The past two years have seen a lot of change in library organizations in the United States, and most of those changes seem to be related to funding. That, of course, is a sign of the economy. For libraries and other public institutions money problems are likely to continue for one to two years after the rest of the economy comes back. That is certainly what Keith Fiels, Executive Director of the American Library Association, predicts. Mr. Fiels said in a recent letter that he sent to ALA staff "With library funding lagging the recession by perhaps two years, it is unclear when the library economy will 'bottom out', or when we will start to see a rebound in library funding nationally. In the meantime, everything from advertising to conference attendance has been affected. ALA is in the midst of a two million dollar revenue shortfall."
With everyone facing difficult financial situations it is really not a surprise that cooperative organizations are sometimes forced to make changes in services, programs, structure and, yes, money. Illinois has been viewed as the leader in library cooperation. The view is not unfounded - we were the leader. The question is whether or not we can maintain that leadership so that the people of Illinois get the resources that they need. Some are predicting demise and no wonder - three systems have announced that they are laying off all staff but those associated with delivery and shared automation services, one system is moving to a 4-day week and others, like Lincoln Trail, are asking very hard questions about their programs.
Does the current funding crisis mean that cooperation is a dying service? Actually the number of shared integrated library systems (such as LINC) and cooperative arrangements are growing faster than ever. Because of budget situations and mostly because we are more and more aware that we cannot get everything our users need, we must cooperate. It's an age that demands more cooperation but cooperatives that have been in existence for more that 25 or 30 years will struggle. Why is that? Perhaps it is because Illinois Library Systems are not new and exciting. Forming a new organization or cooperative is exciting and innovating. Reinventing an older organization is just plain work. The reason for that is we have history, history, history and we are hard pressed to give up our old ideas of what LTLS or any other System used to be. Up until only three or four years ago, I still had people complain because LTLS was no longer buying Books In Print for libraries. Never mind that it wasn't needed and it was a local responsibility if it was desired, but we had also stopped that program more than 28 years ago. We do have long memories. So change is not easy and we all love the good old days - but the good old days (if that was what they were) are over. We have to do services and programs in a different way and think about things differently and, yes, we need to re-invent cooperation for Illinois. This will take everyone giving up something and everyone changing and most importantly, everyone contributing ideas. This week's LTLS poll asks about what is the most important value in cooperative organization. Nearly half (44%) of the respondents say that it is Honest Communications. Three other responses were pretty much equal: Respect, Sharing,Trust. These are important values for us to take into our future planning.
What has happened in Illinois to date shows the dire straights that library cooperation is in. The crisis is all related to the financial situation. The state isn't paying its bills to library systems or to many important and essential public institutions. We need funds to be released to maintain critical services for our users - those services of resource sharing through shared automation systems and the delivery of those materials to libraries. We need to be sure everyone knows about our needs - especially legislators, the Comptroller, the Secretary of State - and know these are important.
As of today, May 27, 2010 the following actions have been taken by library systems.
Alliance Library System - On May 17, 2010 ALS announced that there would be a change in core services effective Monday, May 31, 2010. (The announcement of the change is attached). The key outcome is that 22 staff members will be laid off as of May 28, 2010. (Read More)
DuPage Library System - There is currently no official announcement from the DuPage Library System regarding its FY 2011 financial situation. (Read More)
Lewis and Clark Library System - On May 18, 2010 LCLS announced that there would be a change in services effective July 1, 2010. (The announcement of the change is attached). The key outcome is that 5 staff members will be laid off. In addition the Executive Director is leaving to take the position of Director at a local public library and an Acting Director will be appointed at the June 15th LCLS Board meeting. (Read More)
Lincoln Trail Libraries System - On May 26, 2010 a letter was sent to the membership that expressed the concern with the fiscal situation. Every item in the FY 2011 budget will be reviewed and an operating budget will be presented to the Board in June. In addition, the letter stated "that the next phase is to accelerate our plans to look at re-structured cooperative services in the state." (Read More)
Metropolitan Library System - On May 17, 2010 the MLS Director wrote that they were doing the priority services and making plans to drastically reduce the budget. The director reported that the cash situation was not as severe as some other systems. (Read More)
North Suburban Library System - On May 11, 2010 NSLS announced that they were laying off all staff of the system, with the exception of delivery personnel, on May 28, 2010. Subsequent to that the Board of Directors at NSLS on Monday May 23, 2010 voted to proceed with an immediate merger of NSLS and the DuPage Library System. (Read More)
Prairie Area Library System - On May 20, 2010 PALS announced that the priority services would be Prairie Cat, delivery and re-structuring. Other services would be suspended until the state revenue stream is restored. (Read More)
Rolling Prairie Library System - On May 18, 2010 the RPLS Board adopted a budget for FY 2011 that included a 4-day workweek for all services including 4-day delivery service. No staff layoffs were needed due to the change in workweek and reduction of compensation by 20%. (Read More)
Shawnee Library System - On May 20, 2010 SHLS noted that the cash flow was a serious concern. They noted that serious budget cuts had to be made and the Board appointed members to work with the director to consider possible options for sale of the headquarters building. (Read More)
For library cooperation in Illinois, the landscape will be different come July 1, 2010 and it will be dramatically different on July 1, 2011. That said we must preserve our long-standing tradition of sharing resources. The time is now for everyone to provide open, honest ideas on how this can be accomplished. Can it be accomplished if there is not more state funding? Will we let this great program just wither and die? I think not. The Illinois library community has always been dedicated to serving our users, the people of our state. We need to think big and we need to think creatively and we need to be sure that we think inclusively. This is not about "getting by," this is not about "politics" (even though it seems like it), this is about the people of Illinois - all of them--and not just "my users." We have to be ready to be like "the phoenix rising from the ashes" and create an even better day for library sharing services for the people of Illinois. Cooperation lives and changes but it won't die.