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Senate Testimony

State Library Board Testimony before
The Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee
April 21, 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 today 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 strategic 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 provides access to print and electronic resources which help state employees to better perform 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 libraries in 34 counties. This provides an easy, affordable way for small libraries to enter the digital age by allowing those with minimal technical expertise to automate their collections and share material. Last year this consortium of libraries circulated more than 11 million items to Ohio residents.

In difficult economic times, it is critical that we build upon these initiatives that allow libraries to share resources. In March, the State Library convened a meeting with 18 librarians from all types of libraries across the state and we began 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. Our residents don't care where material comes from or what type of library provides it. They just want to get what they need and want in a timely manner. The technology is available today to make all of Ohio's library collections – school, academic and public – available to all Ohio residents, at any time, from anywhere. Our plan is to begin implementing this technology over the next biennium.

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, Ohio's academic library network, OhioLINK, and the State Library.

According to the Governor's budget and the House budget, OPLIN will realize a 10% reduction in its General Revenue Funds over that of Fiscal Year 2005 which will result in a greater reliance on E–Rate funding to cover telecommunications and database services. The Federal E–rate program provides discounts to telecommunications services and Internet access for all eligible schools and libraries in the United States.

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 the blind 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 maintained at the FY 2005 level in the Governor's and House 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 students 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 and an email I received from a teacher who used this service with junior high special needs students. 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.

We feel that education and lifelong learning is a high priority. We also recognize that in many homes both parents are working and are not available to help their children with their homework. We know, too, that some children are being raised by their grandparents. We are aware of these challenges and we want to help wherever we can to meet these challenges. The more we can ensure that Ohio's children receive a good education, especially assisting them in honing their math skills, the better prepared they will be when they compete in the world job market.

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 and the House budget recommend 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.

The House has proposed the consolidation of Ohioana with the State Library. This would end the independent status of Ohioana and imperil its ability to raise funds from private persons, accept charitable donations, and operate in the manner in which it has operated for more than 75 years. I respectfully request that the Senate fund Ohioana as an independent entity at the level recommended by Governor Taft.

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 and the House'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. Thank you.