Friday, March 26, 2010

WMRLS and the Statewide Merger Discussion Meetings

 WMRLS and the Statewide Merger Discussion Meetings
  •  Lee Library - March 23, 2010 ~ 25 staff and trustees of WMRLS member libraries attended this session
  • Agawam Public Library - March 24, 2010 ~ 20 staff and trustees of WMRLS member libraries attended this session
  • WMRLS Headquarters, Whately - March 25, 2010 ~ 42 staff and trustees of WMRLS member libraries attended this session
Summary of WMRLS and the Statewide Merger Discussion Meetings

John Ramsay, WMRLS Regional Administrator; Betty Johnson, Colrain Library Director and member of the WMRLS Board and Transition Team; and Sue San Soucie, Montague Library Director and member of the WMRLS Board and Transition Team; each led one or more of this week’s WMRLS and the Statewide Merger Discussion Meetings. They welcomed the participants at each of the three discussion roundtables and also thanked them for their participation and support. 

John, Betty, and Sue, gave balanced presentations of the key things that have brought us to this point in a consolidation effort. They distributed and reviewed the first 7 pages of the March 8 Comment Draft and made the point that the MBLC will receive the Final Recommendations Report from the Transition Team on April 1. They also mentioned that a “Transition Manager” may be named to give time to hire an Executive Director for the MLS.

The following is a compilation of the questions and points were made by attendees at each of the three discussion sessions:  [Responses from Transition Team and WMRLS Staff appear in italics]
  • How will these changes affect the MBLC?
  • What’s the total cut to the Region Library Systems since 2003? (About 37%)
  • WMRLS has been first in many things statewide, a leader.
  • Do we have legal rights as a minority group?
  • Does the MLS know what the costs will be to pay for legal advice, hire an interim manager, and buy out regional office leases? How is the MBLC advocating to the Governor on behalf of the Regions? The MBLC Legislative Agenda requests full statutory funding for account 7000-9401, which would actually be an increase over the FY10 levels.
  • Does it make sense for members to maintain a regular presence at the WMRLS HQ during the Transition Year, to keep the pressure on?
  • Librarians need to act fast---each person should get 10 people to contact the Commissioners, legislators, and the Governor SOON about this issue
  • Will the MA Library System be a state agency or 501.c3 organization? 501.c3. The MetroWest Region is expected to reorganize into the new entity, a much smoother, faster path than starting a new 501.c3. The new organization will be almost exactly like the old regions organizationally. The other regions will become dormant in case needed in the future. The regional administrators have sought good legal advice to determine necessary steps. This is considered a merger of assets and liabilities from the current regions to the new entity.Everything will be at a reduced level. Only delivery will be maintained at a current level for one year. This is not a cure for the ongoing budget crisis. If the budget is worse than the $6.9m projection, services will be further reduced. Advocacy is aimed at increasing the funding levels in 7000-9401.
  • Library participants expressed concerns that delivery will be reduced in the number of days delivery is provided. The stated intent is that current levels of delivery services will be maintained for FY11. There is concern that in the future there will need to be cutbacks due to the budget.
  • Library participants expressed concerns that it is important to be vigilant that services are evenly provided. Success rates must be equivalent throughout the state and not just based on volume.
  • Location of hub: for next year at MetroWest office in Waltham. After that, 495 corridor along the Pike. An independent consultant should look at where the hub should be, considering costs, effectiveness, etc. Some Transition Team members see the WMRLS building as a liability (due to the mortgage) rather than as an asset. There are also costs of technology to be considered in transitional office. WMRLS has the technology infrastructure right now.
  • Can we bookend services between MBLC and LLR in Boston and an MLS presence in Whately that is both functional and symbolic?
  • Is it viable to have a ‘spoke’ working on the road in western MA where Broadband and wifi are not available throughout? Can a person in the west act as spoke without more support?
  • If you are looking to hire staff from across the country, you’re also looking at a host of moving costs, etc., that are not in the budget. Several regional boards felt that current regional administrators, as well as current regional staff, should receive priority in the hiring.
  • Continuing education opportunities must be close to the member libraries. WMRLS libraries don’t have mileage money or subs to allow long travel to workshops. They just wouldn’t have the ability to get there. Basic library courses are required for small library directors; school librarians also need PDP credits they can get to.
  • Along with the Friends of WMRLS website, there is also a “We Love Western Mass Libraries” FaceBook presence that has achieved 1,300 fans in just 10 days. Library users comprise most of the members.
  • Will only delivery happen in Whately? We hope continuing education workshops and advisory services can also be provided from this office, at least for FY11.
  • How will Continuing Education occur out here? Staff will conduct training throughout the state. In other regions, the assumption is that it is easy to find training locations. Not so much here.
  • Will all the jobs be outsourced including delivery? No, but there will be fewer of them. Current staff can apply if they want to relocate or possibly work from home.
  • Will the building be able to be used by western staff? The current draft Transition Team report calls for MLS staff to work out of Whately or Waltham in FY11, or from home or maybe at member libraries, if space and infrastructure is available. .
  • Do you feel there is time to shift the tide? We don’t know how much they can stop this. The MBLC will be receiving a presentation on the plan on April 1. We Love Western MA Libraries Face Book page has 1269 people signed on, including Commissioners, legislators, even the Governor’s office is paying attention. The Commissioners will be making the decision with whatever funding is available. Even if funding is restored, we will not go back to the status quo. The state cannot afford to fund 6 regions. For this area, this is a ‘T’ stop! A place for training that is reachable, with good parking and an easy to get to location! The WMRLS Board voted against the wording in the plan that states a specific location.
  • Why not propose two locations, Waltham and Whately, and see what happens? Why make irreversible decisions?
  • Is it true that there are no Commissioners from western MA? Yes. They are Governor appointed. We don’t know how decisions are made once appointments are recommended to the Governor.
  • Could the new entity be entrepreneurial and charge end users $.25 for delivery? Possible, but complicated to collect and track the expenditures.
  • Electronic resources like C/W MARS are easily scalable. Physical resources like delivery are less so. Have networks been in the mix for discussion? They were in the planning a year ago. They get their funding from membership money, less so from the state.
  • If there is one MA Library System, will that encourage the movement to one automated network statewide? This would probably make sense, but the MBLC does not have the leverage with funding to move the networks in that direction. Most of network funding comes from membership fees from their member libraries.
  • Would state funding for automated networks ever be a possibility? Could, but depending solely on state funding is very risky, as evidenced by the regions!
  • There were several comments on the desirability of reducing delivery through allowing patrons to limit holds to their own library’s copy. Maybe the networks, as they explore open source systems, could develop a green option that patrons could select, which would reduce delivery volume. Most borrowing activity is within a regional area.
  • How are regional service values developed? A consultant designed a methodology to measure the value of each service, based on usage or savings to libraries.
  • How can we better present economic arguments for the value of the Regions?
  • The folks making some of these decisions, have no concept of the relationship between the western MA libraries and their Region. There is an ongoing and deep relationship here.
  • How has the MBLC been as a leader in this process? What has the MBLC done to protect the services in the underpopulated areas of the state? In many ways, the process has been consensus-driven based on the input and work of the statewide Transition Team.
  • The way this process has been run is inexcusable.
  • Don’t give up after July 1. Demand the services that your libraries and users need. Make sure that the leadership among the Commissioners and the new MA Library System hears from you. Be involved. Your State tax dollars are supposed to equalize services and meet needs across the State. Whatever the next system, use it and demand services you need, even if they’re not the same as in other parts of the state.
  • One librarian shared her motto: “Only those that attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.”
 ~  Above compilation is edited from each of the full meeting reports by Mary King, WMRLS Regional Librarian; and Jan Resnick, WMRLS Assistant Regional Administrator

1 comment:

Geo. said...

These are superb comments and each and every one will be distributed to the Board of Library Commissioners. Thank you for your continued advocacy and please keep your comments coming.

George T. Comeau

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