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State Library House Budget Testimony

State Library Board Testimony before The Subcommittee on Higher Education Of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee
February 22, 2005

Mister Chairman, members of the Committee, I am Joanne Budler, State Librarian of Ohio. I was fortunate to be named to this position on July 1 of 2004 and I am here this evening to provide testimony on the State Library of Ohio's proposed budget for Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007.

Established in 1817, the State Library of Ohio has three executive priorities:

  • To lead and partner in the development of library services throughout Ohio;
  • To promote and enable resource sharing among libraries and library networks; and
  • To provide access to information for Ohio's state government.

All of these priorities lead to one end: to ensure that all Ohio residents, rich or poor, rural or urban, receive the best possible library service and are able to engage in lifelong learning which strengthens the economic health of Ohio.

The State Library assists Ohio's libraries in the development of library services to their customers by providing consultation and professional development opportunities to all library staff. This year two of our staff members received training on strategic planning so that they may assist communities in planning library service for the future. In addition State Library staff will take an active role in coordinating statewide professional development opportunities to ensure that there are no gaps in this program and, of equal importance, no duplication of effort. State Library staff will also create additional professional development resources for librarians and state employees. The State Library's collection is valuable and we believe that the use of this collection of material and databases assists state employees in performing their job duties.

The State Library assists Ohio's libraries by providing a resource sharing mechanism, a way for libraries to open up their collections to all Ohio residents. This allows libraries to make more efficient use of public funds. At the present time, the State Library does this:

  • As a member of OhioLINK by adding our collection of more than 2 million items to the more than 8 million titles held by OhioLINK,
  • By supporting a program which connects the catalogs of 141 school and public libraries, and
  • By coordinating one online catalog and circulation system which is shared by 67 library systems in 34 counties through the Southeast Ohio Consortium, a collaborative project of the State Library. This consortium provides an easy, affordable way for small libraries to enter the digital world by allowing libraries with minimal technical expertise to automate their collections and share material. Last year this consortium of more than 150 library buildings circulated more than 11 million items to Ohio residents.

In March, the State Library will convene a meeting with 18 librarians from all types of libraries across the state and including the academic library network, the school library network and the public library network. Together we will begin to develop a plan to expand resource sharing. We know that when fiscal times are rough, people use libraries more rather than less. Between 2001 and 2003, we saw an increase of close to 10 million in the number of visits Ohio residents made to public libraries. We also know that during difficult fiscal times, many libraries cut their acquisitions budgets and in fact, according to statistics gathered by the State Library, statewide material expenditures decreased more than $13 million between 2001 and 2003. There is no doubt that Ohio has the best libraries in the country, but even in good fiscal times no library can ever expect to own all of the material a patron might request.

For all these reasons, there is an ever growing need to provide a quick and seamless way to share resources. We need to apply the available technology to bring all of Ohio's library collections together so that all Ohio residents, regardless of where they live, will have access to the library material they need or want.

OPLIN, the Ohio Public Library Information Network, is another program within the State Library budget. OPLIN provides broadband Internet access to all 250 main public library buildings in Ohio. This ensures equity of access to all Ohio residents, closing the digital divide, by providing residents access to the Internet at the public library at no charge.

Realizing that access to the Internet is not sufficient, OPLIN has also played a role in providing electronic information content to all Ohio residents:

  • By providing a core set of subscription databases to all public libraries and
  • Additional databases through a collaborative project entitled Libraries Connect Ohio, in partnership with Ohio's school library network, INFOhio, and Ohio's academic library network, OhioLINK.

According to the Governor's budget, OPLIN will realize a 10% reduction in its General Revenue Funds which will result in a greater reliance on E–Rate funding to cover telecommunications and database services.

The State Library also plays a role in ensuring that Ohio residents who are unable to use a traditional book because of a visual or physical disability are given the opportunity to read through talking books. The State Library serves as the machine lending agency for the Talking Book Program. Reading material for this program is provided through the Cleveland Public Library and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. These libraries receive funding through the State Library and circulate more than 900,000 items per year to over 22,000 users. At the School for the Blind, between 40–70 talking book machines per year are circulated to children who use them to read textbooks. We were very pleased to see that this line item was not reduced in the Governor's budget. I do want to point out, however, that as Ohio baby boomers age, we expect the demand on this service to increase and hope that at some point we will also see funding increase.

The State Library also serves as the administering agency for the federal dollars that come to Ohio through the Library Services and Technology Act. These funds are distributed through a competitive grant process which allows libraries to gain funding for innovative library projects. Some of this funding is used to seed innovative statewide projects which benefit all Ohio residents. This past year, a 24/7 virtual reference service named KnowItNow was introduced on September 7th 2004. Any Ohio resident can get assistance from a librarian at any time, every day. In addition, there is a Live Homework Help element in this service, available from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., every day. Trained tutors assist children with their homework, of which approximately 60% is math assistance, utilizing whiteboard technology via the web. This service has been embraced by the residents of Ohio, averaging more than 10,000 questions per month. I have included in your packet a transcript of a reference transaction during which a student was guided through a research process, not given an answer. You will also find some remarks made by students after using the Live Homework Help. KnowItNow and Live Homework Help truly are an enhancement to the education of Ohio's children.

The Regional Library Systems are another program within the State Library budget. They provide continuing education and technology support to the staff and customers of all types of libraries – public, school, academic, and special –– throughout Ohio. Between Fiscal Year 2001 and Fiscal Year 2005, the Regional Library Systems have had a 40% reduction in General Revenue Funds. The Governor's budget recommends a 10% decrease in their General Revenue Funds between Fiscal Year 2005 and Fiscal Year 2006. This will result in a reduction in staffing levels and services which are provided to library staff across the state. The Regional Library Systems are a valuable resource to Ohio's libraries, especially the smaller, less developed libraries. I request that you consider restoring the 10% cut.

I realize that the elected officials of the State of Ohio are dealing with a large deficit and appreciate the flat funding of many of the State Library line items within the Governor's recommended budget. Although this is a flat budget, costs continue to rise and must be covered. In FY 2006–2007, the State Library's flat funding level must accommodate a negotiated 4% salary increase, increased costs of health insurance, costs associated with the reinstitution of step increases for staff and new service fees to the Department of Administrative Services Real Estate. Additional reductions to the State Library budget would make it difficult to continue our services to the library community and the Ohio residents who ultimately benefit from our services.

Thank you for your time, patience, and consideration. It is truly an honor and the realization of a dream for me to be standing before you as the State Librarian of Ohio. I will be happy to try to answer any questions that you might have regarding the State Library and its proposed budget for the next biennium. I also have in the audience representatives from the Regional Library Systems, OPLIN, and the libraries who provide reading material for the Blind and Physically Handicapped should you have questions that might more readily be answered by them. Thank you.