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Interview: Hawaii State Public Library System

May 2, 2014
Photo of Richard Burns, Hawaii State Librarian Richard Burns, State Librarian, Hawaii State Public Library System


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 Hawaii’s State Librarian Richard Burns. Read more about the Hawaii State Public Library System’s priorities in the state profile for Hawaii.

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

Richard: I think our first and primary need was to provide reliable and faster connectivity to all our libraries and thereby to all our patrons. That’s a huge challenge for us with our island geography. The primary example of how we were able to do that was over the last year-and-a-half to two years, when we moved from having two libraries with wireless Internet access to all 50 of our public libraries with wireless Internet access, which is a huge move forward for us. Second was to provide access to the information in our collections. Speed was a critical factor in that, but also we went to federated searching, so our patrons could search all our collections with one search at the same time. Third was to provide support in enhancements for our integrated library system, to better organize the collections. Those were the three needs that we sought to address, and they’re all basically around providing our patrons with better access to information all across the state.

James: Now could you talk a little bit about how the evaluation of the programs over the 2008 to 2012 cycle affected your state’s plans for the next five years? 

Richard: The evaluation process gave us a chance to look at our initial goals, see how well we met them, and to provide a direction for the future. We’ve been very fortunate to use the LSTA funding to meet those goals of providing better and increased access for our patrons across the state. It shows we’re providing the technology resources our public needs to access the materials and collections that we’ve developed. We still have a long way to go in a number of areas, but I think the process confirmed for us that we are moving in the right direction.

James: Could you talk more about the upcoming five-year plan and if your three most important community needs differ in big or small ways from the previous five years?

Richard: The future goals are similar to those in the past cycle: Supporting collections management through our integrated library system, and perhaps in the next five years exploring the option of moving to a different integrated library system. We want to continue to develop public access computing to reinforce digital literacy and IT knowledge. That will help our patrons gain access to not only our information but the world’s information in all its forms. It’s providing access to information as we did in the past, but expanding it and making it a broader, deeper access. I think the third most important community need would be to increase digital literacy throughout the state. There are probably half or more of our communities that still do not have access to the Internet, or where libraries are the only point in the community for free access to the Internet. We want to enhance that role. We also want to provide resources and opportunities for our patrons to develop their digital literacy skills, and to not only provide technology learning tools but also a number of lifelong learning opportunities. Technology helps us to quite literally bridge the gaps that we run up against due to geographic challenges. Without LSTA we’d be in a big hole, because technology is expensive, especially for us. We have very high connectivity costs in Hawaii, and LSTA allows us to move forward in a number of areas that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies