Thursday, July 19, 2012

Upcoming Meetings to Note

From the Rockford Public Library website:

The Executive Committee will meet on Monday, July 23 at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Board of Trustees meeting at 6:00 p.m. in the Friends of RPL Community Room at the East Branch Library.

As of right now, the meeting's agenda has not been posted on the web page.

Also listed on the website is the information about the Sullivan Center Open House. From the website:

From 6:00 - 7:00, enjoy light refreshments and sample programming from Paper Airplane, an acoustic guitar/vocal duo playing an eclectic mix of your favorite songs, Aloha Hula Girls Polynesian Dance Troupe and a viewing of Our City, Our Story with a presentation from the series' producer, Pablo Korona. The public spaces of the building will be available to tour during the first hour as well. From 7:00 - 8:00, attend a community forum led by Paul Logli, President of the Rockford Public Library Board of Trustees. Logli will outline the Board's vision of the Sullivan Center as a library programming space and an arts and cultural center for the community. We look forward to sharing our thoughts on how the Library could serve as a steward of this wonderful resource and hope you will join us for the discussion.

SOL urges the public to attend and to ask questions or raise any concerns anyone may have about the possible acquisition of the Sullivan Center.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Library Leaders Want Public Input on the Sullivan Center

Apologies for the lapse in posting on this blog. Looking at this month's meetings a month ago, it was listed that the annual meeting was being held on June 18 at Franchesco's. Checking back a couple weeks later and it was still listed as such. Then yesterday's Rockford Register Star ran a story about how library leaders want public input on the Sullivan Center. Apparently the meeting was changed from Franchesco's on the 18th to the 25th at the East Branch. I'm not sure when the switch was made and though it's great that they changed it to a more appropriate day and time, it was confusing to those who wanted to go but saw the previous (incorrect) information. If anyone has information about the meeting day/time switch, please email .

A few words on the article--it's wonderful that the library board is seeking public input on the Sullivan Center before proceeding. SOL sees it as a victory that the message of seeking public input before making major library-altering decisions has resonated with the board. The board's new consciousness about the necessity of asking what the public wants and needs is exactly why SOL now stands for Support Our Public Library. Hearing that Rock River's lease was also renewed is another victory, considering it was slated to close, but the outcry was loud enough to make board members reconsider the decision. In these instances, the board is listening to the voices of the community and SOL thanks them for doing so.

Now for a word on the Sullivan Center, Mr. Logli is quoted in the Rockford Register Star article as saying, “I understand there is some concern that program numbers are down. It seems whatever we can do to improve the setting for programs and the type and variety of programs would be just what we need to bring those numbers back up.” It is certainly true that the programming numbers have dropped significantly. The problem with programming is not where the programs are held or necessarily the type of programs being offered, but the unfortunate cease of printed programming advertisements. There are no more paper Explorers and no programming fliers available for patrons to take home--to inform them of upcoming programs and to act as reminders. For patrons who do not have computer access at home--a significant portion of the population--they cannot learn about programs unless they are at the library logged into the digital Explorer in the bottom corner of the library's website. Can you guess how low the computer class attendance is? The real reason for the drop in programming numbers needs to be brought to the attention of the library board. SOL will make sure to check in about July's meeting days and times and post them on this blog. We'll need a strong showing at the next meeting to thank the board for the work they are doing, but also to address these programming concerns.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

SOL supports RPL

Today Rockford Public Library began circulating Kindles today and SOL has been asked to comment.

SOL supports RPL's decision to circulate this small number of Kindles as described in the above linked story-- as a "soft launch" to test circulation policies and get feedback from patrons. Having e-readers that patrons can check out does help bridge the digital divide and help patrons access RPL's large e-book collection (some of which are not available in print format).

SOL is hopeful that in the upcoming months, the RPL board and administration will listen to patron feedback about the circulating e-readers. There are some concerns that Kindles are the wrong e-reader since one major publisher does not allow libraries to lend on these devices, but does on others such as the Nook. Others are concerned that an e-reader is too fragile and breakable to even circulate at all. As long as the circulation of e-readers is done slowly and thoughtfully (and is not done to justify a further increase in the e-book budget) this "soft launch" could mark a positive future for the Rockford Public Library and its commitment to serving the community's needs.

As spoken of previously, this site (though the domain will stay the same) is now called Support Our Rockford Library as we hope to move forward working to support RPL and its endeavors.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Meetings this month

From the RPL website...

The Financial Planning and Properties Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, May 16 at 11:45 a.m. in the Friends of RPL Community Room at the East Branch Library.

We hope everyone can make it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The last Board Meeting

There is a nice guest column in the Rock River Times by Mike Korn this week that sums up what happened at the April 23 library board meeting. The comment about the examples given for weeded books was well put. After the meeting, a used book seller said that she bought a fairly new beautiful set of Shakespeare books at the used book sale that looked like they had never been checked out. She mentioned that just because a book hasn't been circulated, does not mean it has not been pulled off the shelf and used. The focus on all the outdated medical textbooks made the outcry about the weeding seem silly. (Did anyone see the Bruce Quast cartoon in Sunday's paper?)

A point of clarification from Mike Korn's guest column about the violations of The Open Meetings Act: Logli stated at the meeting that the Open Meetings Act was never violated, but that is simply not true. The link to the act is above for anyone who wants to read it, but the provision that we know for a fact has been broken read as follows, "In addition, a public body that has a website that the full-time staff of the public body maintains shall post notice on its website of all meetings of the governing body of the public body." The Rockford Public Library did not follow this provision, not just once, but multiple times as Rachel stated at the last board meeting.
A staff member brought it up in a monthly meeting beginning last fall (2011) that the incorrect meeting time and location was listed on the website. (The website stated meetings were held at Main at 6pm, when they were actually held at the East branch at 5:30.) During the January board meeting this fact was brought up by several of the public speakers and the information was corrected.
However, the committee meetings were not listed in March on the website. It is suspected that other provisions of the Open Meetings Act may have also been violated (such as the one that states meeting notices must be posted at the location of the meeting and one other location) but this has not been confirmed.
Regardless, it is true that the Open Meetings Act has been violated repeatedly this past year, and yes, Rachel did state that when the board president is the former state's attorney this fact is embarrassing, even unforgivable. "Unforgivable" was perhaps not the correct word choice and "inexcusable" should have been used instead.
After hearing about Daniel Ross receiving threats, it is important to SOL that the dialogue about the library and the library board is civil and does not incite people, so Rachel wishes she could change the adjective "unforgivable," to the more accurate "embarrassing." SOL's mission has been to inform the public about the current situation with the Rockford Public Library and has never been to be adversaries with the library director or board members.

Finally, there was also a wonderful guest column in Sunday's Rockford Register Star by Amy Orvis if you missed it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

RPL purging books...

At the meeting Monday night several people expressed interest in holding a rally about the disappearing books to be held this Saturday. The idea of the rally will be to get community support for the issue and also to raise awareness. One individual called the news stations to give them the story about Frank taking books off shelves after hours. Channel 13 did a short piece on it this morning. You can watch the clip or read the article here. Unfortunately, the issue was truly not explored. It appears as if the station called the administration office and asked for them to respond to the allegations instead of investigating the issue themselves.

On a positive note, it was reported that the Budget and Finance committee meeting had some interesting parts... First, regarding the leasing of the top two floors of Main, Frank responded, "That's off the table...not that it was even on the table." Eiger-Lab and Embry Riddle were both interested in leasing the two floors, but apparently something has fallen through with both of these two.

Rock River's lease was also discussed. Rockton Center's lease (with taxes) is about $60,000 a year, but Rock River's is $100,000 so they are in the process of negotiating to see if they can get a lower rate.

Again, we'll need a strong showing at this month's board meeting. The meeting will be held on Monday, April 23 at 6pm at Main. (They changed the time at the last meeting from 5:30 to 6pm since some board members had a hard time getting to the meeting so soon after work. The Main location is temporary as the room at East is being used for another purpose that night.) Please try to come.

Also, don't forget about the rally on this Saturday, April 21. It'll be at the Main library from 10am-12pm. Feel free to bring signs about the problem of the disappearing books as that is the focus of the rally.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Meeting this Monday at Bookworm

Due to the problems of the massive weeding, the movement forward with the Sullivan Center, and the board's disregard of the Open Meetings Act, it seems advisable to get some of us together prior to the next board meeting to discuss our next steps.

For those who are able to come, we'll meet at the Bookworm Cafe at the East branch library on Monday, April 16 at 6pm. Please spread the word.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Concern about Proposals Being Implemented

There has been some weeding done at the library. No big deal, right? All libraries do weeding. And the books go into the used book shop/ sale and then the money the used books bring in just goes back to the library, right?

What if that's not what was happening?

There are many rumblings about Frank Novak himself doing the weeding. There is a policy in place about what criteria is used to weed books and the policy states that there should be a second opinion given before any books are discarded. There is concern that this procedure is not being followed as it was reported that Frank gave directions to throw books away without letting any staff or the Friends of the Library see. Why the secrecy? Was it because these were perfectly good books?

In the last month, representatives from businesses have been given tours of the top two floors of the Main library.

So the question many of us are asking is this: If the proposals were merely "theoretical" why the secret weeding? Why are there prospective renters looking at the second and third floors? Massive weeding and renting out the 2nd and 3rd floors are both objectives of the proposals. So many people are concerned that Frank is slinking ahead to work to get them implemented.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Importance of Monday Night's Meeting

The committee meeting that was rescheduled for yesterday did not take place, likely because it too would have been in violation of the Open Meetings Act. (Thankfully it seems like they may start taking that seriously.) The committee meeting's agenda was posted at the East branch, but interestingly it was a new agenda that did not contain the Sullivan Center, Rock River's lease, or Sunday hours. (Hmm... something is fishy.)

If you did not see the news, the library union took a no confidence vote in director Frank Novak's leadership. From the confidential proposals to the violations of the Open Meetings Act, it is clear that the direction Novak wants to take the library does not consider the needs and wants of the community. (The Open Meetings Act violations pre-date this blog. The meetings listed an incorrect time and location on the website and agendas are still frequently not posted on the website. Thankfully, Monday's agenda is posted.)

It is important we have a strong showing at Monday's board meeting. The community needs to stand with the dedicated library staff as they address the board on why they have no confidence in Frank Novak's leadership. Please come (and bring a friend!) this Monday, March 26 at 5:30pm at the East branch library in the Community Room. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Due to Open Meetings Act Violation Meeting Today Rescheduled

Today at the Finance Committee meeting, it was brought to the committee's attention that the meeting was in violation of the Open Meetings Act, which states that meetings must be posted 48 hours prior to the meeting. It's not the first time RPL has violated the Open Meetings Act, but may be the first time they were called on it. The meeting was rescheduled for this Friday, March 23 at 12pm at the East branch library.

Thank you to board member Donald Thayer, who took the stand that since they were in violation, the meeting should not happen. He said the agenda was not too full, but someone else mentioned needing to discuss agenda items prior to Monday's board meeting. The agenda is not posted on the website, but is said to contain the following discussion items: the acquisition of the Sullivan Center, Rock River's lease, and Sunday hours.

Hope people can make it on Friday. Please mark your calendars and try to come to Monday's board meeting. When an agenda is posted, we'll get the word out on any action items of interest.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Committee Meetings this week... items of interest on the agenda!

Program Planning and Service Policy Committee meets Tuesday, March 20, 7:30 a.m., Meeting Room C, Main Library and the Financial Planning & Properties Committee meets Wednesday, March 21, 11:45 a.m., Friends Community Room, East Branch Library.  Interestingly, on the agenda for the Finance Committee is the Sullivan Center, Sunday public hours, and the Rock River lease. 

Also, the regular board meeting is a week from today-- Monday, March 26 at 5:30pm. The agenda isn't posted on the website yet (neither is the meeting notice for that matter).

If you can come to any (or all!) of the above meetings, it would be great. What is discussed in this finance committee meeting will likely end up being discussed at the meeting.

We must stay vigilant!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Necessary Evil? Random House Triples Prices Of Library E-Books [TechCrunch]

Here's an interesting article about how Random House is tripling the price of e-books for libraries:

Also, speaking of articles, the next print issue of American Libraries magazine will include an article about Rockford's library fiasco!

The blog posts and local news pieces on the library have slowed down, but the library is still on our radar. It's time to recharge so we're refreshed and ready to fight any more bogus proposals. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Board Meeting Tomorrow (Monday, February 27)

The meeting is Monday night and we need another great turnout to send the message to the board that people still care about what happens to our public library. Please try to come and/or spread the word to everyone you know. The agenda  is posted on the website. It would also be great if all 15 speaking slots were filled. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Budget Meeting

If anyone was able to make it to the budget committee meeting today, please post a comment and fill the rest of us in. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Just got word that this morning's Program Planning and Service Policy has been cancelled... not sure why.

Also, the information in yesterday's post was incorrect regarding needing a credit card on file to check out an e-book for a Kindle. It is true that an Amazon account is needed and I was under the impression that a credit card needed to be on file to have an account. Someone brought it to my attention that this is not true and I looked it up myself and indeed it isn't. I apologize for the misinformation. This blog strives to be a good source of accurate information and will be sure to double check facts before posting in the future. I will change the information on that post now.

It is true though that Amazon keeps a record of all book checkouts, which is something libraries don't do.

Monday, February 20, 2012

E-readers to circulate

Yesterday's paper had an article about how the library will be circulating e-readers.

Some thoughts on the circulation of e-readers... These devices are breakable. A former RPL staff member mentioned that the library loans out laptops to teens for use in the library and that even after a year of this, many of the computers were broken and had missing buttons. (Again, these laptops never left the building! What would happen to them if they did?)

RPL is purchasing 60 Kindles (vs. 10 Sony PRS-T1s). To check out a book from the library one must have an Amazon account. It is worth noting that when checking out an e-book for a Kindle, because one must log onto Amazon, what is being checked out and read is information "on" the Internet. Amazon keeps a record of this information. Library records have always been private and so privacy is compromised with the use of Kindle devices.

Finally, it is likely that like the new Playaview screens, there will be a bright orange label warning patrons that if this device is lost, stolen, or damaged the patron will be responsible to pay a replacement fee of $125 (or more?) It seems as if that may stop a person from checking one out. A person might think, "Hey, that's two weeks of groceries. I can't afford to take the risk." So how many of those Playaviews get circulated? How many e-reader devices will?

Again, we need to tell our library board that the community wants to have input on our public library and how our tax dollars are spent. The meeting is one week away. Please try to show up for next week's meeting-- Monday, February 27 at 5:30pm at the East branch library in the community room. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Upcoming meetings-- Mark your calendars

From the RPL website... there are three meetings coming up in the next couple weeks. Mark your calendars.
The Program Planning and Service Policy Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, February 21 at 7:30 a.m. in Meeting Room C at the main library [use Mulberry Street entrance].

The Financial Planning and Properties Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, February 22 at 11:45 a.m. in the Friends of Rockford Public Library Community Room at the East Branch Library.

The Executive Committee will meet on Monday, February 27 at 5:00 p.m. followed by the Board of Trustees meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Friends of RPL Community Room at the East Branch Library.

We do need another large showing at the Board meeting on the 27th. If you'd like to speak, you may contact Kathy Hughes ahead of time to reserve your spot. (815-987-6603)

Also, if you missed the Rockford Register Star's article this week about the library, here is the link:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"In Defense of Paper Books"

Posting this link might fuel the SOL is against e-books rumors, but here is a wonderful essay that raises some interesting points. Andre Vltchek's "In Defense of Paper Books" provides some food for thought. Here's the link:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How e-book reading changes reading behavior

Here's a short, interesting article about research done that sought to "understand the effect of an e-reader on the amount and types of verbal interaction between child and parent."

Friday, February 3, 2012

Link to Andrew Strong's guest column

There's an excellent guest column by Andrew Strong in this week's Rock River Times in response to Ted Biondo's piece from the Register Star (which the library administration laid out at the board meeting for people to take along with other e-book propaganda). Please check it out:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Meeting Thursday at Bookworm

For anyone who would like to attend, we'll be meeting this Thursday (February 2) at 6pm at the Bookworm Cafe inside of the East branch library. We will discuss what our next steps should be. Sunday's paper reported the board still would like to obtain the Sullivan Center. It is concerning because the proposal for the Sullivan Center is labeled a transitional plan as a way to ultimately move to the first plan (going 95% digital). It doesn't mean this will necessarily happen as Mr. Logli continues to say it won't for a years, but the acquisition of the Sullivan Center will likely mean branch closures and possibly further emphasis of the digital library model. Regardless, it may be helpful for everyone to get together and discuss what our next steps will be. So if you're able, we'll meet Thursday at 6pm at the Bookworm Cafe.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Word on SOL "Membership" and Meeting

One question that has come up repeatedly in interviews with the media is "how many members does SOL have?" To which the same answer is given: "Membership is loosely defined. SOL is not so much an organization as a community based initiative."
Lately people who support the efforts of SOL have also been asking, "How can I join?"
It appears it may be time to shift this initiative into more of an organization and schedule a meeting for supporters to come together and figure out what our next steps will be.
The Rockford Register Star has a lot of coverage and commentary on the library issue in today's paper. Corina Curry has a story that the board still wants to move forward with the Sullivan Center acquisition. It seems like a good time to try to get everyone together to decide what action concerned library patrons and community members should take.
We may have to try several different meeting times and days before finding one or two that will work well for most people, but let's schedule one for this Thursday evening, February 2 at 6pm. Location TBA. Check back on the blog or comment below to suggest a location. It is unclear whether we need to reserve a space or be granted permission prior to declaring a meeting at a local coffee shop. (Or perhaps we can try to serve a room at the Main branch library?) Again, feel free to comment if you have a suggestion, but please check back in the next day or two for a definite location and time. Right now though we can all plan on this Thursday at 6pm. Hopefully there will be another good turnout as there's strength in numbers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

David H. Rothman, Co-founder and Editor-Publisher of contacted SOL to explain that though he runs an e-book related site and supports digitalization of libraries, he is opposed to the plans set before the board. He wrote an article about the Rockford debate that can be found here:

There are a lot of interesting articles about the digital divide, the idea of a national digital library system, and more with the opportunity to post and/or share essays.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who came out tonight to the board meeting! It was inspiring to see so many people come together in support of our library! Our community feels like a better, stronger place after witnessing how we were able to unite.

Unfortunately only 14 people were able to speak, so if you were not one of the 14 (or got cut off due to time constraints) please feel free to contact board members to have your voice heard. There was a strong presence there tonight and the board seemed to listen.

So again, THANK YOU!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Board Meeting Tomorrow (Monday)

Just a reminder that the board meeting is tomorrow (Monday) at 5:30pm at the East Branch library. (Please note that it is not at Main as was reported in the Rockford Register Star today. Someone did call Paul Logli to verify the location. It is at East.)

The board has been backpedaling now that the media is asking them questions about these documents. Read them again if you have doubts about the purpose of them. Novak and Logli have stated the board asked Novak to put them together to generate discussion. However, look at the 5th page of the second proposal and you'll read, "I believe this plan has great merit, otherwise I would not be putting it forward for board review and approval." Something is not adding up... which is why we need to all show up to stand against these plans.

Logli has stated the language in the plans is "inartful" but many would argue it is disrespectful and degrading to our hardworking library staff and the Rockford community. The way the plans are written is troubling as the director of our library should have more respect for RPL. Please consider coming to the meeting to help save our library!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Link to Article

Marilyn Johnson wrote a book called This Book Is Overdue, which is a tribute to librarians and how they are needed now in the age of Google more than ever. (Hear that? Librarians--and we would include librarian assistants here--do much more than give directions to the restroom.) She wrote an article on her blog about cuts to libraries across the country and mentioned that Novak's proposals are the unkindest of them all. It's a great article and worth checking out:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Story on WNIJ... with comments from SOL

For those of you who missed this morning's story on WNIJ, here is a link. (It is about a minute longer than the piece that aired so even if you heard it, you may want to listen again and/or read the transcript.)

SOL would like to respond to the assertion that the board asked Novak to put together these plans (that aren't plans...???) SOL does not have information as to the context of the first plan, but will try to uncover this information. However, SOL is aware that the board was asked to vote on the second plan at the last board meeting in November. The board, thankfully, did not agree to do so without first reading the plan. But Novak indeed was pushing for its implementation, so the idea that they were intended to be "theoretical" is likely a safe sound bite.

SOL believes that the board and Novak are backpedaling. Our voices are being heard and they can feel our anger. But what would have happened if we had not spoken up? SOL is not so sure that the public would have been invited to have this discussion. Logli states that the plans were made to generate discussion, but if this was true, why were they not made public? Why was the second plan stamped 'confidential'? When, if at all, would the public have been informed? Novak told the board when he gave them the first plan that they would revisit it in the new year. With so much secrecy surrounding the plans and it now being the new year, SOL felt it was our responsibility to the community to unveil the documents and share them with the public.

Even though the board is trying to mollify us, we still need to attend the board meeting, perhaps now more than ever. We are being heard, but we need to show them just how many people stand against these plans. If we back off now, they'll think that it wasn't so important to us. Let's show them how important it is!

Board Meeting- January 23

There has been some confusion about when and where the next board meeting is (and unfortunately that information is not in the yellow flyer that is being circulated). The meeting is this Monday, January 23 at 5:30pm at the East Branch Library- 6685 East State Street. Parking is likely to get tight and we may need to park in the adjacent lot over by Monkey Joe's and American, but please don't let that be a deterrent. We need to make a strong showing to send a message to the board that we care about what happens with the library and that we want to have a voice in what happens with RPL and its collection.

Some have suggested that everyone bring a book, that we are seen by board members with books in hand. You can bring a book, or pull one off a shelf... we still have them there-- let's keep it that way!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Articles Out Today to Check Out...

There are four great articles that were published today that are worth checking out... Three spectacular guest columns are in the Rock River Times-- Amy Orvis's "Public Input Needed on Rockford Public Library Decisions," Kara Anderson's "Books Should be the Focus of the Library," and Emily Klonicki's "Libraries Walk Fine Line Balancing E-book Investments." Pick up a copy of the Rock River Times or read it online:

Also, the story was picked up by American Libraries magazine. Here's the link to the article:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SOL now on Facebook!

Find us Save Our Rockford Library on Facebook!

Link to Petition

How inspiring this movement has become! SOL just received an email from a woman whose twelve year old son created a website/ petition to stand against the proposals. What an incredible kid! Please sign his petition and send this link to your family and friends to sign as well.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Frank Novak's Vision for the Future of Your Library

Here are the two plans that have been submitted to the Board:

Facilities and Digital Library Plan-- This is the original "vision" that was distributed to the board in August for consideration, with the intention of officially addressing the concept of this proposal at a later time.

-- This is the proposal that was handed out to the board in November.  Please note that the plan, although it discusses moving into the Sullivan Center, is really the Facilities and Digital Library Plan, snuggled slyly into a proposal about acquiring the Sullivan Center. 

The reason for this is Secrecy.  By cloaking the proposal this way, the Board is able to meet in a closed session under 5ILCS 120/2 which lists an exception to the provision that states that "all meetings of public bodies shall be open to the public."  The exception reads as follows: "A public body may hold closed meeting to discuss... the purchase or lease of real property for the use of the public body, including meetings held for the purpose of discussing whether a particular parcel should be acquired" 

 The Board was asked to vote on this proposal when it was handed out in November. Thankfully they declined to vote on a proposal they had not had the time to read

Sunday, January 15, 2012

News Coverage on the Press Conference

Anyone at Friday's 'press conference' knows that the event that took place was far different than what was reported by the news media. If you only saw the news, you would have no idea that SOL released two confidential, controversial proposals-- which happened and was actual news. Instead, it was reported that SOL had complaints about the move to a 35% allocation for digital material (old news!) and one station reported that the 35% allocation was a proposal! (?) Another station reported that the board meeting will be held on Sunday, January 22 (It is actually on Monday, January 23.) It was sad to see how the truth was contorted to fit into the perimeters of their two minute news story. Watching it you would think that SOL is a bunch of luddites who hated the mere mention of e-readers. For the record, SOL is not against digital readers and actually embraces the new technology. There are much bigger issues at stake--branch closures, staff layoffs, elimination of paper books (here's a visual of how many: imagine all the books at Rockton Center, Montague, Rock River, Lewis Lemon, and the top two floors of Main... now imagine all of those books out of RPL's system!!!)... these are the issues that we tried to bring to light on Friday with the press conference.

Since the news was not reported about the proposals, SOL has scanned copies of both proposals and will post it here on the blog as soon as possible. (Hopefully tomorrow.) People need to read what our public library's director has in mind for the future of the Rockford Public Library. It is terrifying. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Official statement from SOL to the media

SOL wants the public to be aware of the two controversial proposals set before the Rockford Public Library Board of Trustees.

We are concerned about the two proposals provided to the Library Board of Trustees by library director, Frank Novak, for the following reasons:

-Proposed branch closures: Having six locations in Rockford helps make getting to the library easier for patrons. Research has shown that patrons do not want to have to travel far distances to get to the library. The branch locations are important and valuable resources in this community.

-Further push towards digital: The library e-book lending arena is still unregulated and uncertain. The further push towards digital is very concerning because many see it as gambling with our tax dollars and there are equity issues. 63% of Rockford residents are considered low-income and are likely unable to afford e-readers, widening the digital divide.

-Lack of public input: The library has not asked the public how many patrons own e-readers and how many people want more digital resources. A library is a democratic institution and it is problematic that such huge decisions are being made about our collection budget without an invitation for public input.

-The acquisition of the Sullivan Center: Though a cultural center would be a wonderful asset to the community, the cost to maintain it would be too much of a burden on RPL's stressed budget. The price of obtaining the free building (branch closings, print materials discarded, staff layoffs) is too high of a burden for RPL and this community.

-Staff lay-offs: Pages, clerks, and librarian assistants would all lose their jobs, contributing to a higher unemployment rate in our community and decreasing the service the library can offer its patrons.

-SOL is also concerned that the library board members' contact information is not readily accessible on the library's website.

Transcript from press conference

Welcome and thank you for coming. SOL, Save Our Library, is not so much an organization, but a community-based initiative to raise awareness about pertinent issues involving the Rockford Public Library.

And public awareness is desperately needed now as six months ago our library director, Mr. Frank Novak, presented the Library Board of Trustees a proposal that contains his vision for OUR public library.

What is that vision? Novak wants a completely digital library. His first proposal suggests a move to 90% digital, 10% printed books. He wants to close Rock River, Rockton Center, Montague as a circulation branch, and Lewis Lemon—though in his second proposal, a transitional plan to help move towards implementation of the first, he suggests keeping Lewis Lemon open to avoid an east side/ west side political struggle. Novak not only wants to purchase more digital materials, he wants to GET RID OF BOOKS! Even the books that the library already owns would be discarded. Novak believes that cutting out books would be cheaper because all of the employees who shelf, check out, and help us find our books would no longer be necessary and neither would the spaces that currently house our books. Most of Rockford Public Library's employees would be laid off, contributing even more to our city's high unemployment rate. And it is important to note, the overall budget stays the same as it is now, but the money spent on staff, branches, and books would be funneled into the collection budget. It would be a large collection, but then it would have to be as we'd no longer have print materials to lend to other libraries as part of the interlibrary loans program, therefore we could no longer borrow materials from other libraries.

The library will respond that there is a trend with e-books and they are trying to stay ahead of the curve. (The trend is with e-book sales, however. Libraries and book stores are not the same and libraries should not be run the same as for-profit retailers.) It is important to note that the American Library Association reports that most public libraries plan to spend between eight and ten percent of their collection budget on digital materials by 2016. We are a community where 63% of our residents are considered low income and we are spending over three times that on digital materials now. Most libraries are careful to tread in the uncertain and unregulated waters of e-book lending as publishers continue to pull their titles away from library e-book lending. Already four major publishers,including Harper Collins and Penguin, are limiting the access libraries have to their e-book titles. The board is gambling with our tax dollars in uncharted territory.

The board's recent decision to spend over a third of the collection budget on digital materials raises some questions-- why haven't they sought public input? Have they done their research? Do they understand library services and the role our library plays in our community? How often do they visit the library? Do they even have library cards? These are questions we need the board to answer.

But we also need them accessible to us. Currently no contact information for board members is listed on the website. SOL has collected this information and is working to get it to the public. We posted it on our website this morning.

Representatives from the different media outlets will receive copies of the proposals, SOL's official statement, and a professional response from Jane Pearlmutter, Library Science professor at the University of Wisconsin.

SOL wants the public to be aware of these proposals and to educate themselves about how these changes will effect Rockford Public Library services, how our tax dollars are spent, and the community at large. The public needs to have a voice in this discussion about such drastic measures being taken with our public library.

There is a board meeting scheduled for Monday, January 23. However, again we have the issue of transparency as the website says 6:30 but the minutes say 5:30. The public needs to be informed of the correct time so that everyone can attend. SOL is asking the public to contact board members prior to the next meeting.

SOL has a blog to serve as a free website where we will be posting articles and information, including a transcript of this statement today. Please share the site's information—

Thank you for coming.

Contact Information for Library Board

Since there is no contact information for the library board members listed on the library's website, SOL collected this information and is posting it so that RPL patrons can have a voice about Frank Novak's proposed changes:

Ovester Armstrong, Jr.
3540 St. Anthony Way #2 61101-1880
Res. 815-962-9311

Lisa A. Frost
3423 Burlwood Drive 61114-8152
Res. 815-282-6429

Edward J. Geeser
4319 Forest View Avenue 61108-6402
Res. 815-397-8171
Jeffrey M. Glass
2710 Rural St. 61107-4644
Res. 815-395-8305

Paul A. Logli
1935 Harlem Boulevard 61103-6345
Res. 815-962-3642

Bradley M. Long
325 S. Highland Ave. 61104-2419
Cell. 815-263-2865

Daniel T. Ross
6911 Spring Brook Rd. 61114-6754
Res. 815-636-2734

Donald B. Thayer
1400 National Ave. 61103-7144
Res. 815-964-1400

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The library does not own its e-books!

When a library buys a paper book, they have what is called “first sale rights” to the book. That means that they can use the book in any way they like within the limitations of copyright law. They can lend the book as many times as they like, they may sell the book when they are done with it, or they may give the book away. In short, as you would expect, they own the book they have purchased. Conversely, when a library “buys” an e-book, what they are actually paying for is a license to that title with limitations set (and changed without notice) by the title’s publishers and by the content management site (OverDrive). Limitations may include the number of times the title can be checked out before the library has to pay for the book again (renew its license) and how many patrons can download the title at the same time (in essence the number of “copies” the library “owns”) and now, after a drastic move by Penguin Publishers last week that disabled Kindles from downloading library-lent Penguin titles, what devices it will allow to access the title. In short, the library is basically borrowing the rights to the title which can be changed, eliminated, or made more expensive to the library at any time.
You don’t have to be a lawyer to see the many problems with this model. Those problems will continue to plague libraries as they work to build digital collections until the courts settle the policies and laws that govern the e-book lending arena. And don’t hold your breath… it’s not going to be any time soon—we’ll be lucky to see reliable regulation in the next 10 years. Until then, libraries have very little control over the content they purchase, as their e-content collections will be at the mercy of any whim that OverDrive (the virtual landlord of their e-book collection), Amazon, and any publisher may have.
 OverDrive has virtually monopolized the market of providing digital content to libraries. 
What happens when one company monopolizes a market that has little-to-no regulation, of yet?  We all know what happens... they raise rent.  And what happens if that company were to fail?

These are serious, real concerns, which is why we need a large showing at the press conference on Friday morning, January 13. It will be at 9:30am and is scheduled to be held in front of the Main library at 215 N. Wyman St. (Check back with this site to make sure the location has not changed due to the weather.) The posts on this site will become more frequent. Please stay tuned.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Where Is the Public Input?

Rockford Public Library's Executive Director, Frank Novak, stated that public libraries are phasing out print books. However, according to the American Library Association (ALA), most public libraries plan to devote between 8 percent and 10 percent of their total collection budget to digital material by 2016. This is significantly lower than the 34 percent our library is currently allotting. The question raised previously was do our city’s demographics reflect the need to spend 34 percent of our collection budget on ebooks. There is an even bigger question that needs to be asked­— where was the public input before making allocations for our collection budget?

Neither the library board of directors nor the administration have asked library patrons to participate in any kind of survey about how many people own ereaders and if patrons want to see an increase in the digital collection budget. A public library is a democratic institution and, therefore, should ask public opinion before launching into something of this size. Remember, most libraries are planning to spend 8 percent to 10 percent of their collection budget on digital materials by 2016. No one is denying a national trend toward ebooks, but the decision to move to 34 percent is permanent and appears out of touch with Rockford Public Library cardholders.

More than 70 percent of Rockford Public School students are on free or reduced lunch. For those of us who fall into that lower socioeconomic status, an ereader is not affordable. Some people do not have the money to buy food for their children, much less an electronic device that costs around $100. But we don't know how many people own ereaders in Rockford. Such a poll has not been done.

The only way any of us can find out is by polling the public. For a democratic institution, we should expect nothing less than an invitation for public input.

Monday, January 2, 2012

34% of our library budget going to electronic books?

On January 18, 2010, the Rockford Public Library reduced its hours, a decision many of us are still trying to recover from. No longer are we able to visit our library in the morning but two days a week, and only the East Branch is open six days. We went from being able to visit the library on Mondays from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. to noon-8 p.m., or not at all if we intended to visit Main. And what about the hack job they did to Lewis Lemon’s hours? (Read: In half. They were cut in half.)

The library is currently setting aside $400,000 for electronic digital and audio books. $400,000 on materials that only a percentage of our city will have access to. We have no idea how many Rockford library cardholders own eReaders, but we do know our community is 63.29 percent low income. It seems safe to assume that very few of those of us who fall into that 63.29 percent own an electronic device that costs a minimum of $79. Of course, it is not likely that everyone who falls into the other 36.71 percent owns one. Many elderly probably do not, as well as people who find comfort in the feel and smell of a paper book. Of course, this could turn the corner into a whole discussion of eReaders vs. paper books, one that doesn’t pertain to this discussion at all. The rising use of eReaders is not the problem.

It is true that the demand for digital media is rising, but so is its accessibility outside of the library. now offers a Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, where owners can choose from more than 1,000 books they are able to borrow for free. That’s more than 1,000 free books that are only accessible to people with the income to afford an eReader. The rest of us have to contend with a cut in the rest of the collection — a 27.4 percent cut from last year’s allocation.

Rockford’s unemployment rate is 13.4 percent, much higher than the state (10 percent) and national (9.1 percent) averages. Our crime rates continue to soar. Where is our saving grace? It is the library, that wonderful institution that creates educated communities by promoting self-learning, lifelong learning, and self-improvement, levels the playing field for all city residents regardless of income, age, race, religion, gender or ability. And yet, the doors to this all-important institution continue to be locked more often than not; our library’s hours of operation are significantly shorter than smaller area libraries such as the North Suburban District Library. Our library offers computer classes, both conversational English and Spanish classes, food safety classes, and classes on how to pay for college. These programs can help us build job skills, something we need more of, not less.

On September 10, Paul Logli was the keynote speaker at the Rockford Public Schools Parent Leadership Conference. He discussed the problem of the digital divide. He then mentioned the growing importance of eReaders and a time in the near future when paper books would be obsolete. He said he saw a future where libraries would go completely digital. It is important to note that Mr. Logli is currently the president of the library's board of directors.

Right now, our city needs more hours, services and programming, not electronic resources. There may be a time in the future when it is time to increase our budget for these resources, but it seems rather misguided to do so now, when so many of our residents need the library to be opened more hours so we have more time to search for a job so someday we can afford to buy eReaders, too.