013 to 2014, up from 68% last year and 60% the year before. The overall change in total budgets was a healthy 4.3% increase. Compared to last year’s more modest 1.3% gains, these numbers indicate that libraries nationwide are beginning to find their fiscal footing after some lean years.
“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 January 30 the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (KF) announced the winning 22 projects for its Knight News Challenge on Libraries. A total of $3 million will be distributed among the recipients, representing libraries and organizations from across the United States who brought a wide range of innovative ideas to advance the mission of libraries.
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.
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.
New York City’s libraries get a fair amount of attention, but all too rarely is it directed to the branches. Those neighborhood hubs arguably have the greatest impact and potential, cultivating the essential connection to the community at the most local levels in more than 207 buildings. Unfortunately, according to the Center for an Urban Future, they are also at risk. The time has arrived to embrace a new citywide strategy to deliver excellent library services to all New Yorkers.