Commission Implements Making a Difference @ your libraryTM Planning Process
In the spring of 2001 the Nebraska Library Commission launched a venture called "Making a Difference @ your libraryTM," with Library Commission staff visiting all 271 public libraries in Nebraska. The first visit was made to the Bess Johnson Elkhorn Public Library. By the end of June 2002, 95% of the visits will be completed.
Each visit consists of the same set of questions being posed to library staff and other participants. The responses to these questions have been compiled and reviewed. The Nebraska Library Commission recently submitted the Library Services and Technology Act Five Year Plan Evaluation (Executive Summary follows), based on responses to the questions about federal LSTA grants received by libraries over the past five years. Responses about library successes, challenges, and plans for future services and programming will be used to guide the development of the Nebraska Long Range Plan for Library Services 2003 - 2007.
Commission staff have been welcomed by library staff and community members. Photographs from visits are posted on the Commission's Web site nlc.nebraska.gov.
Library Services and Technology Act Five Year Plan Evaluation
The following is an Executive Summary of a report on a comprehensive statewide evaluation project conducted by the Nebraska Library Commission. The primary objective of the project was to provide the Institute for Library and Museum Services (IMLS) with an in-depth analysis of the impact of federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding on Nebraska's libraries and communities. Another objective was to collect consistent, specific information from all of Nebraska's public libraries about their successes, challenges, and dreams for providing library and information services to enable the Library Commission to provide responsive, appropriate services and programs in the future.
In part, this evaluation demonstrates:
In order to conduct this evaluation, the Nebraska Library Commission identified a core group of staff members to develop a strategy to conduct the research and to collect and compile the findings in a comprehensive, consistent manner.
The decision to have Commission staff complete this evaluation was deliberate. Team members improved their facilitation and recording skills, gained insight into the day-to-day work of the public libraries in the state, and developed a better understanding of the needs,
abilities, and dreams of libraries and their communities. In the course of conducting library visits, Commission staff were warmly welcomed by both library staff and community members. This has already resulted in improved relationships with library staff throughout the state, more responsive consulting, and Commission staff taking a more personal interest in the improvement of library services.
An analysis of the data collected during this process resulted in the following recommendations for the future distribution of LSTA funds:
There is a need for expertise and consulting before, during, and after the grant process to select hardware, software, technical support, installation, etc. One library recommended that the Nebraska Library Commission maintain a list of libraries that use various automated systems and names of staff willing to demonstrate or provide training on the systems.
The Nebraska Library Commission should provide outcome-based training for state, regional, and local library staff. Evaluation expectations should be clearly articulated in the grant application instructions, with examples of outcome measures provided.
Nebraska Library Commission staff should monitor interim and final grant reports for outcome-based measures and probe for stories. The Making a Difference visits helped us after the fact but Nebraska Library Commission staff will not be able to commit to that level of effort every year.
Since many libraries have received multiple LSTA grants during the evaluation period, a majority of their technology and automation has been funded with federal monies. Although many libraries are also using state aid funds (as well as other sources) to meet the 25% matching requirement, the local commitment and funding to sustain or increase the level of technology is not in place. The Nebraska Library Commission should assist local libraries in budgeting for technology maintenance and future development. One strategy would be to