Tuesday, October 22, 2013

WMLA Fall Meeting 2013

Holyoke Public Library 2013

The Western Massachusetts Library Advocates (WMLA) held their fall meeting on October 16, 2013, at the newly renovated and expanded Holyoke Public Library.  36 members signed in; Representing Steve Kulik, his aide Paul Dunphy. 
Keynote:  The keynote speaker was Steve Spohn, previously an independent consultant and now the new Resource Sharing Director for the Massachusetts Library System (MLS).  Steve described the planning work he did for Springfield City Library in 2012-13, the data he used to support recommendations for change, and how their strategic plan to sustain library services for the long term was implemented successfully. 
Since 2004, Springfield City Library’s budget had been cut by 15% without closing any of their 10 branches.  It had reached the point where some branches were open only 12 days a month.  Steve’s report recommended closing four branches. The shock value of his report resulted in anger, denial, and, finally, changes in attitudes.  Springfield’s Mayor became an advocate for the Library and allocated $500,000 in new funding for FY 2014. Director Molly Fogarty announced they are hiring 17 new staff members. Library programming has been ‘re-packaged’ under five easy to understand themes: early literacy, workforce development, civic engagement, after-school activities, and lifelong learning.  Steve’s take-away points: Don’t stop with a printed plan.  Make structural and procedural changes. Get someone else (like a consultant) to say unpopular things. 

More on the Springfield success story and the ‘Re: think Springfield City Library Project’ slide show is available at http://www.springfieldlibrary.org/board.html.

Business Meeting:  There are 82 current members of WMLA. A new Board of Directors was elected.  Within WMLA’s regular business, Greg Pronevitz, MLS Executive Director, encouraged people to attend the MLS Annual Meeting on November 4 and congratulated Margo Malachowski who will take over as President of the MLS Executive Board. He also thanked John Ramsay for spearheading the idea of libraries in various parts of the state cooperatively licensing access to newspapers for their service area.  
Greg announced that MLS has entered into negotiations with a small business from Conway to sell the MLS-Whately building.  He reviewed the history of attempting to rent part of the building. He wants to lease back MLS’ current office space while they search for a new location.  Greg said they would use the results of last years’ WMLA survey as criteria, namely a new location between Route 2 and the Mass Pike along I-91.  No timetable for the sale was given.

Judy Clini reviewed some of WMLA’s work in the past year, including the author program with Matthew Pearl (2013 Massachusetts Book Award Winner for The Technologists), the distribution of Summer Reading Club prizes from western Massachusetts attractions, and the recent van tour of five small libraries. 

John Ramsay reported on the NewsBank Project which restores access to western Massachusetts newspapers for all libraries in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties. Close to 30 libraries are contributing to pay for this license.  Additional funding is provided through grants from WMLA and MLS. 
The meeting was followed by a tour of the still under construction Holyoke Public Library led by Director Maria Pagan.  The dramatic new and expanded space will open at the end of the month.  Congratulations to Maria, her staff and trustees and the residents of Holyoke.  Dedication of the new facility is expected to occur on November 22.

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