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Nebraska Library Commission - Minutes

Nebraska Library Commission

November 13, 2009


The Nebraska Library Commission met Friday, November 13, 2009, at the Nebraska Library Commission offices, Lincoln, Nebraska. The meeting notice was submitted to local newspapers (Lincoln Journal-Star, Omaha World Herald), and posted on the Nebraska Library Commission Homepage.

Members present: Jean Ahrens, Steve Batty, Diane Boyd, John Dale, and Carol Spencer. Member absent: Charles Gordon. Staff present: Lisa Kelly, Maria Medrano-Nehls, and Rod Wagner. Public present: Kathy Tooker, Eastern Library System Administrator; Brenda Ealey, Southeast Library System Administrator; Barbra Hegr, Southeast Library System Board Member; Robin Bernstein, Eastern Library System Board Member; and Jessie Herton, UNL journalism student.

Chair Jean Ahrens called the meeting to order at 9:32 a.m. This meeting is in compliance with the Nebraska Open Meetings Act. Introductions were made.

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 - aye; John Dale - aye; Carol Spencer - aye. Motion approved.

Approval of the Minutes(July 17, 2009):

A motion was made and seconded to approve the July 2009 meeting minutes. Motion carried on roll call vote: Steve Batty - aye; Diane Boyd - aye; John Dale - aye; Carol Spencer - aye; and Jean Ahrens - aye. Motion approved.

There were no official September meeting minutes due to lack of a quorum for the meeting. There is a report of items discussed in September. John Dale stated that a correction was needed on the last paragraph of the first page. The sentence should say 35,000 K-12 students not 35,000 grade school students.


Brenda Ealey stated that Southeast Library System (SELS) in collaboration with Eastern Library System (ELS) held a colloquium last evening (November 12). Brenda stated that the SELS recently began posting the SELS newsletter online in an effort to cut expenses. Brenda announced that her assistant, Jenni Puchalla, has resigned to take a position with the UNL Athletic Department. The SELS board will meet in December. One of their new board members, who works for Harding & Schultz law firm, will speak on policies and other important topics of interest to libraries. He is hosting the meeting and has invited area state senators to attend the meeting in an effort to promote communications between libraries and members of the legislature.

Kathy Tooker stated that the Omaha Public Library is in the process of hiring a new director and hopes to have a director hired by January 1, 2010. Fremont's Keene Memorial Library is involved in a one million dollar heating and air conditioning system renovation project. The library must move out of the building in order for the work to be completed. The original move date was January but it has been moved back to March. Regional library systems held a preconference program on How Librarians Can Help Their Patrons during Their Time of Grief at the NLA/NEMA annual conference. Kathy stated that ELS has a new group starting this week for new librarians, or new to their position. The librarians will get together to share information about their positions and provide each other with encouragement. Kathy stated the ELS has invited area state senators to their December board meeting at the Early Development Training Center, a Nebraska Department of Education facility. The board invited senators to attend for a tour and conversation. Kathy stated the ELS will hold an open-house in December 11 from 2-5.

Chair's Report and Commissioners' Comments

Jean Ahrens reported that she attended the Alliance public library's 100th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of their current facility shared with Western Nebraska Community College. The Scottsbluff public library recently held its annual book sale and made over $3,000. The Scottsbluff library recently received a donation with an emphasis to encourage deaf / hard of hearing people in the community to come to the library. The donor lived in the community some years ago. Jean stated that she was a member of the award selection committee for the children and young adult books submitted for the annual Nebraska Book Awards competition.

John Dale reported that he visited the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis. Mo Khamouna, the college's library director (information curator) provided a campus tour. John stated that the college is preparing for a major building project to accommodate the student body which has doubled in recent years. John attended the NLA/NEMA conference and attended Richard Miller's session on public library accreditation. He also attended sessions on open source software. Both sessions were excellent and informative. John reported that the Dan Williams library (Lincoln City Libraries) is now open. This is the first library in a long time to be built in cooperation with Lincoln public schools. The school and library are located in the northwest part of the city and an isolated part of the city. The idea of the joint project is to have the building serve as a kind of community center. The library changed to mostly weekend hours for security reasons so that there would not be a lot of people on the school grounds while school is in session. John and Rod Wagner attended the library's grand opening.

Diane Boyd reported that she attended the NLA/NEMA conference and remarked that she thought the conference was excellent. Diane stated that the planners of the conference should be complimented for a job well done.

Carol Spencer reported that she attended the colloquium (November 12) sponsored by the SELS and ELS and expressed that the speaker, Tracy Hall, gave an excellent presentation and provided a lot of information and ideas with possibilities that libraries will face in the future. The Broken Bow public library is actively involved in the community "Share the Joy of Reading" book drive. People in the community donate new or gently used books for children which are distributed before Christmas with food baskets delivered to the homes of underprivileged children. The Friends of the Art are selling calendars with profits going to the library to support children's programs.

Steve Batty reported that he attended the NLA/NEMA conference and attended the preconference program on policies and the session on planning. Steve observed that the conference and preconference were very good. Steve said that he also attended the colloquium and got some great information on customer service. Steve stated that the McCook public library is losing its library director, Patty Hall. Patty has retired and will be moving from McCook.


Personnel - Rod Wagner stated that Gabe Kramer is the Commission's newest employee and has joined the NLC's Talking Book and Braille Service. Gabe has a broadcasting background and has worked in Lincoln radio stations. His radio experience is an asset for NLC/TBBS recording work.

NLC Reference and Information Services - Lisa Kelly, NLC Information Services Director, described her area as the quiet service that keeps ticking. Every library has a reference and interlibrary loan function. It is the service that is easiest to understand but at the Library Commission it poses a unique service presentation because we are quite virtual. Lisa stated that most contacts are with public librarians, school librarians and state government employees. They can contact NLC staff by telephone, e-mail, and chat. An intent is to make sure that everybody no matter where they live has great library service. If librarians call they will be assisted by answering questions and providing interlibrary loan services. Lisa stated they are married to the other services. Libraries and schools use this service a lot and now their students are using the Commission's resources for reports. The NLC has books in multiple for book clubs. Lisa's unit also maintains the library job line (Now hiring @ your library. Lisa said the Commission's staff expertise for those who work at the reference desk is widespread. Lisa stated that she and most of her co-workers have been together for approximately 16 years.

Rod Wagner asked Lisa to describe the budget reductions that will be made in the reference and information services unit. Lisa stated that periodicals and items not indexed in Library Literature (the gold standard for librarians) were cut. All acquisitions are being closely considered.

Nebraska Library Association - Nebraska Educational Media Association -

Rod Wagner reported that he was ill during the conference and not able to attend. He mentioned that he had heard from other Commission staff that the conference was well attended with many excellent programs. It was also reported that the facility worked out well for the conference.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 - Rod stated that economic stimulus funding has been discussed at prior Commission meetings in regard to programs that libraries are eligible recipients. A current initiative involves the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation invited state library agencies to notify the foundation of their interest in receiving the foundation's support for applications for broadband service improvement. State library agencies were asked to submit a letter detailing public library needs and how funding would be used to improve library broadband services. Commission staff has participated in numerous conference calls and meetings concerning broadband funding. Staff prepared and sent a letter to the Gates Foundation requesting support in preparing an application for federal broadband service grant funding. The Gates Foundation notified the Commission that Nebraska was chosen along with thirteen other states to receive foundation support.

The foundation has contracted with two consulting organizations that have considerable expertise in telecommunications and working with clients on large scale broadband projects. These organizations were actively involved in working with applicants in the first round of broadband grant applications. State library agencies were asked to hold conference calls with both organizations to discuss project proposals and how the organizations would work with the state libraries in preparing applications. Both organizations were impressive in their expertise and capabilities and how they would work with the Commission. Commission staff indicated to the Gates Foundation preference for Cambridge Strategic Management Group (CSMG), based in Boston.

The Gates Foundation will convene a meeting in mid-December in Seattle and has asked representatives from each of the participating state library agencies to attend the meeting. The thinking at this time is that the federal agencies that are administrating the broadband funds will issue a notice in late January or early February for the next round of project grants. Grant applications will likely be due within six weeks to two months following the grant notice. The consulting organization, CSMG, will work with Commission staff to prepare the grant application. CSMG has staff expertise, legal, technical, and proprietary information that will have significant value in the application process. If the Commission's project is funded the Gates Foundation will provide project matching funds and other support for a successful project.

Rod Wagner stated that the Commission's current project with the Gates Foundation provides for updating and replacing computers in 40 Nebraska public libraries. The project started out with a larger number of libraries that were identified as possibly meeting the foundation's criteria for eligibility. Some of these did not meet participation requirements and others chose not to participate. Rod stated that the Commission's proposal to the foundation for the broadband grant program identified this group of libraries because the criteria should be comparable to federal program requirements.

State Advisory Council on Libraries - Rod Wagner stated that a Council meeting will be held on November 20. The meeting had been planned to be held at the Lexington public library but due to the Governor's message to state agencies in October asking and expecting state agencies to use considerable restraint in spending the meeting will be held by using the state's video-conferencing system. This will allow council members to participate closer to home and save on travel expenses.

Nebraska Book Festival - Rod Wagner gave an update on plans for the Nebraska Book Festival to be held on November 14. The Nebraska Center for the Book annual meeting will be held prior to the start of the festival.

Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) FY 2010 Appropriation and LSTA Re-authorization Status - Wagner reported that Congress has not appropriated funds for the current federal year that began October 1. The LSTA funds are currently distributed under a congressional continuing resolution which provides interim funding pending congressional action on appropriations for the full fiscal year. The expectation is that LSTA funding will be about the same as the previous year. Wagner stated that the current LSTA reauthorization period is coming to an end and there is expectation that legislation to reauthorize LSTA will be introduced early in 2010. This will depend on whether there is major legislation that will displace action on the LSTA legislation.


Rod Wagner referred to the September and October financial reports. Rod stated that overall the Commission's budget is in line with budgeted expenditures. Rod pointed out that the office supplies expense item is considerably larger this year because funds were allocated for purchase of flash memory cartridges and mailers for the new digital talking books and magazines. These funds were allocated by taking a portion of the LSTA allotment.


There was no unfinished business presented.


2009-2011 Biennium Budget - Rod Wagner stated that as of today he has no request or recommended budget actions but wanted to discuss issues and considerations for future budget actions.

In October, Governor Heineman sent a message to state agencies asking agencies to avoid discretionary expenditures and the Commission has followed that expectation. The Governor asked agencies to leave vacant positions unfilled. However, the Commission does not have any current budgeted position vacancies. In line with discretionary spending the Commission will discontinue out-of-state travel for the immediate future, except for travel funded by outside sources. In-state travel will also be reduced. As previously mentioned, the Commission's purchases for its library science and reference collection will be reduced, along with reductions for postage and publishing.

Wagner stated that the Governor, in his special legislative session biennium budget recommendations, recommended an over $80,000 state funds reduction in the Library Commission's operating budget for this current fiscal. These reductions are part of the proposed across-the-board budget cuts for most state agencies with 2.5% this fiscal year and 5% next fiscal year. This amount also includes over $20,000 in state funds that had been carried over from last fiscal year. There has been regular reporting from the Lincoln and Omaha newspapers with such ideas as employee furloughs and layoffs. Rod stated that it is likely that both the furloughs and layoffs will happen for state agencies. Maintaining Commission staff positions has been the Commission's budget priority and Wagner said he hopes to avoid staff furloughs and layoffs in the short term but next year is another matter. Rod stated that the Commission has time before decisions need to be made about next fiscal year's budget. Rod stated that the Legislature is expected to make appropriation reductions next week.

Wagner stated that the Nebraska Library Commission recently had its budget hearing before the appropriations committee, as did all state agencies. The hearings were quick and agency representatives were asked to specifically address the Governor's recommendations. The senators were most interested in budget reductions involving personnel. The Governor appears to favor reducing state jobs rather than using furloughs to reduce costs. Both the Governor and Legislature are looking at future state tax revenue projections. Permanent reductions in state jobs would aid in reducing future state expenditures.

Wagner stated the reduction for state-aid this fiscal year is over $30,000. There is no immediate need to decide what is going to be reduced. Rod stated there are some discretionary grants coming up including Children and Youth Services grants. There is $40,000 budgeted for these grants. There are funds budgeted for the Nebraska Center for the Book but the NCB may have sufficient funds for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Jean Ahrens asked Wagner if his preference is staff furloughs or layoffs. Rod stated that he favors furloughs. Rod stated that if the Commission eliminates positions those positions will be lost and not restored. Rod said furloughs are usually shorter term and employees retain the jobs and positions are not lost. Furloughs are being used in a number of other states as part of budget reduction actions. Nebraska state government has furlough policies that allow employees placed on furlough to retain their insurance. Rod stated that he believes the Commission can get through the remainder of this fiscal year with no staff furloughs but the 5% reduction next year will leave the Commission with fewer alternatives and furloughs may need to be implemented. If the Commission must institute staff furloughs it will be need to be done on a rotation base since state law requires state agencies to be open the public from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Jean Ahrens stated that she felt furloughs made the most sense because we don't want to be picking people for layoff. Rod Wagner suggested that the Commission introduce a statement stating a preference for instituting furloughs, if needed, due to budget cuts instead of employee layoffs.

John Dale made a motion that if it becomes necessary to reduce Commission staff hours that the work hours be reduced through furloughs as opposed to employee layoffs. John said he understands that this is a painful situation and places strain on the staff but he believes Rod will make the right decision.

A motion was made that if it is deemed necessary to reduce work hours for Library Commission staff that the Commission will furlough rather than lay off staff. Motion carried on roll call vote: Diane Boyd - aye; John Dale - aye; Carol Spencer - aye; Jean Ahrens -aye; and Steve Batty - aye; Motion approved.

Next Meeting - The next Library Commission meeting is scheduled for January 8, 2010.


Chair Jean Ahrens adjourned the meeting at 11:33 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.