National Summit on Rural & Small Libraries – Background Readings

Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Illustration from Rural Development News, a publication of the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development.
Compiled for the
National Summit
Rural and Small Libraries
Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship
Clarion University of Pennsylvania
July 17-18, 2008
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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The Library Director’s Dilemma…………………………………………………………………………….. 3
Opinions from the Field
Commonalities Among Comments…….4
Larry Grieco, Colorado…………………… 6
Rose M. Chenoweth, Illinois……………. 8
Patricia Hector, California……………….. 9
Bonnie McKewon, Iowa………………….. 9
Ann M. Riegle-Coursey, Ohio………… 10
Mary Pasek Williama, Illinois…………. 10
Karen Starr, Nevada…………………….. 11
Holly Van Valkenburgh, Nevada……. 11
Harold George, Florida…………………. 11
Karyn Schmidt, Wisconsin…………….. 12
Deb Biggs Thomas, Michigan…………14
Elizabeth Kudwa, Michigan…………….14
Roger Mendel, Michigan………………..15
Sharman Bridges Smith, Mississippi..15
Jan Haines, Ohio…………………………..16
Madge B. Walker, Tennessee…………17
Betty Jo Jarvis, Tennessee………………………18
Jeanna Elaine Cornett, Kentucky………………19
Louis E. Mays, Ohio………………………………..19
James Elliott, Florida……………………………….20
Vic Nunez, Florida…………………………………..21
Ronald Moore, Florida……………………………..22
Sandra Gioia Treadway, Virginia……………….22
Judith A. Ring, Florida……………………………..23
Leslie A. Scott, North Carolina………………….23
Deborah Hotchkiss, South Carolina…………..26
Jan Walsh, Washington……………………………27
Jim Scheppke, Oregon…………………………….34
Rich Greenfield. Alaska……………………………40
Sue Sherif & Aja Ruzmuny, Alaska……………43
Carla Lehn & Jon Torkelsdon, California…….45
Judy Greeson, Tennessee……………………….48
National Rural Assembly……………………………………………………………………………………..49
The Rural Compact……………………………………………………………………………………………..50
Perceptions of Rural America……………………………………………………………………………….51
Center for Rural Strategies…………………………………………………………………………………..52
A Field Guide to Community Building (Heartland Center for Leadership Development)..53
Defining “Rural” in Rural America………………………………………………………………………….54
Rural America at a Glance 2007 Edition…………………………………………………………………55
Challenges for Rural America in the 21st Century…………………………………………………….55
Articles and Reports
Kellogg Foundation’s Rural People Rural Policy / Rural Policy Research Institute…..56
Carsey Institute / Rural Sociological Society…………………………………………………….57
Center for Rural Affairs – Rural Policy Program……………………………………………………..58
Rural Policy Research Institute (RUP!)…………………………………………………………………..59
National Rural Network (NRN)………………………………………………………………………………60
The Daily Yonder………………………………………………………………………………………………..61
Understanding Communities and their Dynamics…………………………………………………….62
20 Clues to Rural Community Survival…………………………………………………………………..63
Enhancing Economic Development Through Libraries……………………………………………..64
Worth Their Weight: An Assessment of the Evolving Field of Library Valuation…………..64
International City/County Management Association…………………………………………………65
Five Ways Public Libraries Can Help Communities Achieve Strategic Goals……………65
Local Government Managers and Public Libraries: Partners for a Better Community..66
National Association of Counties (NACO)………………………………………………………………67
National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT)…………………………………………..68
National Rural Education Policy Agenda………………………………………………………………..69
Urban Libraries Council (ULC)………………………………………………………………………………71
Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL)……………………………………………………72
Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS)………………………………………73
Notable Quotes…………………………………………………………………………………………………..74
The Library Director’s Dilemma
– William Hamilton
Published in The New Yorker, 17 November 2003
Libraries (and what they can offer)
will be increasingly irrelevant and invisible
to the majority of people.
– Karen Hyman
Conquest’s Laws
Everyone is a reactionary about subjects he understands.
The behavior of an organization can best be predicted on the assumption that it is headed by a secret cabal of its enemies.
– Robert Conquest
The historian Robert Conquest formulated a principle that has come to be known as Conquest’s Law: “Everyone is a reactionary about subjects he understands.” His Law points to the notion that we are often so aware of the complexities of subjects with which we are thoroughly familiar, that, consequently, we are immune to fantasies of their fundamental change. Conversely, when it comes to subjects about which we have only superficial knowledge, we are prone to see change as natural and easy.
Nothing ever gets done unless it’s done by a fanatic.
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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Commonalities Among Comments
Prepared by Graduate Students of the Clarion University Department of Library Science
Out of 26 responses (many responses included more than one issue):
53.8 % of responses mentioned technology
53.8 % of responses mentioned funding
38.4 % of responses mentioned staffing
30.7 % of responses mentioned library’s place in community/ community access
to library
23 % of responses mentioned changes in community outside of the library
11.5 % of responses mentioned collaboration
11.5 % of responses mentioned change in patron base (seniors, immigrants)
7.6 % of responses mentioned equality of service between rural and urban areas
7.6% of responses mentioned ILL and delivery methods
7.6 % of responses mentioned Library Boards.
Summary of Responses (repeated issues have not been recorded):
– high-speed (Broadband) internet connection
– wireless local area networks
– computers available for public use
– maintain current technology/computers
– rural broadband telecommunications
– bridge the digital divide
– libraries need less stuff and more computers
– technology is always an issue
– great disparity in our state in terms of access to the internet
– budgets are declining
– larger tax bases to maintain status quo
– gas prices make traveling for staff training expensive
– State prohibits increased taxation
– Cost of getting authors/programs to rural areas
– Will not get full funding on any vote to support libraries
– local funding can’t keep up with increased costs
– state funding is drying up
– property tax rates have been reduced
– need to close library for hours to cut back on utility expenses
– expansion plan has been scrapped
– Friends’ efforts not enough
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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– Concerned about cuts to government revenues
– Inadequate funding by localities
– hiring of professional librarians as directors
– online training
– difficulty of staffing in rural libraries
– education (in library service and continuing education)
– Small staff does not allow time for conferences
– Continuing education, training, and retraining
– Aren’t being replaced because of costs
– Most do not have Masters’ level librarians
– recruitment issues
Library’s Place in Community/ Access:
– Center of culture in community
– Increase attendance at programs
– Economic gardening
– serve entrepreneurs/ small business owners
– difficulty getting to the library (need to renew books for longer periods of time)
Changes in Community Outside the Library:
– Rising gas prices
– Consolidation of schools
– Decline in “family farms”
– The eco-friendly Green trend
– Shift in population from urban areas to rural for second-home/ retirement
– Be part of system to connect libraries in region or state
– Need to be part of system to benefit in purchasing of services, materials, programming
Change in Patron Base:
– Increase in baby boomers retiring to rural areas
– Increase in large print materials
– Young people who become educated leave the smaller towns
– Changes from newly arrived immigrants
Equality of service:
– Meeting the needs of patrons despite rural/small status
– Issue of the unserved
ILL/ Delivery Methods:
– Cost of OCLC
– Impact of gas prices
Library Boards:
– Need to be educated advocates
– Be knowledgeable about human resources
– Need to conduct self-assessments
– Are micromanaging with little knowledge
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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National priorities for small libraries:
1. Connectivity – every small library in America needs a high-speed internet connection. In many rural areas, especially, access to high speed internet is not readily available. Here in Gilpin County, partly because we are in the mountains, even people who have computers at home may have a dialup internet service provider, with particularly slow internet speed, and they still come to the library to work on the internet or even just to check their email.
2. Wireless local area networks in every small library. My experience with internal wireless networks is such that a compelling sidebar to wireless networking is that patrons can park outside the library, 24/7, to have internet access on their laptops. This is an inexpensive and extremely valuable service to offer the public. Another advantage to wireless networks is that patrons come to the library during regular hours and sit anywhere they want with their laptops—it alleviates the pressure of having enough public computers available at all times. Two, three, or more people at any given time are anywhere they want to be in the library, using their personal laptop, to access the internet. Just as in #1 above, people come to the library, even if it’s just to the parking lot, to pick up a signal on their laptop for high speed internet access that they don’t have at home.
3. An adequate number of computers available for public use. Through the generosity of the Gates Foundation, computers have been made available in most small and rural public libraries for patron use. Through this invaluable source, and other sources, the campaign to equip small libraries with enough computers must continue. Furthermore, every couple of years these computers must be upgraded, with new operating systems, software, etc., that keep even the smallest library on the cutting edge of current technology.
4. Hiring of directors who are library professionals in possession of the core values of librarianship. Every community in America, no matter how small, deserves to have a public library that is managed by a library professional. This isn’t a matter simply of library skills training, but rather speaks to professional ethics, intellectual freedom, privacy of patron records and usage, and those other somewhat abstract values that we assume (hope) library schools instill in their students. If small communities do not have the resources to hire a library professional, then there should be grant money available, perhaps administered by state libraries, to supplement the salary and benefits of a professional librarian.
5. A level playing field. People who live in small, rural communities should not have to give up in their small library, certain services and advantages we attribute to larger libraries and library systems. Small and rural libraries should be attempting to provide services that meet or exceed the needs of the public they serve. In some cases this may mean emulating the larger urban and suburban libraries, but in other cases it calls for an accurate assessment of the local needs and a commitment to meeting them.
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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The above can be termed both national and local priorities. What follows might be more accurately described as local priorities of small and rural libraries:
1. To be the center of culture in a small community. There is no public institution better suited to be the center of culture in a community than the public library. Through public programming, for both adults and children, the library can offer a number of interesting themes, from book clubs to author visits, film series, educational programs, poetry readings, crafts workshops, summer reading programs, “let’s talk about it” programs, art exhibits, and many more. This often is not identified as a priority, taking a back seat to provision of meeting room space, interlibrary loans, reference services, etc.
2. To provide services that are taken for granted in larger communities. Free coffee might be offered all day during library hours. At least one person on the staff, most likely, but not necessarily the library director, should offer notary services free of charge. Best sellers and high demand books, movies, audios, etc., should be available. Clean restrooms. Perhaps a U.S. mail dropoff box. Other things in response to a particular community’s stated or discovered needs.
3. To be a part of whatever system physically connects libraries in the region or state. By this I mean courier or shuttle services that make interlibrary loan transactions possible. This is standard in larger libraries or systems, and smaller or rural libraries should be given the opportunity to participate in it. If money is not available to include a small library on the courier service route, then the library should be provided the service gratis, and larger libraries would contribute to the extra costs of the service.
Larry Grieco, Director
Gilpin County Public Library
15131 Highway 119
Black Hawk, Colorado 80403
Member, ARSL Board of Directors
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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My ideas on trends, sadly, are mostly negative:
1. Budgets are declining. This is everywhere but it is much worse in the rural community, especially in counties that choose tax caps. In those counties, budgets are declining and the libraries will ultimately disappear if something is not changed in the formula. People want to pay less taxes and may not realize what that means until important services like libraries are lost.
2. With the growing costs of energy especially fuel, rural enterprises are threatened because they have to travel farther for shopping and basic services. Farming is an extremely high energy consuming profession. The high energy costs could very well drive many farmers out of business. This, of course, would have a major impact on rural communities.
3. Schools are consolidating and consolidating again, removing the grade schools in communities, the one organization in town that everyone rallies around. Our small towns are getting smaller and I suspect many will disappear in the next 10 to 20 years.
4. Farms are getting BIGGER and are run by agricultural corporations. The family farm is being lost. This is contributing to the declining populations in rural areas.
5. The growing GREEN trend may help counter some of these negative trends. Focusing the U.S. on the value of respecting nature and its resources could benefit rural communities.
6. In our particular library system, people are moving from Chicago (3-6 hours away) to our rural communities to get away from stressful city life. Some of these homes are second homes for get-away purposes and some are retirement homes.
7. Now for just public library issues:
a. They need larger tax bases to just maintain the status quo.
b. They need access to cheaper, higher quality broadband. A handful or less of our 258 libraries have dial-up but many have low-end DSL which is not adequate to their needs.
c. The declining budgets are hurting their ability to maintain current technology. Many of our smaller and/or rural libraries have 5 and 6 year old computers for the most part with a new computer being a rare investment.
d. With the cost of gas, leaving the library for training is becoming too expensive. We are planning to do more online training through Horizon Wimba.
e. The fast-growing, burdensome costs of OCLC will probably lead to most of our school and public library members dropping out of OCLC membership. This is a hot issue in our state and we are still talking about solutions. I fully expect that our small libraries will revert back to interlibrary loan methods of 20 years ago if OCLC costs are allowed to grow unchecked.
Rose M. Chenoweth, Library Development Consultant
Alliance Library System
600 High Point Lane
East Peoria, Illinois 61611
Member, ARSL Board of Directors
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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I think lack of broadband access in rural areas is probably on everybody’s list, but as the article in the latest Public Libraries (“Connecting with Connectivity: Why Librarians Need to Care”) points out, there are librarians out there that don’t know what kind of bandwidth they need, how to get it and, in some cases, don’t really care. The Internet isn’t going away and is a tool that will become an even more integral part of our lives. We need to educate ourselves about this important issue and make sure our libraries get the access to serve our patrons. My second concern is the impact of gas prices on ILL and delivery. The small libraries in our regional system depend on each other’s collections to provide materials for their patrons. Some of them are looking at cutting down on frequency of delivery because of higher prices. Some of them have stopped providing ILL materials to libraries outside of our physical delivery because postage is expensive. The last thing is the difficulty of staffing our rural libraries. Our libraries have gone through a tremendous amount of turnover in directors mostly from retirements and it has taken a year to a year and a half to find replacements. The librarians also report that it is difficult to find qualified staff in their small communities.
Patricia Hector, Assistant System Director
Mountain Valley Library System
North Bay Cooperative Library System
North State Cooperative Library System
55 E Street
Santa Rosa, California 95404
Member and 2008-09 President-elect, ARSL Board of Directors
My observations aren’t so much a trend for small, rural libraries as they are on-going needs:
• Library boards need to be educated advocates
• Library boards need to see themselves as “employers” and be knowledgeable about human resources, understand and exercise their role in it, be much better at the “recruitment & retention” piece of human resources, work to improve salaries in small libraries
• Library boards need to conduct self-assessments (themselves as individual trustees and collectively as a group)
Not sure how to re-frame these thoughts to be seen as trends, and maybe you don’t need to. But in my regional system, these are on-going challenges and I’ll bet they are universally found in most small libraries.
Bonnie McKewon, Director
Northwest Iowa Library Services
P.O. Box 1319
Sioux City, Iowa 51102
Member, ARSL Board of Directors
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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I think the two trends that will impact our small library the most over the next few years are funding and collaboration. The US economy is bad but the Ohio economy is worse. We have so many people without work. This makes it hard to run a library on limited budgets which diminish more as tax dollars decrease, but it also means our services are more valuable to the community than ever before. They need computer access to look for work or register for benefits, they need free education and recreation.
Secondly, collaboration will impact us. The state may force libraries (and other service agencies) to join together to make the most of limited money. Even if they don’t make us do so, we should be looking for ways to conserve our funding by joining forces when we can.
Ann M. Riegle-Coursey, Director
New Madison Public Library
142 South Main Street, PO Box 32
New Madison, Ohio 45346
2008 Chair of Ohio Library Council Small Libraries Division
The issue I would like to see tackled most is the issue of the unserved in the entire nation. Without a federal (dream on) law or state laws that mandate library service to all, there will always be people left out of the public library loop, and I think this is tragic! It’s bad enough when a parent chooses to not support or buy a card at a distant library, but the children who grow up in those unserved areas are at an immediate disadvantage, and if they don’t have a decent school library, then they’re out of luck to compete with the rest of the nation’s kids and that includes access to the Internet. Possible implementation: laws must be made at the state level because leaving it to local decision will never include all. We need to be mandatory, as part of the education of our citizens. We need lobbyists on our side; we need an entire branch of our organization dedicated to government lobbying. A formidable job!
Mary Pasek Williams, Former Director Towanda District Library 301 South Taylor Towanda, Illinois 61776
Member and Secretary, ARSL Board of Directors
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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Rural broadband telecommunications accessibility and sustainability in cyclical resource based economies loosing their economic base to overseas industries, whether those are resource based or commodity based.
Karen Starr, Assistant Administrator, Development
Nevada State Library and Archives 100 North Stewart Street Carson City, Nevada 89701
My first concern for the rural and small public libraries is education – getting a basic education in library service and then continuing to learn as new information is made available and new technologies develop. It is the virtual world that I feel will be the solution, but so far I have yet to see the technology I would prefer; that would include visual contact and co-browsing in online communication for trainings.
Holly Van Valkenburgh, Consulting Librarian Nevada State Library & Archives 100 North Stewart Street Carson City, Nevada 89701
I received your message via the FLA listserv. I am the Branch Manager of a 5,000 square foot library in the small town of Hastings, Florida, and we are the bridge to the digital divide in this small town. Actually, I sometimes feel like we are the bridge to MySpace, but that is ok, as long as we establish a relationship.
As you might expect, the biggest chunk of our circulation is Movies and Music.
A big challenge is getting young people to read, and creating better attendance for our programming, especially children’s programs.
Hope this helps!
Harold George, Branch Manager
St. Johns County Public Library System, Hastings Branch Library
6195 South Main Street #B
Hastings, Florida 32145
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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Trends that I observe at my two libraries (Ettrick and Taylor, Wisconsin — population c500 each) —
More demand for services, both from local library and from system. There are easily obtainable statistics to back up this assertion. Circ is increasing about 20% each year. Delivery volume is expanding — the vans are not. I’m really glad that Wisconsin values resource sharing, but it does require a rather expensive and extensive infrastructure.
Little increase in resources from village or state. The village is hamstrung because the state prohibits increased taxation. Yet the library is expected to keep up with more demand for technology, information and best-sellers. And the librarian is expected to make the new technologies work. (I learned to punch IBM cards when I went to library school.)
No expectation of expansion. Taylor has enough space for the collection and programming, but Ettrick is land-locked in a corner of the elementary school with no possibility of expansion. That means I have to weed a LOT. (Can’t use Round-Up on these weeds! Wouldn’t if I could — this is an organic library.) That means that if we need more computers, we use laptops. Luckily, some people bring their own. (This will increase, so instead of librarians helping people with computers they know, they’ll have to navigate other email and browser configurations set up by nephews who “know lots about computers”.) This is only going to get worse as more businesses expect people to apply for jobs online, and physicians insist that their patients learn about their conditions at the Mayo Clinic website instead of explaining it themselves. Fortunately, recent high school graduates are more-or-less computer savvy, so they don’t have to learn the basics of windows, as the older folks do.
Cultural expectations rising. I do a lot of consultation on making Windows work for people in their 70s. And I really don’t mind helping 40-year-olds sign up for Yahoo mail that they have to get in order to fill out a job application. But I am bothered that employers assume that it’s no imposition to force people who have so little money that they are applying for jobs at WalMart to have email. The trend: people will be bypassing the internet with wireless phones that can receive email, so libraries will only be needed for the initial application. Of course, people working at WalMart will have to choose between paying for their cel or child care, but that’s their choice.
Decreased travel as expenses rise. You hope I’ll come to Sacramento for a conference, just as a bunch of vendors think I’ll be coming to ALA. Dream on! I am really lucky in having library boards that support continuing education. I go to the state public library gathering in the spring and the Wisconsin Library Association meeting in the fall, as well as the system’s continuing education workshops. I even hit the exhibits at PLA this year. But the plane fare to Sacramento is more than my whole CE budget. Getting time away from the library is a huge hassle — I don’t take time off lightly. That’s because small library = small staff. If I’m not there, I need a substitute. I just closed the library for a meeting, because none of the regular subs were available. (It’s hard to train someone who works maybe once a month — it’s too easy to forget the protocols when they’re not rehearsed enough. And the library is a very complex organism.) My solution — more email listservs — use technologies for community building. If my medieval recreation group can do it, so can libraries.
By the way, the Wisconsin Small Libraries Roundtable defines a “small” library as one serving a population of 5,000, not 25,000. The difference between a library serving 500 and one serving 1500 is considerable. There are several “jumps” between 500 and
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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25,000. I have little in common with such large communities. So much of the advice to small libraries involves connecting with community newspapers, TV, doctors, retirement communities, businesses, etc. Right. We could put up a sign in the gas station, I suppose.
More demand for government money. Nature has been giving this state a hard time. Our system escaped with very little damage — but one of the towns just south of us was hit by their second tornado in a year’s time. Libraries were damaged by floods in another system, though we’re all glad we’re not in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, or Iowa City. We won’t even notice as prices of gas and food climb as a direct result of this weather in the heartland, because we’ve watched the prices rise for other reasons. I hate to see state resources siphoned away from libraries because of bad weather — but I don’t know how the state can rebuild roads and libraries with the same money.
Considering ecodisasters like floods, hail, tornadoes… multiply by $5 diesel fuel for combines and tractors… and the cost of the poisons and fertilizers… It’s no wonder that the movement is to scale back and go local and sustainable — at least for those farmers who have not sold out to corporate farming. Will they make it? I hope so, because my library depends on their survival.
These are a few thoughts. I’m sure they’ll be echoed by others. I’m sorry if I’ve been repetitiously redundant, but this has been written between customers.
I’m sorry I won’t be in Sacramento — I hope you have a great conference.
Karyn Schmidt, Director
Ettrick Public Library
Ettrick, Wisconsin
Taylor Memorial Library
Taylor, Wisconsin
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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I just wanted to set the stage, as it were, to let you know that here in Michigan we’ve been exploring and hopefully developing partnerships with other groups working on the concept of economic gardening — involving small and rural libraries in helping to provide the information piece for small business and entrepreneurs — and in development and growing small business in general. ! Given our troubled economic times, small and rural libraries can with help provide a key link in helping the economy to better itself by assisting small business and entrepreneurship.
Deb Biggs Thomas, Michigan eLibrary Coordinator
Library of Michigan
702 West Kalamazoo
Lansing, Michigan 48909
I’ve been working with Deb Biggs Thomas, on a number of issues pertaining to entrepreneurs and small business, some of which include service to these groups in rural/small library communities.
In doing this work, it’s become clear that, especially in our economy, it is and will continue to be very important for rural/small libraries to be able to serve entrepreneurs/small business owners. You may have already received an email from another colleague of mine at Michigan State University mentioning a concept called Economic Gardening. Economic Gardening is an economic development tool that is very different from traditional economic development (ED) methods. You may know that typical ED methods involve attracting companies to come to your area and set up shop. With economic gardening, the focus is on helping existing small business owners to grow and flourish and to help provide an entrepreneurial climate for them in which to do this.
There are a few ways to implement economic gardening, but the one that involves libraries centers on providing database access to entrepreneurs via the library. Even small libraries subscribe to 1 or 2 databases that could help an entrepreneur research a market and keep up on trends. In addition to connecting entrepreneurs to these database, librarians should also be trained to some degree to help these entrepreneurs make sense of the information that they find in these databases. Having managed a small branch library, I do recognize that staff at small/rural libraries wear numerous hats and probably will feel that they don’t have time to take on the additional task of being an analyzer of information, but there are some things they can do to make their communities more aware that they can get market research information at their local library…just making the resources more visible will be a great first step…pathfinders for business resources including websites geared for entrepreneurs and small business owners could also be something a small/rural library could provide. In addition, developing relationships with local Chambers, local SCORE offices (Service Corp of Retired Executives), local Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and civic groups can be another way to make the library more visible in the community as a place to go for business information.
Elizabeth Kudwa, Business Librarian Capital Area District Library 401 South Capitol Avenue Lansing, Michigan 48933
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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Costs for getting authors/programs to rural remote libraries are very expensive and will continue to increase with the cost of fuel rising.
Unemployment in states like Michigan means that more of the unemployed will be looking to libraries for help with resume and job searching and will place even greater demand on the public access computers in libraries.
Couple the above comment with the fact that increased use of Internet means a greater demand for broadband into rural areas, areas that economically the private sectors does not see as profitable.
Increased need for rural libraries to be part of a regional library system so that libraries can benefit from economies of scale in purchasing services, materials, and programming.
With the increased number of mortgage foreclosures, rural libraries as well as urban libraries will not get full funding of any voted levy/millage used to support library services. This means less money at a time when libraries will see increased use by their residents.
With baby boomers retiring there will be an increased number moving to rural areas. In Michigan communities in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula will see an increase in the number of seniors moving to their areas. A growing number of seniors are retiring with smaller pensions and so moving out of state is not as feasible as it was a few years ago. Many seniors are looking to cheaper costs of living in rural areas. This means greater demand on services and the need for rural libraries to provide programming geared to the over 60 population. Diminishing school enrollments may mean reducing children’s’ programs and increasing programs for adults, esp. seniors.
Roger Mendel, Director
Mideastern Michigan Library Cooperative
503 South Saginaw Street Suite 839
Flint, Michigan 48502 810-232-7119
I truly do believe that public libraries can play a major role in sustaining and revitalizing rural communities. If I may say so, I also believe funding, technology and staffing are the most critical issues facing rural public libraries. The key to success of a rural public library lies with the library’s leadership (the staff). All the money in the world and the best, most up-to-date technology that money can buy, mean nothing without good library staff. Continuing education, training, and retraining of rural library staffs are paramount to the success of any library, particularly rural libraries.
Sharman Bridges Smith, Executive Director
Mississippi Library Commission
3881 Eastwood Drive
Jackson, Mississippi 39211
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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One of the things affecting rural and small libraries is the lack of broadband service. Even though the enclosed document states that 92% of Ohioans have access to broadband service, there are pockets of Ohio that have no service. Statewide resource sharing is a goal, but not possible for those in certain areas of Ohio. Affordability, lack of computers in the home and lack of knowledge of how computers can improve lives are part of the issue.
Businesses are closing in small towns and small cities. People are driving further than before for employment that doesn’t pay well. The following article from my hometown newspaper says a lot about trends. My brother-in-law is in social services and he’s seeing a trend for people to stop trying because of the cost of fuel.
Even though we have Learning Express which can be very helpful, the lack of job opportunities in small towns often defeats the purpose. AND, there are only so many jobs in small towns for people with a lack of education. Often the school system, county government and the library are the major places of employment.
Young people who become educated leave the smaller towns. Some older people who have enough money to settle in rural areas return, but they expect the same services as in larger cities.
A lot of the rural areas close to cities are seeing housing developments, but the libraries aren’t ready for the demands. Once again, the new residents expect the same services as in urban areas.
Librarians are hunkering down and not attending conferences and workshops unless they are very close. A lot are attending one event a year per person.
Staffing is also short and it seems as if it will remain that way for a while. Staff aren’t being replaced because of costs.
Some boards are still micromanaging with little knowledge of what really goes on or what the needs are.
In very small towns, the library is it – it’s the source of air conditioning, entertainment for kids in the summer who want to hang out on the computers. This can cause problems because the libraries have too few computers and staff can spend a lot of time trying to coordinate use of the computers by everyone. Unemployed people often go to the libraries to hang out on the computers as well.
Small and rural libraries need less stuff and more computers. Librarians need to take a harder look at what materials are necessary. For example, one small library in NW Ohio is a reading room. The director realized that’s what the community members want, so it’s a great place to get popular books and lots of periodicals. She can get other items in a couple of days through resource sharing if necessary. She isn’t wasting money on materials that stay on the shelves.
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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Some directors are reconfiguring the buildings to accommodate trends. They are wise to do so and are finding it much easier than trying to expand for the sake of expanding. Using space wisely will continue to be important.
None of this is new, but it is still a concern in Ohio.
Jan Haines
Library Development Consultant
State Library of Ohio
Columbus, Ohio
We are currently seeing the impact of high oil prices and the dwindling buying power of the dollar. Our patrons are requesting that we change the policies and allow them to check out books for longer than 2 weeks because they can’t come to town as often with the high gas costs. We have one office staff member that answers the phone and she says all she gets done all day is renewing books. She is behind on other jobs because of this. We are at an all time high in registering new library borrowers families. Instead of going to the movies they are coming to the library for DVD’s and books for entertainment. Many families have had their high speed internet disconnected and are coming here to use the internet. Those of them who have a laptop are coming because we do have free wi-fi (courtesy of Comcast). This is straining our seating at tables. I have had to purchase more copies of the local newspaper because families are canceling their subscription and coming to the Library and reading ours. We have also had an increase in usage of Senior Citizens. Actually many of them are not coming to check out materials but are coming to find a cool, comfortable place to rest because they can’t afford air conditioning. These seniors are asking for more and more large print editions of books, CD’s and Audios. They are aware that these items are available from the State program for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, but they say they do not have up-to-date materials they want to read or listen to. We are using more of our resources for non-print materials than ever before and still cannot supply the demand. As more of our county population ages, I expect their demands to increase. Since revenue is down for the city and county, we do not expect any raise in our budget for the next couple of years. When an employee leaves, we are living with the idea that they may not likely get replaced. We are relying more and more on volunteers to help us do our work. This year we are using several kids from the local college as well as girl scouts. They do a great job but require a lot of supervision which ties up one of us.
Hope this helps. It sounds like I am unhappy because we are so busy, but actually we are having the time of our lives. It’s nice to know that the teens think the library is a “cool” place to be and our seniors are always bringing us homemade cookies and fresh produce from their gardens. You want more details, let me know.
Madge B. Walker, Director Greeneville-Greene County Library 210 North Main Street Greeneville, Tennessee 37745
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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Local funding can’t keep up with increased costs. “Alternative or creative” funding approaches including “renting” high demand items to provide fast access to popular materials and charging for public computer classes, increases the divide between the haves and have nots.
Bookswim is here and its very scary. One of my libraries actually started “renting” high demand items as a challenge to the Bookswim alternative. See above.
Global access to information is changing the role of public libraries yet we aren’t keeping up. Web 2.0 classes, internet reference classes and other continuing education efforts are still not getting a reference desk on the floor of most of the libraries I work with. Not everyone who works in the library is a librarian. Patrons don’t know this and unfortunately, neither does the staff.
Agricultural communities in transformation (end of tobacco subsidies, etc.) can’t compete in a computer-literate world when high speed internet access isn’t available to entice the corporate world to move to the area. The infrastructure isn’t in place and small communities don’t have the tax base needed to build it. The young adults are leaving for “greener pastures” and I don’t mean another farm. They are looking for opportunities for education, training, and careers where currently only small businesses or factory work is available in towns where they grew up. Once they get their education, what will entice them back?
Commuting trends in the last decade indicate people are commuting further than before, but with the recent surge of gas prices, will this trend continue?
A new report suggests U.S. commuting trends are rapidly changing, mainly due to increasing immigration and more people reaching retirement age.
The report — Commuting in America III — is the latest decadal review of the nation’s commuting patterns from the Transportation Research Board . Author Alan Pisarski notes although the personal vehicle remains the most common way to go to work, public transit and carpooling are becoming increasingly popular.
“One of the most significant changes will probably come from newly arrived immigrants,” said Pisarski. “Unlike most native-born Americans or immigrants who have been in the United States for more than five years, many new immigrants either carpool, bike, walk, or use public transportation for their daily commute.” Other findings in the report include: — The number of workers with commutes lasting more than 60 minutes grew by nearly 50 percent between 1990 and 2000. — Men comprise the majority of early-morning commuters from midnight to 7:30 a.m.; women make up the majority of commuters after approximately 7:30 a.m. — Only about 4 percent of workers live in households with no vehicle.
Will changes to NAFTA have an effect on our communities? Will the factories come back?
Betty Jo Jarvis, Director Highland Rim Regional Library 2118 E. Main Street Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37130
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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I work primarily with very rural and very small libraries, just to explain my frame of reference, and here are some issues that I see affecting these libraries: – Most of the staff in the libraries I serve do not have formal library science backgrounds. Most of the libraries cannot afford to pay well enough to attract masters’ level librarians. Because the requirement for masters’ level library directors is based on population, and many of the counties I serve are in a population decline, I am afraid there will actually be libraries that are now required to have a masters’ prepared director that in the near future will no longer have this requirement. – Our libraries have long relied on state funding, through state aid, tuition reimbursement, construction grants, and other grants. This funding appears to be drying up, and many libraries in my area will see their growth stunted in direct correlation to the lack of state funds available. These are the two largest issues that I see affecting my libraries. If I think of any additional issues before July 11th, I will send those to you, as well. Jeanna Elaine Cornett, Regional Librarian Cumberland Valley Region 875 South Main London, Kentucky 40743
I have worked in a small academic library in a very rural area of Appalachian Ohio for 30 years. Besides obvious funding and identity issues facing small rural libraries, I think a significant issue facing our population is the lack of broadband Internet, or a lack of competition for broadband, to bring costs down.
As you know, there’s a major digital divide in this nation. Urban and suburban areas, and small towns, have some sort of broadband access. The only access left to rural residents is expensive satellite. Our small community has been trying for years to bring a wireless ISP or even Verizon DSL to the area. We have hit one snag after another.
Rural library users either use dialup or don’t have access at all. We not only have to take a leadership role in bringing broadband to rural areas, but we also have to change the mindset of many rural residents that access to the Internet is critical and essential in today’s society. Even if many of our residents had access, they would not be willing, nor could they afford, to pay for it.
Louis E. Mays, Professor/Librarian
Learning Resources Center
Southern State Community College
12681 U.S. Route 62
Sardinia, Ohio 45171
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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Florida is in a very unique position right now in terms of rural libraries. Due to the passage of a constitutional amendment, Property Tax rates have been reduced, which means that all counties funded by property taxes are being forced to cut services. In our case, that means an 18% cut to the library budget. In addition to this, the State Legislature also cut the amount earmarked for Library Aid from the State. For us that means a 50% cut from 131,000 in aid funding to 64,000. A big hit, I’m afraid.
For us that means we have to re-shuffle our monies around to keep our staff from a) being laid off or b) taking a pay cut. Both are options that the county was considering, and I was fighting. It seems I have won on that front, however, if any of our staff leaves, we cannot fill the position due to a hiring freeze imposed by the county.
Where it will hurt us is in services to our patrons. We may have to close the library extra hours per week to cut back on utility expenses; we will definitely have to cut back on the number of books we purchase or replace; new shelving or fixtures are definitely out of the picture no new computers will be able to be added or existing ones upgraded beyond current level. Last month almost 1,000 people came to the library and signed in to use the public access computers. Many of these computers don’t even have a front USB port to accommodate Flash/jump/thumb drives.
Our children’s services librarian complains about the state of the Children’s/YA book section, as many are very dated, contain outdated racial and gender stereotypes, and inaccurate factual information. We are also lacking in School Reading list materials, and have to tell students, “we’re sorry, but we don’t have any of those books”.
In addition to looking at losing hours, we are considering for the first time ever charging a fee for use of the community room, and increasing the prices on our printing from the computers.
Our five-year plan included an additional branch in the county, as we only have the one library building at the present time, and no bookmobile of our own. That item has been scrapped.
We have a literacy teacher on staff, who brings the library to the poor and migrant in our community. She has been forced to cut her budget and operates solely on the basis of a grant, which will expire soon. We cannot afford to pay her salary once she goes off the grant. With a 33% adult literacy rate in the count, and Jefferson being the fifth highest illiterate county in the state, we cannot afford to lose her position. She is vital to the community, but the county cannot afford to take her on, either. She teaches as many as 64 adult students reading and writing, ESOL, and Spanish-English competency. Her classroom space is donated by a local church, as we cannot afford to rent space, and the library is too far for many of these students to travel.
Fortunately all is not lost. We are members of a larger consortium, the Wilderness Coast Library System, who provides bookmobile service for our county as well as two others, and who lobbies on our behalf for state grants. But these must be shared with the other counties, and so it is a mixed blessing.
Our Friends group is also behind us and contributes substantially for funds through their book sale and other fund raising efforts. But it is not enough.
James (Jim) Elliott, Director
Jefferson County Public Library
375 South Water Street
Monticello, Flotrida 32344
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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Right now, most everyone around here is concerned about how cuts to government revenues will impact library services. It seems to us that the legislature and governor mandate cuts in spending, as a direct result of the input of the people they represent; it’s how the government is supposed to work, some say. In Florida, nearly 2/3 of the voting population voted to cut taxes. Yet, when a commensurate cut in services occurs, there is a wide outcry. I attached a copy of some stories I found about one case-in-point, a rural library in Rainbow Lakes Estates, near Ocala, Florida, from around March, 2008.
I’d rather we did it the other way around, that is we’d identify needs first, how much it costs, and progressively rate out taxes to pay for it all. A lot of stuff is known ahead of time, like salaries & benefits, vehicle expenses, and so on. I imagine there’d be quite an outcry there as well.
Libraries are just one facet, after all. There are so many community needs going unmet, because people want their tax bills cut. Few realize that their cut will only be $50 or $100 a year for most folks; the people who are really benefiting the most are those who live on the ocean or in exclusive enclaves. Their taxes will decrease by thousands, given the value of their homes, but only the top 1 or 2% realize that benefit. “Realize” is a bit of a pun, as these are the same people who can afford to back the neo-Gilded Age legislators and Executive that we now “enjoy” (my tongue is firmly in my cheek), and promote the tax cuts. These Rainbow Lakes folks were a majority vote in favor of the tax cut, but probably don’t recognize who really benefits from all this, but it’s not them.
Technology is always an issue. Many of our libraries received Gates grant computers a few years ago. Ours are aging and need replaced, so hopefully the grant will continue. If not, we’ll have to begin replacing the PCs, or come up with another scheme, perhaps with more thin-client servers or dumb terminals, than stand-alone PCs. We’ve been able to install wireless routers, so that helps increase access. We have excellent tech support from our cooperative (Polk County Library Cooperative), but funding cuts threaten that support too.
Our staffing has been good, and maintained. Our city supports our library, though I’d guess a majority here voted for the tax cut recently, and will probably vote for more cuts in November. They can’t seem to understand how they are being manipulated through the press, particularly broadcast media.
Our collection budget will decrease some for now, but we are expecting less funding going forward. Much of this is from cuts to our state funding, plus less revenue locally. Our multi-type cooperative (Tampa Bay Library Consortium) funding has been cut, so I expect less training opportunities to be offered next year.
One more thing: the Sunshine State Library Leadership Institute used to be offered for free, next year it will cost attendees $150. I wonder how many potential leaders will have to reconsider because of the fee, not to mention less support locally for travel to the monthly meetings.
Vic Nunez, Reference Librarian Bartow Public Library Bartow, Florida
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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There certainly are a number of issues that are related to Small & Rural Libraries in America today. I feel one of the top issues is that of being able to access the libraries in rural regions. The main problem being transportation, specifically the price of gas for our patrons, is a huge problem now. That coupled with the fact that there is little to no public transportation in the area, we have seen a drop in our program attendance. We offer a lot of great programs for our patronage, and sometimes no one shows or 2-4 people show up for programs.
Another issue is budget cuts in all areas of librarianship. Some libraries here in Florida, are cutting back hours, laying off staff, not filling vacant positions, etc.
Libraries can thrive in times of hardship, and as more and more people are out of work, the library becomes a vital place for all.
Ronald Moore, Branch Manager
Paisley County Library (a branch of Lake County Florida)
24954 C.R. 42
Paisley, Florida. 32767
Co-chair of the Small and Rural Libraries Group, Florida Library Association
From my perspective, what distresses me about Virginia’s small and rural libraries is that they seem with few exceptions to be losing ground rather than gaining it. The gap between the best and worst library systems in the state has grown in recent years, and although in some cases the most disadvantaged are in blighted urban areas, by and large the poorest libraries are in depressed rural areas of the state. Inadequate funding by localities that don’t have a strong enough tax base to support services is a large part of the problem (though there are some communities where the ability to pay is there but the will isn’t). We are struggling in Virginia to figure out some way to equal the playing field a bit more through state funding — but we can’t yet get the state to fully fund the state aid formula that exists, let alone come up with a plan to offer more to our poorest library systems.
But of equal concern to us is the great disparity in our state in terms of access to the Internet. Many of the rural library systems in the state do not have any broadband connection and are still using dial-up connections. If broadband is provided by a rural library, it is at a very slow speed. We know that the Gates Foundation is exploring ways to change this, but they tell us that Virginia ranks among the bottom 10 states in this area. In Virginia, there is a statewide network but a library has to be able to get to it and the cost of that, often through local phone systems, is too high to be a realistic option.
We will look forward to the final report that comes from the Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship with great interest, and if we can be of further help, please let us know.
Sandra Gioia Treadway, Librarian of Virginia
Library of Virginia
800 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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At your request, I had my development staff brainstorm trends and issues. With the economic downturn in Florida and the recent tax reform legislation, rural libraries are having a very difficult time. I look forward to receiving the results of your discussions.
“Our first step will be to identify those trends and issues that will affect rural and small libraries and their communities for the next several years.”
• Maintaining technology
• Maintaining expected levels of service in light of reduced resources
• Adopting and adapting new technologies
• Finding/seeking new resources (i.e., volunteers, private money, etc.)
• Restructuring staffing patterns
• Recruitment issues
• Coping with reduced dollars from federal, state, and local sources
• Keeping up with patron demands
• Refining and redeveloping policies
• Dealing with change in county/legal service area population (such as population influx, development, population or ethnicity changes)
• Embracing cultural diversity
• Communicating the value of libraries to residents and governing officials in the local community
Judith A. Ring, Director
Division of Library and Information Services
Department of State
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32308
We have seen in NC the emergence of public libraries — business librarians in particular — as key players in networks of people who help entrepreneurs, especially in at least two of our rural regions.
Many startups and aspiring entrepreneurs use the library as a first point of information and it’s great when the business librarian knows the other resource people in the region.
In the Rocky Mount region east of Raleigh there is a group of public libraries across 3 counties working together through a grant-funded project called Business Information Center Outreach Services Program (BICOS) on improving their entrepreneurship-related resources. They are subscribing to more business “intelligence” sources, and they have recently started offering on-site counseling through SCORE. See for more info. If this all goes well we should encourage them to become an economic gardening site!
Leslie A. Scott, Director
Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship
North Carolina Rural Center
4021 Carya Drive
Raleigh, North Carolina 27610
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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Thoughts on rural libraries….by library directors in South Carolina
Libraries in small, rural counties in South Carolina are affected by all the negative demographic issues: poverty, joblessness, single parent families, Lack of youth activities, lack of transportation, poor school and health systems. Declining populations leading to shrinking tax base
Generally, not only are the residents poor, but so are the county governments…resulting in a lack of local resources for library facilities, staff, and materials. Even if the will to fund libraries were there, the dollars are not…especially with the tax cap (SC act limits increase in county budgets by no more than 15% in five years) and lack of growth due to local economic conditions.
Illiterate populations leads to further loss of industry/commerce/jobs and less of all of these coming into the community (again money).
Public libraries in rural areas are serving a very different clientele from the cities and suburbs. Patrons from less affluent backgrounds are not as familiar with library services and are more likely to be put off by traditional library “rules.”
Mindset (new South with new set of problems such as indifference and apathy: old South gone but leaving legacy of small upper class who have theirs and don’t care about anyone else)
Population migration due to limited economic opportunities. Rural towns across America, indeed across South Carolina, have witnessed steady out-migration of their youth and working-age populations to adjacent urban areas for jobs and affordable housing. A recent cover story in the Spartanburg (SC) Herald-Journal newspaper showed a marked loss of residents of rural counties(e.g. Union, Laurens, etc.) into neighboring(urban)Spartanburg and Greenville counties. Small towns must identify and recruit small business, manufacturing, agri-business, distribution centers and other viable employers to provide jobs to sustain their economic survival.
Aging populations will have a significant impact on programming, outreach, and collections of small libraries well into the 21st century. The percentage of residents ages 65 + in many small towns is rapidly approaching 25 percent and higher. Libraries must hire and/or train staff to target services to senior citizens and, equally important, the ballooning number of active baby boomers living in or retiring to these rural areas. Large print materials, audio books, assistive devices, instructional classes for seniors, and targeted outreach to the homebound as well our mobile seniors are all essential to serving a graying community nationally.
Digital Divide:
Currently, public libraries have a corner on the public access computer market in rural counties…very few areas have much broadband coverage. This digital divide issue will be critical to what happens in the future, both for public libraries and for SC citizens. If broadband can be deployed in the rural areas, jobs and opportunities may follow.
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
Compiled by Don Reynolds for the Clarion Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship National Summit – July17-18, 2008
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Free access to the latest technology is critical. Rural & libraries still remain the only gateway to free internet, e-mail, and research databases for their rural, geographically isolated patrons. Also, many outlying areas which may or may not have internet access need increased bandwidth, satellite internet service, plus training on how to use the multiple technologies and resources available in the digital age. Sadly, rural towns and counties continue to have significant numbers of residents with little or no internet access or computer skills.
Public Services:
On the other hand, public libraries offer a neutral community center that is hard to find in many rural areas…the ability to provide better facilities and programming would bring more people to the library.
We are often the only option for cultural and educational resources outside of the public schools…it’s hard to buy books locally and most people can’t afford them. The local recreation groups may do dance or sports or martial arts, but few other agencies do any type of storytelling or arts-related programming for children.
Access to timely health care information and services. As rural residents age and small towns find it more difficult to recruit trained medical professionals to practice in their communities, libraries have outstanding opportunities to provide health and medical information for healthy living to their communities. Rural residents often seek current, confidential answers to medical questions at their public library by reading current books and magazines. Hospitals, the NLM, and medical schools have all partnered with rural public libraries in recent years to offer health databases, educational classes, and diagnostic screenings at little or no cost to residents. Libraries must expand their role in educating their patrons using the ever-growing array of health information resources.
Consistent local and state government funding must be available to rural library services and the communities they serve. Communities have successfully secured funding by partnering with local or regional agencies, organizations, schools, and businesses to collectively persuade their elected local and state leaders to fund library technology, facilities, and programs. A collaborative effort often makes the most efficient use of limited resources and can convince elected leaders of the need for funding projects of equal importance to libraries such
as schools, roads, water and sewer projects, and parks and recreational facilities.
In the future, libraries must vigorously lobby government at all levels(using Friends, professional associations, and constituents) to fund them adequately so they can fulfill their roles as the sole providers of lifelong learning in the majority of rural communities.
Limited funding sources mean lack of support for quality staff and collections. It is hard to grow when you have to fight to keep budgets from being cut each year.
Library staff cannot participate in the latest trends for lack of staff, equipment and facilities so our patrons are behind the times.
Bottom line:
Small and rural libraries have service needs that are greater than current or future resources. And, limited funding sources mean lack of support for quality staff and
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
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collections. It is hard to grow when you have to fight to keep budgets from being cut each year.
It all boils down to money. Money really does buy better facilities and more (and better-trained) staff to provide services.
What can we do?
• Continue to argue our case before the legislature.
• Develop better data to support our requests for more dollars. (Perhaps some statistics that address specific rural county issues?)
• Develop some benchmarks for service and develop some tools to help convince local governments to meet them.
• Invite the Clarion folks to South Carolina for a program or conference…even most of the larger public libraries have at least one or two branches that might benefit from some insights into rural services.
• Have a “summit” of just rural South Carolina public libraries to spend a day talking about issues. Share some success stories.
• Redistribution of wealth through tax reform
• Different approaches to service
• Creative business recruitment outside the box – this is happening somewhat
• Creative fee and local taxation strategies
• Rethinking governmental approaches
Case Study of a Success:
A new library facility in a small rural community can be a catalyst for renewing the downtown areas of a small town. For example, the new Pamplico (Florence Co. SC) branch opened about six months ago. Computer use, circulation and door counts have gone up approximately 500%. The new meeting room is used by the community for numerous events, children’s activities and community forums. The old library building has been renovated and is now the town hall. Utilizing a $500,000 grant from the Commerce Department the city removed telephone lines, repaired side walks and re-landscaped mainstreet. The downtown area is much more appealing and new businesses are interested in moving downtown. The new library was the base to start this revitalization. All of these communities are excited that they will also have the opportunity that Pamplico had to revitalize their downtown and at the same time to bring quality library facilities and services to their communities.
Other communities involved in new buildings and revitalization of towns in SC includes: Johnsonville & Olanta branches (Florence Co.); Headquarters libraries for Marlboro Co. and Calhoun Co.
“In these times of economic turmoil and high gas prices,
rural community libraries may be the only game in town.”
Deborah Hotchkiss, Director
Library Development Services
South Carolina State Library P.O. Box 11469 Columbia, South Carolina 29211
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
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Issues for Rural Libraries, 2008:
A Collaborative Paper from Western Council States
Jan Walsh, President
Western Council of State Libraries
The following contributors embraced this subject and sent valuable information and papers: Susan Barrett and Rand Simmons, Washington State Library; Jim Scheppke, Oregon State Library; Susan Oberlander and staff, New Mexico State Library; Sue Sherif, Aja Razumny, Rich Greenfield and Kay Shelton, Alaska State Library; Carla Lehn, Jon Torkelson and Susan Hildreth, California State Library. Because several submitted thoughtful and comprehensive papers for this summit, I have included their papers in full at the end.
Development of a national plan for rural library services is a major step forward. Because the nation’s geography and cultures are diverse, however, and areas are uniquely and wonderfully different, one from another, a plan must address regional differences and be adaptable by state libraries in planning to address state needs. For instance, in the west, the determining factor in community economic vitality and growth is still usually geographic location.
One of the important issues to address is how to get the library involved in the rural issues discussions on a local, regional, and national basis. For example, participation in the National Rural Assembly and other national rural meetings and organizations, working with state and regional rural issues organizations and forums, and having a presence and voice in local efforts, are all critical to the future of rural libraries. We need to figure out how to get there and how to speak with one voice.
While all those concerned with rural libraries are doing their best to collaborate and keep in touch, unfortunately many rural libraries are not aware that this wealth of resources is available, and those who are aware often find themselves overwhelmed, not empowered, by them. It still seems apparent that to move forward substantially we need something to collaborate around – an entity, a clearinghouse, or at least a national plan, to serve as the “one clear voice” on behalf of rural libraries. (Please see California State Library’s Carla Lehn and Jon Torkelson’s paper, pp.45-47.)
Key factors for success to rural libraries are strong leadership, adequate and stable funding, access to excellent training, and the availability of connectivity and information technology. In addition, macro issues in rural areas significantly impact their public libraries.
Macro Issues in Rural America
• Providing a forum to focus on the future of rural libraries is a very good thing. However, this is not just a library issue. It is one part of the numerous issues concerning the future of rural communities. For example, the availability of technology, rural health, rural economics, and support for rural local government services are all related and are a few of the rural issues that affect the library as well as the community.
• The economic downturn has had an severe effect throughout the nation
o For instance, most rural Alaskan communities are currently in crisis, mainly due to rising fuel1 costs, but also due to several other pre-existing and long-term
1 Rural residents may pay 100% or more than their urban counterparts for fuel. Where residents of the three largest Alaskan urban areas pay 4% of household income for fuel, rural households –
Issues and Trends Facing Rural and Small Libraries
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factors, including lack of balanced local economies2 (which results in high underemployment) and global warming and de-population trends.3 In rural areas more than urban ones, the overall cost of living now ties directly to fuel costs: food, manufactured goods, electricity, etc. – everything costs more as the cost of fuel goes up. Some of these increased costs have yet to ripple through the Alaskan economy, although rural areas in other western states have been impacted. The dramatic rise in fuel costs may be temporary or short term, or it may be recurrent or long term. In any case, however, a national plan for rural library services must take into account the overall trend.
• Rising fuel and utility costs are issues everywhere, but in Alaska they have reached a point where the cost of keeping a building warm and lit may overtake the ability of the community to support their library and other public buildings.
• As the cost of transportation of goods rises, and the costs, financial and environmental, of energy production increase, it seems possible that rural areas could become critically important to energy production and economic health. The production of ethanol from corn and the construction of wind energy facilities in rural areas are indicative of this development. The rising cost of the transportation of food products may increase the importance of the availability of locally grown food.
• Gas lines and exorbitant prices for gas and food are changing the lives of Americans.
o Rising gas prices will affect rural libraries in several ways:

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