In 2015, nearly 150 libraries in 24 states held referenda to renew or enact taxes for operations, staffing, or facilities. More than 1.1 million voters showed up at the polls in 2015 to decide on tax measures for their libraries. Just over 650,000 people voted yes and nearly 470,000 voted no. Of the 148 library ballot measures we have identified (through news reports, surveys, and direct involvement of EveryLibrary, the national library PAC the authors work for), 127 were won and 21 lost. One, while technically passing, actually rolled back the library’s funding, making it, in our opinion, a loss.
LJ in Print
LJ’s 2016 survey of U.S. public libraries, distributed geographically by size and type, reveals that while libraries continue to regain lost ground, recovery is gradually slowing—and not evenly distributed. Libraries reported moderate gains in overall budgets—an across-the-board increase of 3.2%, representing funding from all sources. Combined with a slight drop in inflation rates—.5% over the 12 months ending in November, compared to .8% for the preceding year—this is still smaller than last year’s overall uptick of 4.3% but welcome nonetheless.
The first time I encountered the Progressive Librarians Guild (PLG) was nearly 30 years ago. Almost miraculously, PLG has survived from just after the Reagan era through the Clinton and Bush years until Obama. It is still small but manages to publish Progressive Librarian (PL), a journal that combines rigorous scholarship with a strong ideological sentiment.
Trend watching is always fun, but it becomes an annual exercise when the New Year arrives and outfits large and small seize the moment to attempt to encapsulate the forces at work in their spheres. With the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting held so early this year, the 2016 trends deep dive dovetailed, for me, with the many conversations I had in Boston, which as usual ranged from essentially functional to highly aspirational, pinging between today’s pressures and tomorrow’s promise. It struck me that our collective work balances in that space, sometimes more precariously than others.
We knew there were problems with our library website at Fitchburg State University (FSU). Users either couldn’t find what they wanted or were unaware of the site’s existence. This was particularly a problem owing to the limited number of librarians available to assist. While there was some consensus among librarians regarding these design problems, there was little agreement as to how these problems could be addressed. We decided that usability testing was needed before making changes, but we didn’t have the budget to develop an expensive usability lab with one-way mirrors, sophisticated eye-movement testing devices and the like. Despite this, with a little creativity, we were able to design a solid and reliable usability study with limited resources.
The Association of Research Libraries selected 28 individuals for the 2016–17 Leadership Fellows program; the Institution of Engineering and Technology, a European publisher of digital and print resources, signed a multiyear agreement with the Egyptian government to join the Egyptian Knowledge Bank project; Little Free Library, Hudson, WI, was issued a commendation by the Library of Congress (LC); and more News in Brief from the January 1, 2016 issue of Library Journal.
A rallying call for sustainability, highlighting Texas libraries, and more letters to the editor from the January 1, 2016 issue of Library Journal.
Michelle Bickert named Ebook Program Manager at the Digital Public Library of America; Brett Bonfield appointed Executive Director, Princeton Public Library, NJ; Mark A. Smith chosen Chair-elect, State University of New York Council of Library Directors; and more new hires, promotions, retirements, and obituaries from the January 1, 2016 issue of Library Journal.
Research implies that lifelong learning and social engagement foster healthy aging. With the over-50 set now the fastest growing age group, baby boomers are living longer, and their demand for engaging social interaction, enrichment, and learning continues apace. Iowa’s Marion Public Library recently focused on a popular Sunday night TV program, borrowed ideas from an existing club, and was soon up and running with a fun, socially engaging program targeted to this growing population.