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Nebraska Library Commission - Minutes


Nebraska Library Commission

May 21, 2010


The Nebraska Library Commission met Friday, May 21, 2010, at the Nebraska Library Commission, Lincoln, 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.

Members present: Jean Ahrens, Steve Batty, Diane Boyd, John Dale, Charles Gordon, and Carol Spencer. Staff present: Maria Medrano-Nehls, Richard Miller, Rod Wagner, Mary Jo Ryan, Allana Novotny, John Felton, Christa Burns, Devra Dragos, and Kathryn Brockmeier. Public: Kathy Tooker and Robin Bernstein.

Chair Jean Ahrens called the meeting to order at 9:30 a.m. This meeting is in compliance with the Nebraska Open Meetings Act.

Approval of Agenda:

A motion was made and seconded to approve the agenda. Motion carried on roll call vote: Jean Ahrens -aye; Steve Batty - aye; Diane Boyd; John Dale - aye; Charles Gordon - aye; Carol Spencer - aye. Motion approved.

Approval of the Minutes (March 12, 2010): Motion carried on roll call vote: Steve Batty - aye; John Dale - aye; Charles Gordon - aye; Diane Boyd; Carol Spencer - aye; and Jean Ahrens - aye. Motion approved.


Kathy Tooker said that on May 13 the Southeast and Eastern library systems held a spring colloquium. The speaker was Terry Pettit, former UNL volleyball coach. The Library Leadership Institute is held every other year. This year a reunion event is planned for former leadership institute participants and mentors. Jamie LaRue, Director of the Douglas County Libraries in Colorado, will be the guest speaker.


Jean Ahrens stated that the Scottsbluff public library building renovation project is on schedule with some interruption. The Scottsbluff public library will host a shorter summer reading program because the library will be closed for two weeks in mid July due to the construction project. Scottsbluff public library will again host the Prime Time Family Reading Program. This time the focus is on Native American families.

Jean Ahrens said the Scottsbluff public library was burglarized and a large sum of money was taken. A portion of the stolen money was to be used by a teen group that was just getting ready to go on a book buying trip. Also stolen was money that had been collected from donations for a library worker for medical treatments.

Steve Batty stated that the McCook public library hired a new director. Steve recently attended the NETA conference in Omaha. He said one of the conference documents included links to many useful resources for librarians. Steve also stated that he received a message from Sherry Houston, Republican Valley Library System Administrator, asking about a rumor that the Library Commission was going to consolidate library systems. Rod Wagner said that he had not heard the rumor and it is not true.

Diane Boyd distributed copies of a monthly newsletter published by South Sioux City. The newsletter provides one full page to the library to inform the public of library activities, such as services, events, and recommended book lists. The newsletter is sent with the utilities bill. South Sioux City public library provides a special computer program for military families, which allows them to communicate with their soldier via Skype. There is no fee for this service.

John Dale passed around a card from the ground breaking ceremony for the new Education Center at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis. The school began in 1914 as an agricultural high school and then became a college that confers associate degrees for two year programs. The college hopes for a new library in the near future. John attended a recent meeting of the Nebraska Universal Service Fund Advisory Board. John serves as the library representative on the board. The board approved a recommendation to the Public Service Commission that current universal service fund fee rates be continued for the next year. John stated that Lincoln's Bethany branch library has completed its remodeling project and is open to the public.

Charles Gordon stated that the Fremont public library board has sought to retain its status as an administrative board. However, the City Council decided to revise city ordinances and listed the library board as the library commission. After many discussions the council changed the ordinance to read "library board" but left unclear whether the board has administrative or advisory status. The ordinance specifies the process for appointment of the library director. Charles stated the library is being renovated due to damages caused by a faulty HVAC system. The project cost is nearly $1 million. The library is closed but three temporary places have been arranged to continue service. The Fremont library received a $350,000 gift and economic stimulus funds to fix the HVAC system and for other library facility improvements. Choices for the library's renovation were not made with the library board's assistance but by city staff. Fremont is in the recruiting process for a new library director.

Carol Spencer shared a newsletter from Broken Bow featuring articles written by the library director, Joan Birnie. The library is currently preparing for its summer reading program activities for children, teens, adults and families.

Director's Report

Rod Wagner stated that Christa Burns provided statistics about the Library Commission's weekly NCompass Live program sessions. The statistics show that in addition to Nebraska the sessions have been accessed from a number of other states.

Rod introduced Commission staff involved in some of the special projects underway or planned. Many Commission staff members have been involved in the U.S. Department of Commerce, NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant application. Those most involved include Allana Novotny, John Felton, Devra Dragos, Christa Burns, Richard Miller, Mary Jo Ryan, and Rod Wagner. The project application to the NTIA was submitted on March 15. Staff has continued to work on the project to prepare for implementation in anticipation of a grant award. It is not known when grant decisions will be announced but the federal agency must award funds by the end of September. The Gates Foundation has provided support, including pledged grant matching funds, to fourteen state library agencies, including Nebraska, for BTOP applications.

John Felton developed a map including information about the 140 Nebraska libraries that have agreed to participate in the BTOP grant project. A total of 170 Nebraska public libraries met the grant requirements and 140 libraries agreed to be included in the project. The libraries participating in the grant sought out community organizations to write support letters. If the grant is approved, libraries will receive support in several ways. Most of the grant funds would be used to purchase additional computers (desktops and laptops) for public use. Funds are included in the grant request to achieve adequate broadband service speeds. Funds are also included for projectors, printers, software, furniture, carts, and other technology items. There are also funds for marketing and promotion, and for program partner organization expenses.

A total of $3.67 million is requested in the BTOP application. Of this amount $2.2 million would be used for computers and networking equipment; $300 thousand would be used for upgraded broadband services. Of the $3.67 million, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $1.25 million contingent on grant approval.

The Commission's grant application has advanced to the due diligence phase. This phase includes applications considered to be highly qualified. The due diligence phase involves responding to questions and requests for further information supporting the application. Commission members thanked the project team for their work on the grant.

Rod Wagner stated that if the Commission is awarded a BTOP grant the Gates Foundation will provide support for a project launch event bringing together project participants, government officials, and stakeholders. The event will be scheduled for two days. The Gates Foundation has contracted with Connected Nation to work with state libraries in planning, arranging and their project launch event. Connected Nation is an organization that facilitates public-private partnerships to increase access to broadband technologies.

One Book One Nebraska

This year's One Book One Nebraska selection is Wright Morris's The Home Place. The Lone Tree Literary Society is the organization promoting Morris related events in celebration of the 100th year anniversary of Morris's birth. Kathryn Brockmeier and Peter Worth developed a web site for the 2010 book program. They also developed a One Book One Nebraska Facebook page. Rod stated that the Nebraska Center for the Book board will meet on Saturday and one of the agenda items concerns the process for selecting a book for next year. The 2011 book choice will be announced at the Nebraska Center for the Book's annual meeting in November. Rod stated that next year will be the 50th anniversary of Bison Books. There is a possibility that a book selection and the Nebraska Book Festival could coincide with activities planned to promote and celebrate Bison Books.

State Advisory Council on Libraries

Rod stated that the next State Advisory Council on Libraries meeting will be held on July 16 with the location to be determined. One topic anticipated for the meeting is continuing education needs for Nebraska library workers and the possibility of a grant application for submission to the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Association of Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF) Projects

Wagner stated that ALTAFF is in its first year as a merged organization (formerly Friends of Libraries USA and the American Library Association's Association of Library Trustees and Advocates) and is a division of the American Library Association. Rod serves on the ALTAFF board. Nebraska has a state membership in ALTAFF that covers all public library trustees, library friends groups and library foundations.

Wagner reported that ALTAFF is planning to offer a public library trustee training program which will include five courses that will be available online. Due to Nebraska's state membership in ALTAFF Nebraska participants will be able to participate without charge. Others will pay a fee for access to the courses. Rod stated that the courses will be a great opportunity for Nebraska library trustees. ALTAFF's May 2010 newsletter has an article about The Complete Library Trustee Handbook. The Handbook was written by Sally Reed, ALTAFF Executive Director. John Dale said getting library trustees involved in anything is significant. He asked if there is any special emphasis that can be used to get trustees interested in these courses. It was recommended that we give each trustee who completes all 5 courses a certificate or something that shows they completed the whole program.

Institute of Museum and Library Services Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Grant Program

Rod Wagner stated that the announcement for 21st Century Librarian Grant awards is expected in mid-June. The Library Commission's application was submitted last December.

Other Grant Projects

Mary Jo Ryan stated that the Commission received a donation from an anonymous source to provide grants for student interns. It is hoped that more money will be received so that more internships can be funded. The internship project is a partnership with the Nebraska Library Association.

A grant is being sought to bring Neal Shusterman, the author of Unwind, to Nebraska for presentations at several locations across the state. Unwind is this year's One Book for Nebraska Teens.


Rod Wagner referred to the financial report ending April 30. The Commission has taken measures per the Governor's request to limit discretionary spending. The agency budget is in line with the reduced appropriations. The Commission is in the first year of the biennium and any remaining funds from the current fiscal year are re-appropriated for the coming fiscal year.


There was no unfinished business presented.


State Employee Pay Policies 2010-2011

Rod Wagner stated that the Governor has asked state boards and commissions to freeze salaries for agency directors and their top management positions for the coming fiscal year. The Governor also asked NAPE/AFSCME to agree to a salary freeze for state employees covered under the union agreement. The union chose not to agree to a salary freeze. A motion was made by Charles Gordon and seconded by John Dale that in keeping with the Governor's recommendation that the Nebraska Library Commission enact a salary freeze for the agency director and the agency's top management personnel effective July 1, 2010, for the FY 2010-2011. Motion carried on roll call vote: John Dale - aye; Charles Gordon - aye; Diane Boyd; Carol Spencer - aye; Jean Ahrens - aye: Steve Batty - aye. Motion approved.

State Aid to Libraries Budget Allocation

Rod Wagner referred to a spreadsheet listing funding for state aid programs included in the state aid to libraries program appropriation. The Commission's biennium budget policy states that reductions in state aid be made across the board among the major budget categories for public libraries, regional systems, interlibrary loan, database licensing, and grants. Rod asked that the across-the-board reduction not be followed in regard to allocations for public library aid. The legislature's across-the-board budget reductions have reduced state appropriations 9.5% for the coming fiscal year. Many public libraries have experienced local budget reductions with more anticipated. State aid for regional library systems is in line percentage-wise with the Library Commission's operating budget reductions. Library systems can also apply for project funds from Commission grant programs (library improvement grants, CE, and Youth Services for Excellence).

Rod stated that the Commission will discontinue the annual license for Bibliostat Connect used for public library statistical data comparative analysis. The Commission will continue to license Bibliostat Collect for public library statistical reporting. John Felton has developed his own data sets and believes these and other alternatives will make up for the loss of the Connect product.

Rod noted the Commission's contract with the Utah State Library to provide Braille services. Nebraska does not have sufficient numbers of people to replicate the service provided through Utah's multi-state program. The Commission needs to sustain this service agreement.

The College of DuPage educational programs are licensed for Nebraska viewing. This service is under consideration to discontinue due to budget reductions.

Rod Wagner stated that the Cooperative Reading Program pays for the publication and distribution of the summer reading manuals for libraries. Funds are included for the next fiscal year to support this program.

Rod stated that there is $25,000 annually for continuing education grants and the amount has remained at the same for several years. However, this program was previously budgeted at a higher level and once included $25,000 annually for library science education scholarships.

Youth Grants for Excellence are available to libraries for library service projects targeted to children and young adults. The funding for this grant program has been reduced from $42,000 to $26,947. The funds reduction is a concern and this program is one that should have money restored if there is any re-allocation from other budgeted items.

Rod stated that state aid funds are budgeted for NLA-NEMA conference program support as an extension of the Commission's support for continuing education for library workers. The Commission has provided funds for a conference keynote speaker for a number of years.

Wagner stated that interlibrary loan (lender) compensation is an area for special concern. Funding for this program has eroded over the past several years due to flat or reduced funding and increases in other aid programs. The Commission provides partial reimbursement to Nebraska libraries that supply loans to other Nebraska libraries. We expect to pay out approximately $168,000 annually in lender compensation payments. The Commission has used some of the remaining cash funds accumulated over a number of years through the Commission's affiliation with the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) for lender compensation. The remaining funds will be depleted by the end of the year (December). In order to retain the lender compensation program the Commission will need to re-allocate some aid funds. An amount of $70,000 is available with another $40,000 coming from state funds and $30, 000 from federal funds. This is not sufficient to sustain current payment levels but the remaining cash funds will allow the Commission to sustain payments at least for the coming year.

Rod stated that the Commission has provided an annual operating grant toward support of the Nebraska Center for the Book for a number of years. The amount budgeted for next fiscal year is $7,500. This amount is half the amount provided in previous years and also does not include funds for support of a Nebraska Book Festival director contract position that was discontinued last year due to lack of funds.

Wagner stated that a couple of database licenses will be discontinued based on limited use. Devra Dragos has been successful in working with vendors to retain current subscription fees and in one case achieve a substantial discount.

A motion was made by John Dale and seconded by Diane Boyd to approve the direction that staff is taking regarding funds for state aid to libraries for FY 2010-2011. Motion carried on roll call vote: John Dale - aye; Charles Gordon - aye; Diane Boyd; Carol Spencer - aye; Jean Ahrens - aye: Steve Batty - aye. Motion approved.

2011-2013 Biennium Budget Schedule and Process

Rod Wagner stated that federal LSTA funds for the coming fiscal year will probably be the same amount as this year. Congress has taken no action thus far on the 2011 federal budget. Nebraska's LSTA allotment could be reduced due to maintenance of effort requirements. Rod stated that many state library agencies are dealing with LSTA maintenance of effort issues due to state budget cuts.

The state budget office has informed state agencies that the budget system is ready and available for use in preparing state biennium budget requests. Agency budget requests are due on September 15. The budget will be an item on the agenda for July and September Commission meetings. Rod said that items concerning program consolidation and streamlining were included in the appropriations bill enacted by the legislature. Agency responses to the legislature's budget topics are due in September.

Special Recognition

Rod Wagner thanked Jean Ahrens and Carol Spencer for serving on the Commission for two terms. All present joined in expressing their appreciation to Carol and Jean for their contributions to the Commission and to Nebraska library services.

July Meeting Schedule

The next Commission meeting will be held on July 9, 2010 at the Nebraska Library Commission.


- Chair Jean Ahrens adjourned the meeting at 11:45 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.