IMLS staff interviewed state librarians to discuss how their new five-year plans for LSTA Grants to States funds (2013-2017) differ from their past plans (2008-2012) and how they see the needs of library users in their states changing and evolving. This post is part of a series and features IMLS Senior Library Program Officer James Lonergan interviewing Ohio’s State Librarian Beverly Cain and Associate State Librarian for Library Development Missy Lodge. Read more about the State Library of Ohio’s priorities in the state profile for Ohio.
James: What were the three most important community needs you sought to address in the five-year plan from 2008 through 2012?
Beverly: One was early childhood literacy. We used IMLS funds for a program called Ohio Ready to Read, in collaboration with the Ohio Library Council, and we offered competitive grants for services to youth in poverty, with special emphasis on children from birth through age five. A second was to provide all Ohioans with equal access to authoritative resources as well as to virtual reference services. We had a number of statewide initiatives in this area, such as Libraries Connect Ohio, a partnership of the state library and three networks serving public, academic, and K-12 school library communities. We worked together to purchase a set of core electronic resources called the Ohio Web Library, which is available to all Ohio residents, schools, and universities at no cost to them. In our LSTA five-year evaluation it was cited as one of the best uses of IMLS funds, and it’s used heavily by the K-12 community, which is important as more Ohio schools lose their librarians.
Missy: We also used funds to help support the Ohio eBook Project, which makes e-books available to libraries, primarily public libraries, on a more cost-friendly basis. A lot of the libraries in the project would never be able to provide e-books on their own, but we help make it possible.
Beverly: The last thing in this area is facilitating and promoting resource sharing around the state. A couple of years ago we saw that there were 111 small and medium-sized public libraries in Ohio that were still running standalone integrated library systems to organize their collections. We set up a grant program using LSTA funds to help them migrate to one of the state’s existing consortia. Those grants were very successful, and we had 20 libraries take advantage of this program. We’ve seen a lot of movement in this area, and now the libraries with standalone systems number in the 70s. We didn’t intend it, but two new consortia actually formed as the result of our promoting the benefits of resource sharing.
James: Could you talk about the evaluation of your previous five-year plan, and how that evaluation influenced your current five-year plan?
Beverly: It was a good process, and it had a big influence on our current five-year plan through a series of recommendations that came out of the evaluation. One was to develop regional digitization sites. We’d already done some good work in the southwest corner of the state, and now we’re working with partners, including the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and the Ohio Public Library Information Network, to set up digitization hubs around the state. We know it’s not going to happen overnight, and we may have to implement it in phases due to funding, but it became a focal point with so much emphasis placed on it in the five-year evaluation.
James: Looking at your current plan, what are the three most important community needs?
Beverly: The priorities for this plan are quite similar. We still have a focus on early childhood literacy. We have a stronger focus on digitization than the last time around; it’s become more of a standalone priority in this cycle. We’re still maintaining our statewide projects that provide equal access to information, but we’re also placing an emphasis on workforce development and collaborating with other agencies and libraries around the state.
Missy: We found that a lot of libraries don’t know what other agencies are doing and who their potential community partners are, so we’ll be doing some of that initial work in trying to reach out to those organizations. Hopefully it will benefit the unemployed and underemployed as well as help raise awareness of the library in the community.
Beverly: The Grants to States program is very important in Ohio, and all the things we’ve talked about wouldn’t be possible without that funding.