Tag Archives: library funding

I Married a Terrorist (?)

27 May

Clearly a threat to society

Yes, (In my best Gestapo accent) vie must interrogate za very dangerous librarians.  The agents of learning and holders of wisdom are nothing less than subversive terrorists!  If they had their way, all of us would be reading and comparing sources and then analyzing information, or talking about the human condition.  I know of what I speak. I am married to one of these sneaky subversive terrorists.

Thank goodness for The Los Angeles Unified School District which has hired attorneys to interrogate these knowledge pushers.  Yes, you heard me correctly–they are nothing more than knowledge pushers. There I said it!  The Los Angeles School District is actually escorting teacher-librarians to the basement of an administration building, “where they are made to sit on lawn chairs while being interrogated by school district lawyers who are seeking to prove that the librarians don’t actually qualify as teachers.”  My how enlightened.

I understand that California, as most states right now, needs to cut costs in a time of budget crisis, but Really?  Really?  They are going to go after librarians in this fashion?  Click here to see the full article. I know I am biased, but please support your local library and support school librarians!

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Books for Charity or Scam for Profit?

22 May

Let the Donor Beware!

You’ve probably seen them on a street corner or in a parking lot somewhere. Popping up like big blue mushrooms over the past two years are giant metal bins labelled “Books For Charity.” Unfortunately, the truth about what happens to books dropped in those bins is somewhat more complex than the label.

The bins are operated by Thrift Recycling Management, Inc. (TRM), which also sells books under a variety of names including Reading Tree, Owlbooks.com, and HippoBooks. That’s right: they sell books, the very books that are “donated” into the blue bins. A bit of investigation reveals the fate of the donated books:

  • 51% are pulped and the pulp sold for a profit;
  • 25% are sold online (at very cheap prices) through the various bookseller identities of TRM, with any profits going back to the company;
  • 24% are in fact distributed to a variety of charities, usually literacy- or education-based organizations.

So less than ¼ of the books one donates to the blue bins actually go to charity. Sadly, the charities they do reach are distributed internationally, so only a tiny fraction actually help the communities in which they are collected. TRM is very open about their business model; they make it clear that selecting charities and collecting and distributing books costs money. That makes sense. But TRM turned a $27 million dollar profit in 2010. Most people donating to a “charity” would be aghast to learn this. In fact their business model has led to an investigation of TRM and Reading Tree by the Oregon Dept. of Justice Charitable Activities Section.

The success of the blue bins has a larger consequence for local libraries. Many libraries rely on independent Friends of the Library groups to help fund specific programs or activities. Friends groups rely heavily on donated books to run book sales. When well-meaning people dump books into TRM’s bins, they deprive a key partner of their local libraries of a significant funding stream. TRM is based in Washington, so for those of us in the Pacific Northwest, the bins are much more prevalent right now, leading to a larger crisis for libraries already struggling for funding.

When asked direct questions, TRM is very honest about their business model. Unfortunately, the labels on their bins are much less forthright. As we’ve noted on The Solipsistic Me before, when one donates anything to a “charity” one should be very aware of what that charity actually does. Donors should know what happens to their donations. If you want your old books to make a difference in your community (or more than a 24% difference anywhere), talk to your local library or other local community organizations. Beware the blue bins! Don’t let a little convenience turn your charitable instinct into a corporate profit and a local loss.

P.S. – For more information on the great work done by Friends groups, visit the American Library Association’s website.

Oregon Librarians Visit Congress

13 May

Rep. Kurt Schrader with Oregon Librarians

Seven librarians from Oregon spent Tuesday, May 10 visiting the offices of all five Oregon Representatives and both Oregon Senators. These visits were conducted as part of National Library Legislative Day. I was privileged to be part of the visiting group as the President-Elect of the Oregon Library Association. Other members represented the breadth of Oregon libraries, including representatives from public, academic, and school libraries.

It was very gratifying to feel a strong sense of support for library issues from all seven offices. Regardless of party affiliation, district geography, or seniority, all Oregon’s members of Congress recognize the value of strong libraries for strong Oregon communities. Our state has been hit very hard by the economic downturn, and libraries are a rare public good available to all; library usage for internet access and job searching is up significantly over the past two years.

The American Library Association’s Washington (ALA) office held a briefing session on Monday to orient us to the key issues. Due to Congress’ current focus on budgetary and fiscal issues, many of these topics do not have active legislation at this time, but it was still important to raise congressional awareness of library needs and concerns.

On the funding side, one critical issue is the funding of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). This funding includes monies distributed to each state on a population-based model. States use the money to support local library programs. In Oregon, LSTA funding supports a variety of programs including:

  • Statewide access to a variety of research and reference tools through local libraries of all types
  • The Oregon School Library Information System (OSLIS), providing access to databases and learning tools for Oregon’s K-12 community
  • Grants and aid to Oregon libraries pursuing innovative and collaborative projects to improve the Oregon library community

ALA is asking Congress to fully fund LSTA at the $232,000,000 level it authorized in December. While the current budgetary situation requires careful scrutiny of all programs, library funding returns value to communities in ways that no other money can. The economic downturn has increased library usage and the funding should be held at least neutral to recognize this value.

Another critical issue is funding for school libraries. Unfortunately, as school funding is slashed, library staff are among the first casualties. This is despite research clearly linking future student success to the presence of strong school libraries, which must include a trained librarian or media specialist to ensure student learning. The No Child Left Behind legislation included no library programs. As it is reauthorized (as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), it is critical that Congress include language that authorizes and mandates school programs and best practices.

Library Champion, Rep. Grijalva

On Monday, the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF), a division of ALA, awarded their 2011 Public Service Award to a champion of school libraries (and all library service), Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ). Rep. Grijalva introduced the 2009 Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries Act, better known as the SKILLs Act.

SKILLs would establish a goal of having not less than one highly qualified school library media specialist in each public school. In addition, it proposes to increase student academic achievement through strategies such as improving the quality of teachers, school library media specialists and principals; and increasing the number of highly qualified teachers in the classroom, highly qualified school library media specialists in the library and highly qualified principals and assistant principals in schools.

It was a true pleasure to meet Rep. Grijalva and hear his generous words about libraries as he accepted the award.

Oregon is very fortunate to have strong library supporters in Congress as well. I truly enjoyed my visits with them and the camaraderie of other Oregon librarians. Anyone else interested in ensuring strong, well-funded libraries should contact their members of Congress and ask for full support of these important library issues.

Support Your Local Libraries

8 May

Tuesday is National Library Legislative Day. Sponsored by the American Library Association, this is a day for librarians and library supporters to contact or visit their members of Congress to talk about the value of libraries.

Libraries are ever more essential in these tough economic times. People are flocking to our nation’s libraries for job and career information, small business research and e-government services as well as support for formal and informal education and lifelong learning. Usage is up everywhere as people try to get back to work. Families borrow more books, DVDs and other materials. Students of all ages seek digital literacy skills. Teachers and administrators recognize how libraries lead to improved student performance. Communities recognize that their libraries are the primary place – and often the only place in rural areas – to find online materials and databases with no-fee access to the Internet.

The federal role in library development and funding is targeted and unique. For example, state library agencies utilize funding from the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), to build shared services and collaborations that save funding while improving public services. The need for school libraries is demonstrated by the research showing that students perform better in schools with an effective school library program. Transparency and open government are best served when open access policies assure a strong Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) in the Government Printing Office (GPO) and public access to federally funded research reports.

Facing tough budget decisions, Congress should make equitable decisions and not cut library programs twice as much as other education and cultural programs. The people using public, school and academic libraries are using libraries more than ever – libraries that are also filling the gaps made when other agencies and services are cut.

In these tough budgetary times, Congress has to make hard choices about what services to fund. Libraries are more important than ever. If you value your public, school, and academic libraries, please take a moment and contact your Representative and Senators this week.

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