Saturday, July 18, 2009

Recession Not Holding Back Fort Atkinson's Library Expansion Effort

Link to July 18 Wisconsin State Journal article, "Fort Atkinson pushes to expand library ".

Excerpt: A down economy in Fort Atkinson means it’s time to expand the library.

The first expansion of the Dwight Foster Public Library came in 1931 in the midst of the Great Depression.

In 1983, when interest rates were in double digits, the library doubled its space to 21,000 square feet.

And now, in the midst of another recession, the community has started to rally for a $5.5 million, 12,000-square-foot expansion project designed to provide more space and help the library adjust to the demands of technology.

More than $500,000 has been raised by selling naming rights to parts of the library, putting the fundraiser for the project one-third of the way toward its goal of $1.5 million.

The city has kicked in $2.5 million, while the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation has pledged $1.5 million.

It's a Great Season for Reading

Spencer Branch Library (Marathon County)

Link to July 17 Marshfield News Herald article, "Spencer Spotlight: Summer a great time for everyone to read".

Excerpt: Each summer, the Spencer Library schedules performances for the enjoyment of our children -- young and old. There is a common message that reverberates at each program: Take the time to read.

According to our last artist, Kevin Boyles, there are books that cover just about every topic you can think of. If our library doesn't have a certain item, it can be ordered from another location.

The Digital Divide in Marathon County

Link to July 18 Wausau Daily Herald article, "Digital divide persists in rural communities".

Excerpt: As the owner of a construction company and a classic car buff, Corey Westfall knows the Internet could open up his town of Halsey workshop to the world. The thing is, it's tough to imagine all the possibilities when e-mailing and uploading pictures can take hours on his dial-up connection.

"Mostly, I'd just like to do something in 10 minutes or a half-hour," Westfall, 38, said.

Westfall is one of a still-unknown number of rural Marathon County residents whose Internet access is slow or unreliable, a handicap in a changing world and struggling economy. Statewide, nearly 60 percent of residents and 43 percent of businesses don't have broadband Internet service,[RG emphasis] according to a recent survey by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin aimed at securing federal stimulus money.

The article neglects to point out that public libraries have become community hubs for high-speed Internet access. That being said, travel to a library, waits during periods of peak use, and limits on computer time are inconveniences for rural business owners.

Friday, July 17, 2009

E-book Readers Get Less Than Rave Reviews on Campus

Link to July 16 Wall Street Journal article, "Book Smarts? E-Texts Receive Mixed Reviews From Students".

Excerpt: Proponents tout e-books’ potential to do things that old-fashioned textbooks can’t. Since e-books aren’t printed and don’t need to be sold through physical distributors, they should theoretically be less expensive than regular books and can save students and schools money. What’s more, e-textbooks are environmentally friendly, can lighten backpacks and keep learning materials current.

But the transition has sparked controversy among some educators. They say that digital reading comes with drawbacks, including an expensive starting price for e-book readers and surprisingly high prices for digital textbooks. Also, publishers make e-texts difficult to share and print, and it is unclear how well students will adapt to reading textbooks on a screen, some say. The earliest versions of these devices lack highlighting, note-taking and sharing capabilities, and one leading provider’s e-books expire after several months, meaning they can’t be kept for future reference.

High-tech/high-touch. Hit-and-miss futurist (and who isn't) John Naisbitt hit the nail on the head in this case.

Rockefeller Institute: State Tax Decline in Early 2009 Sharpest on Record

Link to The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government State Revenue Report (July 2009).

Excerpt: State tax collections for the first quarter of 2009 showed a drop of 11.7 percent, the sharpest decline in the 46 years for which quarterly data are available. Combining the Census Bureau’s quarterly data with its annual statistical series, which extends back to 1952, the most recent decline in state tax revenues was the worst on record.

Quarterly tax revenue: Jan 2008 to 2009 percent change.
Michigan (-16.5%)
U.S. (-11.8%)
Wisconsin (-11.2%)
Illnois (-10.8%)
Minnesota (-9.7%)
Iowa (+3.6%) 18.2% increase in sales tax.

Hurtin'est units (outside of Michigan)
Alaska (-72.0%) That's the number in the "total" column. A new perspective on a recent resignation?
Virginia (-19.9%)
Georgia (-19.1%)
Oregon (-19.0%)
New York (-17.0%)
Massachusetts (-16.8%)
Arizona (-16.5%
California (-16.2%)
New Jersey (-15.8%)

Other states besides Iowa registering tax revenue gains:
Wyoming (+19.8%)
Montana (+3.2%)
Alabama (+3.1%)
Nevada (+1.5%)

Get Back to Us in a Year

This genie is definitely out of the bottle, so to speak.

Link to July 16 Guardian article, "Financial Times editor says most news websites will charge within a year".

Excerpt: The Financial Times editor, Lionel Barber, has predicted that "almost all" news organisations will be charging for online content within a year.

Barber said building online platforms that could charge readers on an article-by-article or subscription basis was one of the key challenges facing news organisations.

"How these online payment models work and how much revenue they can generate is still up in the air," Barber said in a speech at at a Media Standards Trust event at the British Academy last night.

The Cult of Me

Capital Times reporter Mike Ivey discusses the "cult of me" in his July 16 Business Beat column.

A July 14 article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ("Employees lack in basic skills training, report claims") caused me to take another look at it.

Excerpt: Joanne Krueger can attest to the conclusion of a report released Tuesday suggesting that employers find new hires inadequately prepared for work.

Increasingly, employers need to provide remedial training in such areas as workplace etiquette, conflict resolution and teamwork
[RG's emphasis], said Krueger, president of the Metro Milwaukee Society of Human Resource Management.

"You can hire for skill sets, but really it's the interpersonal skills that can derail you in a profession," Krueger said.

Link to "The Ill-Prepared U.S. Workforce".

Eau Claire: The Public Library as Anchor Store

Link to July 16 Eau Claire Leader-Telegram article, "Downtown Eau Claire celebrates 25 years of renewal".

According to the 2008 Wisconsin Public Library Service Record, the L. E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in downtown Eau Claire generated the following business:
  • 1,127, 390 items circulated
  • 371,063 visits to facility
  • 137,573 users of electronic resources (onsite)
  • 22,578 program attendees

These are "anchor business" numbers.

The L. E. Phillips Library has given Eau Claire area residents a very compelling reason to visit the downtown area for more than 25 years, but the article makes no mention of this fact. An inexcusable oversight, if you ask me.

Eau Claire School District Wrestles with Reduced State Aid

Link to July 17 Eau Claire Leader-Telegram article, "Eau Claire school property tax hike on table".

Excerpt: Property taxes could increase for property owners in the Eau Claire school district to make up for the loss of an estimated $2.27 million in state aid.

To cover the full amount of the loss, that increase - which would need school board approval - could total 39 cents per $1,000 of equalized property value, or $39 on a $100,000 home, assuming property values in the district increase by 3.6 percent, said Dan Van De Water, district executive director of business services.

Athletic fees have already been hiked.

Green Bay Cafe Hosts "Living Library" Event

Link to July 17 Green Bay Press-Gazette article, "Residents 'check out' others at Living Library".

Excerpt: Residents at an event Wednesday night hosted by Harmony Café, 1660 W. Mason St., Green Bay, had a chance to find out.

During the Living Library, the idea was for guests to be able to "check out" conversations with members of the community that may have special interests and beliefs or different backgrounds.

The effort is aimed at breaking down prejudices and preconceptions and opening up dialogue that fosters understanding and tolerance.

Read about the history of the Living Library here.

The State Budget Trickle-Down Effect Intensifies

School officials throughout the state probably feel as though they're standing under a waterfall by now.

Link to Wausau Daily Herald article, "Unexpected loss of state aid has district in $3.9 million hole".

Excerpt: Superintendent Steve Murley said Thursday that the state budget adopted June 25, coupled with other provisions in state law, leaves district leaders with no options but a substantial tax increase and program cuts.

District leaders will meet later this month to begin determining which activities to cut and exactly how much they will raise taxes to close the deficit. A 10 percent increase in school taxes -- any more likely would require a spending referendum -- would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $92 more per year, a total of about $1,020.

"It's going to be difficult, if not impossible, for us to cut our way out of this aid loss for this school year," Murley said.

The cuts and tax increase are necessary because the state cut aid to Wausau by $2.6 million more than anticipated. And the district's hands are tied because under state law and contract terms, it cannot cut staff positions that consume 81 percent of its $100 million annual budget.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harlequin Reaches Out Teens

Link to July 16 Oshkosh Northwestern article, "Harlequin aims to court young-adult readers".

Excerpt: Add Harlequin to the list of publishers that have fallen hard for teen readers, thanks to the seismic sales of Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire series Twilight.

"These will be titles specifically developed for readers of Twilight," says Wilson, as well as fans of other popular young-adult authors including Sarah Dessen (Along for the Ride) and Elizabeth Scott (Living Dead Girl).

Terry Dawson Discusses Appleton Library's Building Project

Link to July 16 Appleton Post-Crescent article, "Q&A: Appleton library director discusses building proposal".

Excerpt: Appleton Library Director Terry Dawson has been front-and-center during the analysis and planning process — and will continue to be.

To provide some insight on where the process has been, where it is now and where it's going, we asked him some questions Tuesday. Here are his answers:

Front and center. Those of us how know and respect Terry's vision and leadership expect no less of him. I hope the project becomes the capstone to an outstanding career in librarianship. Terry is definitely one of our Essentials. (I'm also keeping my fingers crossed for Madison Public Library Director Barb Dimick.)

Terry responds to the following questions:
  • Can you provide a recap on where we are in this process and where it goes from here?
  • If site selection money gets approved, that means the project is a go?
  • Is there a particular split between public and private funding that you have in mind?
  • You recognize the concerns of the Common Council and the need for Council support?
  • What kind of public conversation needs to be held?
  • What about a referendum?
  • What's the biggest misconception?
  • What about people who like the library now and don't really see what's missing?
  • One thing that seems certain is that a library should be downtown, right?
  • What else do people need to know about this process?
    • Terry provides us with an excellent example of how to present your case to the public, and I hope he grants me permission to use it for session 13 of the public library administration course I'm teaching for UW-SLIS this fall.

      Wednesday, July 15, 2009

      Why Can't We Live Together in Peace?

      Link to July 14 New York Times article, "A New World: Scheduling E-Books".

      Excerpt: No topic is more hotly debated in book circles at the moment than the timing, pricing and ultimate impact of e-books on the financial health of publishers and retailers. Publishers are grappling with e-book release dates partly because they are trying to understand how digital editions affect demand for hardcover books. A hardcover typically sells for anywhere from $25 to $35, while the most common price for an e-book has quickly become $9.99.

      Did you know?

      John Grisham is a slow adopter. His books are currently unavailable in electronic format.

      E-books comprise 1-2% of total book sales.

      City of Omaha Looking at $11 Mil in 2010 Budget Cuts

      W. Dale Clark (Main) Library

      Link to July 12 Omaha World-Herald article, "Pain seen in budget cuts".

      : Library: $8.6 million. (2009 allocation from City of Omaha.)

      Possible cuts include closing branches, reducing hours or spending less on new materials. The materials budget has remained the same since 2001, about $1.6 million.

      In 2004, a proposal to close the Swanson Library would have saved $500,000. Earlier this summer, the city said it could save $1 million by closing three branches.

      According to the Nebraska Library Commission's 2007-2008 annual report, the Omaha Public Library also received approximately $1.5 million from Douglas County. I suspect the county is feeling some pain, too.

      Ohio Lawmakers Finalize State Budget

      The drastic cuts by Governoer Strickland have been avoided, but the loss of revenue is still significant -- and will be painful.

      Link to July 15 Library Journal post, "In Final Ohio Budget, Libraries Will Lose Up to 30% of State Support. Loss of $84.3 million, rather than $227.3 million; still, advocates thanked".

      Link to July 14 Columbus Post-Dispatch article, "Final bill passes with wealth of grumbling".

      Link to July 13 Ohio Library Council news release, "Public Library Funding Cut in New State Budget".

      Tuesday, July 14, 2009

      Michigan Governor Proposes Cuts to State Library Service

      Link to July 14 post, "Michigan Governor Proposes Killing Department of History, Arts, & Libraries, Dropping State Librarian".

      Excerpt: [Gretchen] Couraud [executive director of the Michigan Library Association] said that, while the library community was open to belt-tightening, the governor’s proposal was shortsighted. “The Library of Michigan is the only state agency that has had the vision, and succeeded, in moving the state forward to a knowledge-based economy with digital information and group purchasing,” she said.

      She said that Library of Michigan saved taxpayers $72 million, if the $3.9 million spent on the Michigan eLibrary were compared to the cost of every library in the state purchasing databases independently.

      The state Senate will hold a hearing Wednesday on legislation to keep the library functions whole and move them to the Secretary of State’s office, Couraud said, indicating that the future direction of state library services remains unresolved.

      As described in a July 12 New York Times article ("In Michigan, Deficits Defy Years of Cutting"), state government in Michigan has been cutting back since 2002.

      Excerpt: Long before California resorted to i.o.u.’s to pay state bills, and before New York’s political insurrection made a mess of this year’s budget planning, and even before the recession pushed dozens of other states into their worst fiscal distress in decades, lawmakers here were cutting.

      The cuts started in the 2002 budget year, when some prisoners were ordered to sleep two to a cell. Then came cuts to state colleges in 2003, and orchestras, zoos and operas in 2004. Medical payments for the poor were cut in 2005, followed by cuts to a youth prison in 2006. After that? More cuts — to prisons, crime laboratories, libraries and day care programs.

      Last month, 100 state troopers were laid off, and the troopers left behind were told to drive around less to, of course, cut costs.

      In Michigan, everything in on the table.

      City of Madison 2010 Budget Picture

      Link to July 13 Wisconsin State Journal article, "Madison's budget a 'very serious' situation, mayor says".

      Excerpt: Again, Madison faces a tough budget with the prospect of layoffs, a wage freeze or service cuts, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said Monday.

      “It’s very serious,” Cieslewicz said, adding that the situation is worse than last year’s “worst budget in decades” because revenue streams have dried in the recession.

      “It’s highly unlikely we’ll be laying off police officers or firefighters,” he said. “Beyond that, I don’t think there’s anything we can take off the table.”

      Mayor Dave is still open to a new Central Library.

      Wireless @ Your Library

      Link to July 14 Wisconsin State Journal article, "Most Wis. libraries offer wireless services".

      Excerpt: Most people living in Wisconsin have access to a public library that offers free wireless Internet connections.

      The state Department of Public Instruction says that at the end of 2008, 345 libraries serving 97 percent of the population offered wireless services. The department says 21 more libraries are expected to add the service this year.

      Following Obama's Lead

      Link to July 14 Capital Times article, "Will you be my friend? Gov candidates reach out to voters via social media".

      Excerpt: "What we're doing is very calculated," says Keith Gilkes, Walker's campaign manager. "It is our intent to have the most savvy social media campaign of this race."

      Those running for Wisconsin's highest office have taken a page from the playbook of Barack Obama. While running for president, Obama took social media to new heights by amassing a powerful grassroots base that could be reached for financial contributions and mobilized instantly.

      Governor Doyle's Facebook page.
      Scott Walker's Facebook page.
      Mark Neumann's Facebook page.
      Mark Todd's Facebook page.

      Monday, July 13, 2009

      Municipal Budgets: More Bad News

      Link to July 12 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, "Municipalities consider more layoffs, extending furloughs".

      Excerpt: Municipalities already stretched financially thin and making cutbacks this year to avoid deficits are bracing for even leaner times in 2010.

      Some municipalities, which have resorted to unpaid employee furlough days to help erase red ink in 2009, say they may have to extend furloughs into next year, lay off employees or not fill positions when people retire as a way to avoid projected 2010 shortfalls that range from $1 million in some suburban communities to at least $90 million in Milwaukee.

      And they are warning residents that they could expect some cuts in service because of the financial pinch and the state cap that limits tax levy increases to 3%.

      Sunday, July 12, 2009

      Public Libraries: Now More Than Ever

      Beloit Public Library
      Dedication and Open House
      April 25, 2009

      to July 8 Denver Post article, "Libraries thinking outside the book. From digital media to job tips, libraries expand offerings".

      Excerpt: In a world that increasingly skips paper in favor of pixels, libraries are reinventing themselves.

      They are transforming into community centers and job banks. They are lending electronically and marketing in ways that dare their commercial bookselling counterparts to stay competitive. They're even offering to let folks come in and play video games.

      While the reputation libraries hold as the center for book-based knowledge remains intact, there are newer models — consumer-based ones — making inroads into the library experience.

      Envisioning the Full Potential of Cloud Computing

      Link to July 12 New York Times article, "Google’s Chrome OS: Reaching for the Cloud".

      Excerpt: But what if a computer were nothing more than an Internet browser — a digital window pane onto the Web? You could forget about all the software that now powers your computer and everything it does. All of those functions would be done through the Web. And none of the information that’s now inside your computer would be there anymore. Instead, it would all be on the cloud of connected computers that is the Internet.

      This has been the tantalizing but elusive vision of technology luminaries since the Web emerged in the mid-1990s.

      Americans Spend More on Booze than Books

      But many of them make up for this discrepancy with frequent visits to their local public library.

      Link to July 11 boingboing post, "Visualization of US consumer spending".

      Wisconsin Business Council is Launched

      Link to Wausau Daily Herald article, "Wisconsin Business Council leaders say new group has no political affiliation".

      Excerpt: The Wisconsin Business Council launched this week as a pro-business, pro-employment organization that views a strong economy as critical to quality of life in the state.

      "Seven, eight, nine months ago, the world changed for everybody, with a new sense for how life is wrapped into the economy," said James Wood, founder of Wood Communications Group, which is helping the council spread its message. "This is a different world, and we need to look at the issues we've continued to look at in a different way."

      The council plans to take a collaborative approach to policy change, tackling issues involving economic development, infrastructure, education and work force development, and taxes and legislation, said Phillip Prange, president and chief executive officer of the group.

      WBC membership application.

      WISBUSINESS.COM news release.