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Nebraska Library Commission - Minutes


Nebraska Library Commission

March 13, 2009



The Nebraska Library Commission met Friday, March 13, 2009, at the Grand Island Public Library, Grand Island, Nebraska. Notice of the meeting was submitted to local newspapers (Lincoln Journal Star, Omaha World Herald) and posted on the Nebraska Library Commission Web site.

Chair Mary Nelson called the meeting to order at 8:30 a.m. This meeting is in compliance with the Open Meeting Law.

Members present: Jean Ahrens, John Dale, Mary Nelson, and Carol Spencer. Staff present: Rod Wagner, Maria Medrano-Nehls, Mary Jo Ryan and Richard Miller. Others present: Gretchen Healy, State Auditor Mike Foley, Pam Bohmfalk, Glenda Willnerd, Patricia Gross, Deb Carlson, Ceri Daniels, Pat Leach, Steve Fosselman, and Matt Williams.

Approval of Agenda: A motion was made and seconded to approve the agenda. Motion carried on roll call vote: Jean Ahrens - aye; John Dale - aye; Mary Nelson - aye; and Carol Spencer - aye. Motion approved.

Approval of the Minutes (January 9, 2009): A motion was made and seconded to approve the January 9, 2009, meeting minutes. Motion carried on roll call vote: John Dale - aye; Mary Nelson - aye; Carol Spencer - aye; and Jean Ahrens - aye. Motion approved.


Steve Fosselman stated that the Grand Island Public Library recently celebrated Teen Week. Mr. Fosselman pointed to pictures of the event displayed in the room. Fosselman stated his library does a lot of technology related programs with teenagers. Steve said that he, his staff, and the community have benefited greatly from the advice and support of the Nebraska Library Commission on every technology that is available to libraries, including emerging technology and technology geared for children to learn literary skills. These things assist in increasing the libraries circulation and attendance to programs.

Chair's Report and Commissioners' Comments

Chair Mary Nelson stated that this year's NLA Legislative Day was excellent. Although it was not as well attended as in recent years, there were many state senators in attendance and everyone seemed to enjoy meeting the youth library volunteers who were specially recognized during the luncheon. Mary stated she has found NebraskAccess to be a wonderful service. Mary shared an article from the McCook newspaper about the public library using the StoryCorps software to aid people in the community in recording interviews to help preserve community history. Mary reported that she attended a recent Republican Valley Library System board meeting in Cambridge. Mary also said that the Overdrive audio-book service is a huge success in Holdrege.

John Dale reported that he also attended Legislative Day and observed that the event is a great opportunity to meet your state senator. John also stated the he was happy to see that Pat Leach, Lincoln City Libraries Director, is a new member of the State Advisory Council on Libraries.

Jean Ahrens stated that the Scottsbluff public library addition should be started sometime later this year. Scottsbluff library representatives continue to seek funds for the library building addition and renovation. Jean observed that the Scottsbluff library is full any time you visit there.

Carol Spencer reported that Broken Bow will host Chautauqua June 17 through 21. The Broken Bow library will host a film series and book discussion in conjunction with Chautauqua. The people portrayed will be Hughie Long, Will Rogers, Franklin Roosevelt, Zora Neale Hurston, and Aimee Semple McPherson. The Broken Bow library is one of six hundred chosen to participate in an impact study conducted by the Gates Foundation. Information will be collected from library patrons about their use of public access computers.


Mike Foley, Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts, stated that it is very important that as his staff produces reports that they take the time to appear before the various boards and commissions so that they can publicly and directly discuss the nature of their reports. Mr. Foley stated that it is the Commission that is responsible for every dollar spent by the agency and it is his job to audit every dollar spent by a state agency.

Mr. Foley pointed out that the eleven page audit report states that his office acknowledges that libraries are using gaming as a tool to encourage young patrons to use the library. He stated that his children frequently visit Lincoln City Libraries and use the computers and electronic items as well as borrow books. He expressed his belief that state funds should not be used to purchase gaming equipment.

Mary Nelson remarked that the audit report states that purchase of gaming equipment is a questionable use of public funds. Mr. Foley said he doesn't question the money spent on games by Lincoln City Libraries or any other library because that's a local decision made by the library. The question raised in the report was "is it appropriate for the Nebraska Library Commission to purchase a Playstation 2." Mr. Foley said there was also a question of sales tax which was a small amount and was addressed by the Library Commission. The report states that the recommendation made by the auditor was that the Commission only use public funds for purchases consistent with its mission.

Mr. Foley also said that a recommendation was made that the Commission establish proper policies, procedures, and controls to ensure that videos and photos being posted on behalf of the Commission be approved and properly reflective of Commission activities prior to posting. It is also recommended that the Commission not use any public funds related to playing gaming equipment or accessing websites for non-official business. Mr. Foley stated he felt this was the most important recommendation of the report. He stated that it is critical that before Nebraska Library Commission employees place materials on the internet that they follow policies and procedures to insure that postings properly reflect the purpose of the agency. He felt the YouTube posting was not a good reflection of the agency.

Mr. Foley stated that when the report was still in draft form it was sent to the agency with the opportunity to comment. Mr. Foley stated his office received back a 28 page response. The audit process requests that agencies limit their responses to a few sentences for each audit recommendation. Mr. Foley stated that the question has been asked why he didn't include a link to the response document and he turned the question around and asked why the Library Commission didn't put up a link to the response document. It was noted that the Library Commission posted both documents on the Commission's website for online access. Mr. Foley stated that he didn't believe he should be criticized for not including a link to the Commission's audit report response document.

Jean Ahrens asked if in comparison to other state agencies audited if the Commission's flaws were major. Mr. Foley stated that they were not.

John Dale stated that in regard to things listed in the report he believed that the purchase and demonstrations of games was a great way to teach librarians how easy and fun it can be and at the same time show them how they can use the games to encourage young adults to return to the library. He stated that a major part of the Commission's responsibility is to provide training resources to libraries particularly to the small libraries that may need the online training due to time limitations.

Mr. Foley asked if the Commission felt that the YouTube video that is addressed in the report is a demonstration of equipment that will be helpful to adolescents. Rod Wagner stated the YouTube video was not used for training rather it was used to promote and provide information to Nebraska librarians about future workshops planned and scheduled on gaming in libraries. Wagner stated that he could see how the video could be misperceived outside of its use with information about the gaming workshops and that the Commission has been and will continue to be thoughtful about what is posted online.

Rod Wagner stated that there was another point in the report about Library Workers' Recognition Day. Wagner stated that this was a lunch time activity that included discussion of the "23 Things" project and that the gaming equipment was set up for this event because staff was curious about the equipment being used for the gaming workshops for library personnel.

By consensus the Commission took no further action on the auditor's report.

Director's Report

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 - Rod Wagner stated that Nebraska will receive about $1.35 billion through the ARRA. Governors have some discretion for a portion of the economic stimulus funds. Most of the funds will be used for education, road construction, energy and water projects. Some of the funding will be used for rural broadband service improvements. Wagner stated that when the economic stimulus legislation was being developed earlier this year the American Library Association was promoting funds for library construction projects. The ALA sought information from state libraries for an estimate on the kinds of projects and costs. The Library Commission asked libraries for information about library facility projects that were sufficiently advanced to be started soon with appropriation and availability of funds. This information was collected and shared with the Governor's Policy Research Office and State Budget Office, as well as the American Library Association for its efforts promoting inclusion of library projects in construction funding. About 40 Nebraska libraries responded. Projects included new buildings, building additions, renovation, remodeling, energy conservation improvements and accessibility. The estimated costs were nearly $32 million.

Wagner stated that one piece of advice he received is that libraries should be collaborating locally. Coordination and collaboration will be important given that funds will be distributed through competitive grant processes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will be a distributer of ARRA appropriated funds for rural community projects (facilities and broadband). USDA representatives have expressed interest in public library projects.

ARRA funds will be administered through existing programs, rather than newly created ones. That is largely due to the intent that funds be made available soon for their intended purpose as economic stimulus. The LSTA is not among the federal programs receiving additional funding through the ARRA. Another major funding component of the ARRA is broadband service improvements for rural areas. The U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Department of Agriculture will both administer funds for broadband services.

Information sources concerning the ARRA include, the American Library Association Washington Office, and NebraskAccess (which includes a section related to economic stimulus topics and information sources). Jean Ahrens asked about possibilities that public libraries will get assistance. Wagner said that there is likely a greater chance of getting assistance for broadband service improvements than for some of the other purposes.

Biennium Budget Update - Rod Wagner stated that the Library Commission's budget hearing will be held on March 17. Rod stated that the Commission meeting packet included a document from the Legislative Fiscal Office summarizing the appropriations committee's preliminary recommendations for the Commission. For the Library Commission, the appropriations committee's recommendation is equal to the Governor's recommendation.

The Library Commission's budget testimony will include emphasis on the funding request for the digital talking book transition, along with agency cost increases that can't be avoided such as the scheduled building lease fees. The Department of Administrative Services fee increases, including the new e-mail service fees will also be addressed. The appropriations committee's budget recommendations for state aid to libraries are based on current year funding amounts. The appropriations committee will be asked to increase state funds for the regional library systems in consideration of cost increases they will have.

If state funds are not increased for any of these items, including funds to cover pay and health insurance cost increases, the committee will be asked to allow transfer of LSTA funds from the aid program to the operations program to cover salary and insurance expense increases. There has been some discussion as to whether the Commission already has authority to do that. Federal funds are included in the budget as estimated amounts and this allows expenditure of any additional amounts agencies receive.

Jean Ahrens asked if the State Auditor's report would affect the Commission's appropriation. Rod Wagner stated that he didn't believe it would, but senators are aware of the report. Rod said that he had met with Senator Heidemann, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, and Senator Harms, Vice-Chair of the Appropriations Committee, and gave them copies of the Commission's response to the audit report. Senator Harms said that questions about the report could come up at the budget hearing and that the agency should be prepared to respond. The Commission's audit report response was sent to the State Budget Office, Policy Research Office, and the Legislative Fiscal Office.

Gates Foundation Online Opportunity Grants Program - Rod Wagner stated that several months ago the Commission was given a list of libraries from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that have been identified as eligible to participate in the program, pending further determination of eligibility. The libraries were asked to complete an inventory of their computer equipment for use in determining further eligibility. The library computer equipment inventory responses were partially the basis for determining eligibility to participate in the program. Some libraries chose not to respond for a variety of reasons. One factor is the amount of local funds needed for the grant match. Another factor is that some libraries didn't meet grant eligibility requirements. Over thirty libraries meet the requirements to participate. On the positive side, many libraries are not eligible because they have been successful in replacing older computers with newer equipment and that was the intent of the Gates Foundation hardware program at the outset.

NLC Weekly Webinars-NCompass Live - Rod Wagner stated that the weekly webinars are going very well and are covering a variety of topics.

NebraskAccess - Rod Wagner stated that cards have been distributed to show the new NebraskAccess website design. The Commission has had a positive response to the website changes.

Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) Services Transition - Rod Wagner stated that Devra Dragos and Christa Burns have worked very hard on the transition prompted by OCLC's new requirements for network affiliation The Commission is not in the position to continue to provide support for OCLC services. The new requirements would not allow the Commission to charge the modest surcharge that partially covers costs for supporting OCLC products and services. In addition, the Commission would need to meet requirements for training and would need to have prior approval for training plans, along with communication and marketing activities. Staff has had discussions with representatives from three other OCLC networks including the Missouri Library Network Corporation, the Bibliographical Center for Research (BCR) and Amigos Library Services. Staff determined that BCR would be a better partner for Nebraska libraries, though each of the networks would serve Nebraska well. One factor in favor of BCR is that Nebraska is located near BCR headquarters in Colorado and is situated well with the BCR service region (Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado and Iowa are BCR member states). BCR will take over billings for OCLC services. Nebraska libraries, however, are free to chose any OCLC service provider. The arrangement with BCR allows for a transition and most Nebraska libraries, if not all, will likely continue to receive support through BCR. John Dale asked if this transition would change our personnel or budget implications. Rod said that staff involved with OCLC support activities will be re-assigned to other technology related services and projects. Christa Burns, OCLC Services Coordinator, has already been assigned to work with Gates Foundation grant projects and will be taking on responsibility for the Commission's E-rate telecommunications services. A portion of Christa's salary is expected to be supported from Gates Foundation grant funds for her work on foundation grant projects.


January and February Financial Reports - Rod Wagner stated that both January and February financial reports were included in the packets. Rod stated that expenditures are, overall, in line with the Commission's budget at this point in the fiscal year.

LSTA Appropriations - By recent action of the Congress, LSTA funds were appropriated at the level required to fully fund the base allotment for each state LSTA state programs allocation.


No unfinished business.


Out-of-State Travel Request - Rod Wagner requested approval to attend the Western Council of State Libraries meeting followed by Mountain Plains Library Association/Kansas State Library Association meeting in Wichita, Kansas. Wagner also requested approval to attend the National Library Legislative Day event and the COSLA meeting in Washington D.C. May 10 - 14.

A motion was made by John Dale and seconded by Carol Spencer to approve the travel request. Motion carried on roll call vote: Mary Nelson - aye; Carol Spencer - aye; Jean Ahrens - aye; and John Dale - aye. Motion approved.

Next Meeting - The next meeting will be held May 8, 2009, in Lincoln at the Library Commission office.

Adjournment - Chair Mary Nelson adjourned the meeting at 9:40 a.m. 



Maria Medrano-Nehls, Secretary

All attachments are available upon request. If you would like a copy, please contact Sue Biltoft at the Nebraska Library Commission, 800-307-2665 or 402-471-2045.

For more information, contact Sue Biltoft.