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.

1 comment:

  1. I agree! When was the last time the library produced a long range or strategic plan? On the library's web page, if you click on "About RPL/Administration/Strategic Plan" you get a bogus "stay tuned" message. If you click on "About RPL/Administration/Mission, Vision & Guiding Principles" you get a 10 year-old document that, judging from the director's behavior, is not in force anymore.

    Do not be surpised if, as a result of this comment, these RPL website sections are inactivated... In truth, they already are.

    --Andrew Strong