Friday, January 13, 2012

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.

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