People who know me know that I am not the numbers cruncher on our team. Over the years, I’ve become much more adept at reading spreadsheets, interpreting what I’m reading and asking good questions about what it all means. But, like many of my librarian colleagues, I prefer to think about effective practices and how I can best share these widely.
So, one of the things I look forward to doing in this space is sharing library technology uses that I like, linked to a data point and/or a question that hopefully will surface more examples and feedback. One that caught my eye recently was an AP news story about a new resource from the Alabama Virtual Library. Academic and public libraries worked together to compile information for the Gulf Oil Spill Resources page, according to Gregory Fitch, executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.
There are several things that I like about this resource…and like more generally about the AVL.
1. It helps readers/researchers AND encourages use of the AVL electronic resources by curating and featuring a topical resource. Like an old-school library bulletin board, physical book display or other pathfinder, it directs people’s attention and encourages them to dip into information resources they might not otherwise see or use.
2. They publicized it!
3. They encourage users to thank their legislators for funding the AVL, and link people over to the Find Your Legislator by Zip Code page.
I also used to enjoy perusing their stats and advocacy resources, but I don’t see these on the new site (yet?).
Ninety-five percent of public libraries (Fig. c-21) report they provide licensed databases to the public. Now, considering that all 50 state library agencies bought statewide database licenses for their public libraries (as of FY2008 at least), it should be 100% in our report. This raises one of my personal questions from the survey data: Why is it that only five states (DE, MD, NV, SC and WY, plus the District of Columbia) report 100% of library outlets provide licensed databases? Is it that some percentage of libraries in the other states:
1. Only report licensed databases they purchase/provide access to (rather than those brokered by the state library)
2. Don’t have the capacity to offer the statewide licensed databases inside the library for some reason?
3. Aren’t aware of the statewide licensed databases (and subsequently are not promoting them to their patrons)?
Nationwide, expenditures on statewide database licensing grew tremendously over the past decade. The State Library Agencies: Fiscal Year 2008 report from the Institute of Museum and Library Services tells us spending on such licenses more than doubled (in constant 2008 dollars) – going from $31.8 million in 1999 to $65.9 million in 2008.
Spurred in part by the massive cuts in Pennsylvania’s shared resources(Ask Here PA eliminated, 57%+ cut in the POWER library and more), I’ve been thinking more about how I can write and talk more successfully about these leveraged technology resources so that they are more visible – and hopefully less likely to be de-funded. I was purposeful in talking about the disproportionate impact on lower-income communities in my interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Bob Hoover (who has written thoughtfully about libraries often in my 10 years at ALA – thanks Bob!). Here’s the quote I’m perhaps most proud of: “These actions are penny wise, but pound foolish,” Ms. Clark said. “By cutting off shared services, Pennsylvania has increased the gap between affluent and less affluent resources.” (Although I meant “affluent and less affluent communities.”)
Another early attempt to show the accumulated funding cuts can be seen in this year’s report (page 11). How do YOU raise awareness of these digital resources and show the benefits of statewide and/or regional licenses? Do you encourage them to thank their legislators on your virtual branch?