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 Colorado’s State Librarian Eugene Hainer (EH). Read more about the Colorado State Library’s priorities in IMLS’ state profile for Colorado.
Michele: What were the three most important community needs you sought to address through the grants program between 2008 and 2012?
EH: Number one was improving access to library material, and supporting educational uses of that material for all ages. As one example, we supported summer reading programs – especially in rural libraries – through a series of mini grants. We also have an active program to identify and work with highly effective school libraries and have those libraries share expertise with others through a series of statewide cohort groups. Next, we have a great need in the state to consolidate and connect libraries that may be working independently. We try to work with and provide some funding support to the Colorado Library Consortium to get them into networks or otherwise help facilitate their participation in other consortia. Another priority was finding and funding innovative ideas, such as makerspaces, to encourage people to engage in collaborative activities and to make use of current technologies like 3-D printers. Computer lending programs also really took off, as well as e-books, as a result of some LSTA-funded grants to libraries.
Michele: How do you feel that your last evaluation contributed to putting together your five-year plan for the 2013-2017 cycle?
EH: Through the evaluation and reporting cycle, we could identify successful programs that met their goals and were model projects. Once we get those desirable results, we can support growth in those programs, and we built that into the next five-year plan for 2013-2017. One example is our Plinkit program for customizable library websites, which has since transitioned fully in-state as Colorado Online Libraries. Other successful projects include our interlibrary loan services and historic newspapers collection, where we use funding for staff support. Some programs that we identified as successful have the kind of results that serve specific needs like improved access and connecting libraries, which I mentioned earlier. The overall effect of the review on our next five-year plan was that it helped us evaluate, prioritize, and focus on the areas where we thought we wanted to improve or increase our efforts.
Michele: What would you say are the three most important community needs you plan to address through library services in the next five years?
EH: Number one is literacy-related programs. We’re really focusing on children from birth through age five and supplementing traditional K-18 summer reading. One of the initiatives we hope to continue encouraging in the next five years is a “1,000 books by kindergarten” program. Obviously that’s going to take a great deal of resources in the libraries that maybe cannot afford 1,000 books for the kindergartners nor have the programming expertise to encourage it in their communities. State funding for materials, now in a second year of funding, has greatly helped boost collection purchases, especially for early learning and family materials. Another area is increasing libraries’ awareness of building baby and toddler areas into the libraries. While we wouldn’t actually fund any building, we can talk about how these areas can be beneficial and perhaps help leverage some local partnerships. Number two is improving our resource sharing programs. I think over the next five years we are going to be creating new resource sharing opportunities in response to new products and tools and changing community or library needs. The third is training librarians and the public. One of our focuses is digital literacy and another is increasing awareness of the need for 21st century skills in schools. We want to get school administrators, in particular, to understand the value of the school library program. We are now in the process of identifying how can we sustain some of the digital literacy training work, and how we can use LSTA funding to leverage other state funding or public-private partnerships that may be available. We’ve had some meetings with the Governor’s Office of Information Technology, and they are starting to sprinkle the word “library” more and more into their work. They are aware that digital literacy is something that is necessary when talking about broadband expansion, so I think this all works together to hopefully achieve better awareness and use of libraries.