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Nebraska Library Commission - Minutes

Nebraska Library Commission

September 11, 2009


The Nebraska Library Commission met Friday, September 11, 2009, 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 (by telephone), John Dale, and Carol Spencer. Members absent were: Diane Boyd and Charles Gordon. Staff present: Devra Dragos, Maria Medrano-Nehls, Richard Miller, Dave Oertli, Mary Jo Ryan, and Rod Wagner. Public present: Kent Munster, Southeast Library System board member.

Chair Jean Ahrens called the meeting to order at 9:28 a.m. This meeting is in compliance with the Nebraska Open Meetings Act. Introductions were made around the table. Chair Ahrens stated that due to the lack of a quorum no action could be taken on agenda items.

Approval of Agenda:

No action taken.

Approval of the Minutes

No action taken


Kent Muster introduced himself.

Chair's Report and Commissioners' Comments

Jean Ahrens reported that the Scottsbluff public library has reached its goal of $4.1 million for the library expansion project. The Lied Foundation contributed $600,000 with a stipulation that the library building include the Lied name. The foundation encouraged keeping the word public in the name in recognition of funding raised locally. Ground breaking for the expansion is expected in November. The library continues with fundraising activities because the estimated project cost was increased due to increased cost of materials. Current funds do not cover the expenses for landscaping, furniture, technology or collections. The library will not close during the expansion.

Jean stated that 1,500 children attended the Scottsbluff public library's summer reading program. The children read nearly 44,000 books. There were 155 teens that participated in a teen summer reading program. The teens celebrated the end of their summer reading program by hosting the annual battle of the bands. Ahrens stated that the library will host a book sale soon.

John Dale reported that Lincoln City Libraries had 11,000 children participate in the city's summer reading program. This is a good amount considering there are 35,000 grade school age children. John stated that the city council was able to provide money to keep both Bethany and South branch libraries open. John stated People of the Book was chosen for the next One Book One Lincoln program.

John Dale reported that Lincoln City Libraries Dan A. Williams branch library will open soon. This branch was built with a new school. The library will not be open to the public during the day while school is in session.

Carol Spencer reported that Broken Bow Public Library's summer reading program was well attended. The library will hold a Family Fun Reading Night starting at the end of September. The program will focus on families with children from pre-school to sixth-grade. The Broken Bow city council gave the library a small budget increase this year. Ladette Randolph recently visited the library and read from her new novel, Sandhills Ballad. Carol stated that USA Today recently published an article about job seekers flocking to libraries to use computers to find job information and to complete job applications. The article went on to say twenty-two states have cut library funding.

Steve Batty reported that the Trenton public library has lost its director. The summer reading program in McCook went very well. They have a children's librarian who is very artistic and has improved the program.

Director's Report

Personnel - Rod Wagner reported that Travis Bossard who recently started work at the Commission has left for a position with the Lincoln Public School district. Interviews for this position will be held next week. Rod reported that Jennifer Wrampe, who works in the government documents department and also assists administrative staff, has been named as the Nebraska Library Association's Paraprofessional of the Year.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 - Rod Wagner stated that despite expectations few Nebraska libraries have directly benefited from economic stimulus funding. Rod stated that recently he and other Commission staff have participated in several telephone conference calls and meetings about broadband service funding available as a result of the ARRA. There are significant barriers involved, including a 20% matching funds requirement.

Wagner stated that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sent letters to state library agencies concerning support for broadband grant applications. The foundation offered the possibility of providing technical assistance and matching funds for state library agency project applications. State libraries must submit a "letter of interest" to request the foundation's support. The foundation has stated that it will not fund all requests. The Gates Foundation will announce its decisions by late October. If Nebraska is chosen to receive support, the foundation will provide technical assistance in preparing application documents. This assistance will be a great benefit because the application process is difficult.

Nebraska Center for the Book Events and Activities - Rod Wagner reported the Nebraska Center for the Book board met in Scottsbluff in early August. Garry Alkire, Nebraska Center for the Book president, hosted the meeting. The board selected Wright Morris's The Home Place for the 2010 One Book One Nebraska program. The book chosen is The Home Place by Wright Morris. It combines some of Morris's fine photography along with his story. The Nebraska Center for the Book will work with Lone Tree Society in celebration of Morris's 100th birthday anniversary in 2010. Rod stated that the Mildred Bennett and Jane Geske awards will be presented at the Nebraska Book Festival. The Nebraska Book Awards will also be presented during the book festival.

Wagner stated that the Nebraska Center for the Book will hold its annual membership meeting on November 14 immediately before the first session of the Nebraska Book Festival.

Nebraska Book Festival - Mary Jo Ryan stated that the festival will be held on November 14. Mary Jo noted that it has been a special challenge this year because the book festival will not receive funding from the Nebraska Humanities Council at the level of support given in past years. The Humanities Council is providing funds at one-fourth of the amount contributed in past years. After much discussion the Nebraska Center for the Book board decided to continue the book festival but re-focus it on Nebraska writers and plan festival programs based on reduced funding support. The book festival will be a one day event and will focus on the theme Nebraska Writers: Cultivating Creativity.

Mary Jo stated that due to lack of funding, Kathryn Brockmeir, the NLC's research analyst, has been researching and writing grant applications for festival funding. As a result of Kathryn's work, grants have been awarded thus far from the Duncan Trust and Woods Foundation. The University of Nebraska Press has agreed to fund hospitality items. Other grant requests are pending. Despite the more restricted program format, Mary Jo has been successful in recruiting many of Nebraska's best writers for the festival.

Peter Worth, the Commission's student intern, is a graphic design student at UNL. He created the graphic designs for the festival. Kathryn Brockmeir developed the Website map and the architecture, information and content. The website has general information, information for the vendors and exhibitors, and information about the book award winners. Mary Jo stated that the festival website includes a "get involved" tab which provides information about how people can support the festival. Sponsorship, volunteering and donating are some of the ways that people can support the festival.

Steve Batty asked if any new marketing strategies are being used to promote the festival. Mary Jo stated that she has invited organizations that are in the visual culture and is marketing the festival to them because photographer Michael Forsberg is one of the presenters. Area art galleries will be visited and presented with festival promotional information. An extensive mailing will go out, including organizations and people with book related connections and the arts. The Native American community will be an audience for festival information to draw attention to Allison Hedge Coke, a Native American poet, who will be among the presenters. Another marketing audience is women since we have an author whose writing is light fiction for women. This is an area that has not been represented at the festival. Mary Jo stated that staff members who are traveling for meetings are taking festival information with them to distribute. There is also a Facebook presence for festival information and comments.

Steve Batty said that many people from Nebraska have moved out of the state but keep ties with their communities so perhaps we should focus on sharing information with the chamber of commerce in the communities of the presenters so they can promote the festival.

Letters About Literature Contest - Mary Jo stated that the Letters about Literature contest that is handled by the Nebraska Center for the Book is now in progress. This contest is an opportunity for kids to read a book and write a letter to an author who has made a difference in their life.

Talking Book and Braille Service (TBBS) - Digital Talking Books - Dave Oertli reported that on August 24 the Library Commission received its first allocation of players of which 40 were regular and 8 were advanced digital book players. All of the digital book players went to veterans. The priority for veterans is a requirement of the Library of Congress National Talking Book Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Dave reported that response to the new players has been positive.

The TBBS is now receiving book cartridges and expects more before the end of the month. The TBBS is receiving 12-15 titles per week from Library of Congress vendors. Digital player mailings include a brochure listing the titles available for borrowing.

Peter Worth and Mary Jo Ryan designed a rack card to help promote the new digital players. Jean Ahrens asked if it is possible to convert the cartridges from our current collection. Dave stated there is a web site with about 16,000 titles that are converted from the analog masters that have been digitized. These books can be downloaded to cartridges. People who have a certain commercially produced player and that are authorized can download from the Library of Congress site. TBBS staff sent a mailing to younger readers telling them the digital books are coming and that they can access books online and download them. Mary Jo Ryan asked what is delaying us from downloading books or converting our current tapes to the new cartridges. Dave stated that cartridge costs, and limited funding, have prevented us from converting our current tapes.

Jean Ahrens asked how many people use the TBBS service and Dave responded that over 4,000 people in Nebraska are registered borrowers and service users. Dave shared a postcard with summer reading information and a link that allows service users to directly download books. A new publication will be issued in January titled "Talking Books Plus" which will feature talking book topics. No one is denied access to books if they have a need for them. Carol Spencer asked if applicants must have a doctor sign the form. Dave stated in addition to physicians a nurse, physician assistant, librarian, or teacher can also certify the need for a person to have access to talking books.

Mary Jo Ryan stated that from a marketing perspective this is the first real boost this program has received in a very long time. The current talking book (cassette) player is not as easy to use as the new digital player. The new player can play for 17 hours without changing cartridges and the player speaks to the person to provide instructions. Mary Jo said she hopes that marketing of the machine will reach and encourage many more people to apply for the service. Dave said he would also like to see that but he also knows many people resist it because it means they must face the fact that they have a disability. Mary Jo distributed new bookmarks that are being distributed as part of the marketing plan for the new machines.

Technology and Access Services - Devra Dragos reported that Nebraska libraries partnered in forming a consortium for OverDrive digital audio-book services. OverDrive is a company that provides downloadable audio-books. The Nebraska library consortium began with 25 libraries and has increased to 35 libraries. Libraries can join the consortium on a quarterly basis. The new contract year for OverDrive will begin October 1 with 8 new Nebraska libraries joining the consortium.

Devra stated that there are currently over 17,000 titles in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries audio-book collection. Devra said that 6 of the titles have circulated over 100 times. Overall there have been 33,000 titles downloaded since the program started. If the checkout rate continues through the end of this month, in this subscription period there will be over 26,000 audio-books in circulation. OverDrive is a very popular service and should increase due to adding iPod compatible titles to the collection. Providing iPod compatible titles has been in demand but publishers have been resistant due to digital rights management issues.

Nebraska Memories - Devra Dragos reported that Tech Access staff has worked with organizations across Nebraska to digitize materials into an easily searchable database. There are currently 26 collections in the database and over 43,000 items and 600 waiting to be added. Devra stated that they work with public libraries, academic libraries, museums and historical societies - anyone that has materials that tell the history of Nebraska. Devra noted items digitized from the Lincoln Police Department. The department has statistics from annual reports that were digitized. And there are also historical photographs dating back to the 1800s. Devra stated that a new version of the database software will allow expanding the topics such as medical and Native American. Devra mentioned other resources that are possibilities for Nebraska Memories including photographs from the Nebraska State Fair, and a collection of plate negatives from a photographer's studio in Cairo.

Plinkit - Devra reported on the Plinkit project. Plinkit is a website hosting service for public libraries. Plinkit is intended for libraries that do not have resources to host their own website and that don't have the program or coding knowledge necessary to manage a library website. The Nebraska Library Commission has membership in the Plinkit consortium, which includes ten state library agencies. Michael Sauers will train staff in libraries that do not have a website and that wish to create one using Plinkit.

Pioneer Project - The Commission's Technology & Access Services staff is working with libraries involved in the pioneer project to acquire open source software for library automation functions. The project is funded from a Library Improvement Grant awarded by the Commission. A project committee was created to manage the project. The committee worked out an interlocal agreement among participating libraries. There is potential and expectation that the pilot project will lead to participation by other libraries.

Opportunity Online Hardware Grants - Devra Dragos stated that 181 public libraries were identified as serving an area that met poverty level criteria that the Gates Foundation identified. Those 181 libraries were invited to complete a computer inventory. The inventory would determine eligibility for participation in the hardware grant program. Only 96 libraries completed the inventory. After the inventories were completed the Gates Foundation determined the number of new computers the libraries would need. The foundation identified 48 library buildings as needing more computers. Of the 48 eligible, 38 libraries accepted the grant offer. The grant is a two-year process. In the first year, libraries must raise one-fourth of the cost for each computer. In the second-year, libraries must raise half the cost of each computer. The purpose of requiring libraries to raise money is to encourage advocacy and maintenance. The grant includes training intended to help libraries in advocating for the support needed to sustain and replace library computers in the future. The advocacy training for Nebraska library participants will be combined with North and South Dakota library participants and will be held in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in November.

Nebraska Learns 2.0 - Devra stated that Tech Access staff continues offering Nebraska Learns 2.0. In the past four months staff have presented information and exercises for Facebook, networking, Google Maps, and social aspects of OCLC WorldCat.

NebraskAcess - Devra stated that all but one of our online database vendors maintained annual subscription fees at last year's rate. This allowed all subscriptions to be continued this year. Allana Novotny and Susan Knisely traveled across the state to present information about the NebraskAccess subscription databases and to cover updates and new features.

National Book Festival - Rod Wagner stated that Devra Dragos and Mary Jo Ryan will represent the Nebraska Library Commission at the National Book Festival. Sherry Houston is the other Nebraska representative and will assist with the Nebraska exhibit. The Nebraska exhibit will include information about Nebraska with a supply of maps, soybean crayons, pencils, connect the dot puzzles of the State Capitol, Chimney Rock, Chief Joseph, Malcolm X, and bookmarks about Nebraska authors, and the Nebraska Center for Book.

Public Library Accreditation - Richard Miller reported that he is reviewing accreditation applications from about eighty public libraries. Every year one-third of the accredited public libraries must submit documentation for re-accreditation. The information from libraries is matched with the Guidelines for Public Library Accreditation. The guidelines are intended to establish a consistent level of basic library services available in Nebraska public libraries. The information from the accreditation application can be used to support contacts with local officials in support of library funding, facility and service improvements. Each year libraries that are due for re-accreditation and libraries that are not currently accredited are sent letters with application information for determining their accreditation designation.

Richard stated that the guidelines provide for three levels of accreditation: essential, enhanced and excellent. Libraries are accredited at one of these levels depending on the guidelines met by the library. The guidelines differ, for some items, depending on the library's service population. The current guidelines were approved by the Commission in 2004 when there was a major restructuring of the guidelines. Richard stated that since it has been five years since the guidelines were last updated it is time again to review the guidelines for consideration of updates and revisions.

Richard stated that there will be a presentation on the accreditation guidelines at the October NLA-NEMA conference. The conference session will include an opportunity for input and discussion, including suggestions for changes. A survey will be issued for statewide input. And there will be publicity about the guidelines throughout the review process.

Richard stated that the guidelines that seem to be the stumbling blocks for libraries are collection management and local income. Jean Ahrens asked why libraries found the "weeding" requirement difficult to meet. Richard stated that some librarians have said that the weeding requirement is difficult to do each year. Richard said the guideline indicates that it is important to weed the collection on a regular basis to remove outdated items that, for example, include outdated or inaccurate information, are damaged, or that don't circulate. Weeding allows room for newer and popular materials.

Jean Ahrens asked what the biggest drawback was for libraries that aren't accredited. Richard stated that unaccredited libraries are not eligible to apply for Library Commission grants and for state aid to public libraries. Richard stated that he expects the review to be completed and recommendations for revision presented a year from now.

Long Range Planning Initiative with Regional Library Systems (2010) - Rod Wagner stated that promoting and supporting public library planning processes has been discussed in recent meetings between the regional administrators and Commission staff. It was agreed that the Commission and library systems would jointly plan, arrange and promote library long range planning processes. Planning is an essential process for organizations. In addition, the planning initiative is influenced by an earlier project carried out ten years ago. The Continuous Library Improvement Program was developed with assistance from the Heartland Center for Leadership Development. The Heartland Center developed a library planning guide that was presented and used by libraries with the intent that planning processes would be continuous. The Commission and regional systems arranged meetings bringing together library representatives and community members and supported their efforts in preparing library plans. This new initiative is intended to promote planning and provide support for library planning efforts. A presentation at the NLA-NEMA conference will introduce the initiative.

Unlike the planning project in the mid 90s, libraries will be encouraged to select a planning model that suits their situation. The Continuous Library Improvement Program planning model remains valid and is one approach. The American Library Association has some excellent planning publications that offer a more detailed approach to planning. One outcome is to involve a high number of public libraries with participation of library boards, staff, community officials and the public.


Rod Wagner referred to the July and August financial reports. Rod stated that expenditures are in line with the operating budget for this point in the year. Rod noted that some budget items, such as dues and subscriptions, are paid in full at the beginning of the fiscal year. Rod said that conference registration expenses were high due to several staff members attending the ALA annual conference in July. Accounting and auditing expenses are high, as a percentage of the budgeted expense, in part because the Department of Administrative Services charges agencies an accounting fee. The fee is paid at the beginning of the fiscal year. The longer term concern is that state tax revenues are 4% less than last year at this time. If this trend continues we can expect the Governor to make budget cut recommendations. John Dale asked how much money was carried over from last year. Rod said he would check and get the information to all commissioners.

FY 2010 Library Services and Technology Act Appropriation Status - Rod Wagner stated that there was nothing new to report on federal LSTA appropriations. Actions thus far indicate that LSTA appropriations will likely be at about the same level as the current federal fiscal year (ending September 30).


There was no unfinished business presented.


Next Meeting (dates) - upcoming meetings are November 13, 2009; January 8, 2010; March 12, 2010; May 14, 2010; and July 9, 2010.

Adjournment - Chair Jean Ahrens adjourned the meeting at 11:56 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.