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Interview: Nebraska Library Commission

June 25, 2014
Rodney G. Wagner, Director, Nebraska Library Commission Rodney G. Wagner, Director, Nebraska Library Commission


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 Michele Farrell interviewing Director Rod Wagner. Read more about the Nebraska Library Commission’s priorities in IMLS’ state profile for Nebraska.  

Michele: What were the three most important community needs you sought to address through library services between 2008 and 2012?

Rod: With the economic downturn, those of us in the library community know that people look to libraries for their personal needs, as well as for career information. With the increased use of technology in all forms, libraries have really been challenged to keep up to date and be helpful—providing everything from public access computers to assistance with e-readers. A significant change in the last two years is the interest in digital content, which seems to be accelerating, and we’ve had an increasing number of libraries provide downloadable book services. We have made Grants to States funding available to libraries for subgrants, and they have used them to obtain new technology in their libraries, and for continuing education based on emerging trends and issues, such as digital literacy. In sum, it’s providing technology in libraries for public use, e-books and digital content, and also training. One of the challenges we’ve faced in the last several years is higher turnover in library leadership and other staff, so we’ve increased our training activities and have been pretty successful.  

Michele: How did the evaluation of the programs and initiatives developed over the 2008-2012 cycle affect the state’s plan for 2013-2017?

Rod: The surveys that we sent out had a really good response, and they confirmed that things we were doing were effective and that library respondents wanted us to continue. This includes the online databases that we offer, which are in part supported by the Grants to States funding. People want us to continue to provide the ones we are supplying, and of course they want some additional things too. One rather prominent need is databases that address the elementary and middle school levels. We’re pretty good on the upper end, for high school, college, and adult users. But we’re not really addressing the younger ages, particularly the middle school level. We’re requesting state funds in order to add some new databases in the coming year. Training opportunities and the availability of grant support through subgrants were also affirmed through the survey responses. The issues that people brought up as most important are the ones we incorporated into our new five-year plan.  

Michele: What were the three most important community needs you plan to address through your library program in the next five years?

Rod: Digital literacy, which includes working with people to make use of technology for their personal and work-related needs; working with our state Department of Labor to provide employment information and assistance; and supplying access to federal, state, and local government information, because so many of those agencies are requiring people to obtain and submit information online. We highlight federal publications that we think are especially important, as well as Nebraska state government services and resources. We also have a continuing emphasis on early childhood education, including working with children, young adults, and preschool-aged children and encouraging them to develop reading skills. The children and young adult services librarian on our staff works with librarians across the state to help them with youth programming and the selection of books and other content. She does a lot of training and workshops and works with our six regional library system administrators for their youth programming targeted to school and public librarians. LSTA funds also help support author programs at schools and libraries. We have an active summertime program that many libraries devote a lot of time and attention to, and that results in involvement from many children across the state. We’re eager to put into place things that we took a hard look at as part of our five-year evaluation and our new five year plan, and we’ll engage our state advisory council on libraries for discussion and input. LSTA is a great program, and we enjoy being part of it.

Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies