Support Your Local Library – Its Easy to Do

Do you know how your public library is funded? Most of them survive on revenue from property tax, sales tax, and fees. While most people assume that they will always be there we have seen library systems lose revenue and reduce services in the face of broader economic downturns. As tax funded institutions public libraries rely on the support of local, state and federal elected officials. This makes the advocacy of library card holders essential to ensure their future.

This time of year is especially important for your voice to be heard. Many governments are in their budget planning process for the 2022 fiscal year. Speaking to your elected officials early on in the budget process can make a huge difference. For example in my home state of Florida the State Legislature opened its annual session last week. At stake is funding for the State Aid to Libraries Grant, Public Library Construction Grants, and the five Multi-type Library Cooperatives. To support this push, the Florida Library Association put together an advocacy campaign for increased funding to support libraries as they assist with economic recovery and advancing education. At the Federal level, the American Rescue Plan increases funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services to assist libraries of all types, including schools.

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One organization that advocates for public libraries across the country is EveryLibrary. They have made a huge impact in library referendums through fundraising and expanding awareness. As explained on their web site:

EveryLibrary is the first and only national political action committee for libraries. We are a gold-rated non-profit organization that helps public, school, and college libraries secure new funding through tax and advisory referendum, bonds elections, negotiations with school boards, and advocacy at municipal, state, and federal levels. Our primary goal is to ensure stable funding and access to libraries for generations to come.

EveryLibrary carries out its mission through the generosity of its donors. I am a proud monthly supporter of EveryLibrary. If you want to ensure libraries thrive I encourage you to consider offering financial support for this hard working organization.

At the end of the day, don’t forget that the majority of library funding happens at the local level. Send your Mayor and Board of County Commissioners an email or a quick call to share how important libraries are to you and your community. Sometimes all it takes is a few passionate voices to make a difference. Libraries exist for the betterment of the communities they serve. Make sure your voice is heard now to ensure their future.

When Will Amazon eBooks Come to the Library?

Libraries and publishers have had a long complicated history over access to eBooks. Libraries routinely pay multiple times more per copy for each title than the regular public, face limited availability for the number they can order, and have their copies expire after a fixed number of uses or a set time frame. However, did you know that one of the biggest eBook publishers in the world still refuses to sell their eBooks to libraries? That publisher is someone everyone knows very well: Amazon.com.

Recent developments indicate that pressure is building to change this situation. An article in The Hill found that many organizations and even elected officials are working to convince Amazon to change their practice. It might be having some positive effect.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company is in “active discussions” with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to make its e-books available for library distribution.

The company expects “to be testing a number of different models” early next year, the spokesperson added.

“We believe libraries serve a critical purpose in communities across the country, and our priority is to make Amazon Publishing eBooks available in a way that ensures a viable model for authors, as well as library patrons,” the spokesperson said.

Amazon declined to provide details regarding pricing or the lengths of licensing deals it plans to test in 2021.

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If Amazon does not create a viable model on its own, it may face legislative pressure to do so.

Two states have proposed legislation that would seek to regulate Amazon’s ban on selling e-books to libraries. State senators in Rhode Island and New York proposed bills this year that would require publishers to offer licenses for electronic books to libraries under reasonable terms.

A spokesperson for state Sen. Rachel May (D), sponsor of the New York bill, said the senator will pursue the legislation in the next legislative session.

“New York’s public libraries are one of the state’s greatest assets. In order to fulfill their democratic function, librarians must be able to access the materials their clients need on fair and equitable terms,” May said in a statement.

Read more about the current status of the Amazon eBook situation.

Top Ten Challenges Facing Public Libraries

Public libraries have survived many ups and downs over the past century. Throughout it all they are remained core institutions in communities large and small. However, their survival going forward is not guaranteed. Right now COVID-19 is the biggest challenge facing libraries today, but even after a vaccine is widely distributed other problems await.

In an article from last year, Mark Smith of the Texas State Library wrote about the top ten challenges facing libraries going forward. The very first one listed has been on prominent display the past few years: a growing distrust in government.

As a unit of government, typically at the municipal or county level, it should be of concern to public libraries that the percentage of Americans who mistrust government is rising sharply. In 1958, 73 percent of Americans said they trusted the federal government to “do what is right” just about always or most of the time. In 2015, that figure was 19 percent (Pew Research Center 2015 “Beyond Distrust”). This appears to be a trend across demographic and ideological lines even as it shifts along partisan lines depending on who is in power in Washington (Pew Research Center 2017). … Currently, the public library is the rare public institution that bucks this trend. … As managers and workers of public-sector organizations, this trend should strike us as deeply alarming.

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Read about the other nine challenges facing public libraries in the article.

The Positive Effects of Growing Up with Books

As a librarian I naturally appreciate the value of a personal library of books at home. While my daughter was growing up we bought many classic and favorite books to supplement the ones I borrowed from the library. This lead her to become a proficient read and excellent student. While my daughter clearly benefited from a robust home library, it raises the question about the impact that access to books at home has on children across the population.

In a Smithsonian Magazine article, reporter Brigit Katz points to a study that “suggests that exposure to large home libraries may have a long-term impact on proficiency in three key areas.”

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The study, published recently in Social Science Research, assessed data from 160,000 adults from 31 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Turkey, Japan and Chile. Participants filled out surveys with the Programme for the International Assessment of Competencies, which measures proficiency in three categories: literacy, numeracy (using mathematical concepts in everyday life) and information communication technology, (using digital technology to communicate with other people, and to gather and analyze information).

Learn more about the results of the study on the impact of home libraries on children’s development by reading the rest of the article.

The Ongoing Library Publisher eBook Saga

The pandemic has impacted public libraries in many ways, most significantly being the number of visitors. With many libraries on reduced operating hours or offering only curbside/walk up service it means access to their physical collections is limited. As well vulnerable populations that make up a significant portion of public library users are still staying at home for their own safety. These factors have combined to generate large increases in eBook borrowing. At the same time it has renewed simmering concerns about publishers and their eBook pricing models.

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A recent article in Wired Magazine provides a good overview of the interaction between libraries and publishers in the age of COVID-19.

The rising demand for digital materials has prompted some librarians to shift what they buy, even as they fear shrinking budgets amid the economic downturn. A recent survey of 400 librarians in the US and Canada found that one-third are spending less on physical books, audiobooks, and DVDs, and more on digital versions since the pandemic began. Twenty-nine percent have had their budgets frozen or reduced.

But the publishers’ licensing terms make it “very difficult for libraries to be able to afford ebooks,” says Michelle Jeske, director of the Denver Public Library and president of the Public Library Association. “The pricing models don’t work well for libraries.” Between January and July, the Denver system saw 212,000 more books downloaded than the same period last year, a 17 percent increase.

Read the rest of the article at the Wired Magazine web site.

REALM Results 3 and 4

In the last few weeks the REALM Project, a partnership between the Columbus Metropolitan Library, OCLC, and the Battelle research labs, provided two new rounds of test results regarding library material and the survivability of COVID-19. Round 3 looked at five different item types including DVDs and Talking Books cassettes. The summary finding was as follows:

Results show that after five days of quarantine in an unstacked configuration, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detected on the storage bag (flexible plastic) or the DVD. The storage container (rigid plastic), plexiglass, and the USB cassette all showed detectable virus at five days. Day five was the final time point tested.

Round 4 looked at materials from Round 1 but this time left them stacked to simulate items in a book return. The study indicated the following:

Results show that after six days of quarantine the SARS-CoV-2 virus was still detected on all five materials tested. When compared to Test 1, which resulted in non-detectable virus after three days on an unstacked hardcover book, softcover book, plastic protective cover, and DVD case, the results of Test 4 highlight the effect of stacking and its ability to prolong the survivability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Learn more about both studies and more at the REALM Project web site.

COVID on Library Materials – Part II

A few weeks back I reported on the first phase of an important study. The REALM Project is a partnership between the Columbus Metropolitan Library, OCLC, and the Battelle research labs. In the first round of testing five types of library items were studied to determine how long the virus lasts on these surfaces. According to the result of the first phase of the study: “Results show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on the materials after three days of quarantine.”

Last week the REALM Project released phase two of the study, this time looking at five more library items including:

*Braille paper pages
*Glossy paper pages from a coffee table book
*Magazine pages
*Children’s board book
*Archival folders

The findings were similar to the phase one results.

Results show that after two days of quarantine in a stacked configuration, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on the archival folders.

After four days of quarantine in their stacked configuration, the virus was not detectable on the braille pages, glossy book pages, and board book.

The magazine pages showed a trace amount of virus at four days. Day four was the final time point tested.

These results continue to support the practice of quarantining library materials for at least three days. Download the full phase two report to learn more about the study and its findings.

Does COVID-19 Survive on Library Materials?

There is much we know and still don’t know about COVID-19. Most public libraries closed in response to the pandemic, with many of them still not reopened. Among the diverse questions librarians had to consider in their reopening plans perhaps the biggest one is how long COVID-19 survives on library material. Most libraries like mine in Palm Beach County choose to quarantine items for three days out of caution. This was based on general studies of the lifespan of the virus on similar types of material.

Now we have a study conducted that specifically looked at the virus and library material. The REALM Project is a partnership between the Columbus Metropolitan Library, OCLC, and the Battelle research labs. In the first round of testing five types of library items were studied to determine how long the virus lasts on these surfaces. The results came in last week.

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According to the study, “Results show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on the materials after three days of quarantine.” In fact for many items the virus was undetectable after only one day. This shows that libraries which practice the three day quarantine method are providing safe materials for the public.

See the full results of the initial study on the REALM web site.

Palm Beach County Library System Reopening on June 1

Just a quick note that the Palm Beach County Library System is reopening on Monday, June 1 after a ten week closure due to COVID-19.

The Library is opening with limited hours to start. A full listing of the services and resources available when we open can be found on the PBCLS web site.

If you are visiting the library this week, please thank the staff for all their hard work over the past two months. During our building closures, library staff continually served the public by phone, email, chat, and most recently with a walk-up service. Staff members also participated in several food distribution services, assisted with emergency operations, and hosted virtual story times with the School District. They have also been trained to assist residents with re-employment.

We look forward to seeing our members return to the library. please remember to use a mask and keep your visit to less than an hour. We appreciate your cooperation in these challenging times.