Dr. Drew's Infrequent Blog

19 December 2007

"Challenges Ahead for Libraries"

There was an interesting front-page article in this morning's Honolulu Advertiser about the agenda of incoming State Librarian Richard Burns.

I was very pleased to see that recruitment will continue to be a key item on Burns' agenda. I had a very encouraging, pleasant talk with Burns at this year's HLA conference about this and other topics. The article's graphic box highlights the huge number of impending retirements, which will be a huge challenge for the Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS).

As the article makes clear, outgoing State Librarian Jo Ann Schindler (left) also made an important push in this direction, launching a recruitment campaign (see their poster below) in order to start the recovery from the dark days of the hiring freeze.

[UPDATE: Jo Ann Schindler e-mailed me on 12/22/07 that this poster and other recruitment materials were actually created by DHRD.]

On the other hand, after the campaign ended many graduates of our LIS Program ended up in temporary positions -- without benefits or job security. I truly hope that the HSPLS will be allowed some autonomy in hiring because the DHRD (state personnel) system caused some real problems in that we had good graduates wanting positions, and the HSPLS had positions needing to be filled. There was a lot of anxiety about who made "the List," and who got left out by small problems, such as not checking "Willing to do shift work" on a form. Such mistakes caused some people to not make the List, which was only open about once a year. That is a long time to wait for people who invested two years in a Master's degree, and were being courted elsewhere by employers interested in UH's quality, diverse graduates.

The LIS Program tried to work with HSPLS to overcome the situation by bringi
ng in Hawaii State Library Director, Florence Yee, to discuss the hiring system.

We hoped this helped our grads and HSPLS avoid many problems with the List, but it was frustrating to hear and read stories like the experience of Annie Thomas, (ALA Student Chapter Newsletter, p. 3+) [PDF] in temporary or other positions for over a year. The good news is that Annie and many others are now in full time positions with HSPLS. The system has to be improved if they won't lose good librarians. I'm thrilled that Burns will work with DHRD on this.

I think Burns' other agenda points are also very important, such as improving service to many areas, including several where libraries could make a real difference in terms of improving literacy and school performance. It is also terribly important to make a real commitment to improving the system's 24/7 online offerings. This does not only mean bandwidth, but should also mean working on local content with partners in the State Archives, UH System, School Library Services and others to create digital libraries to provide access and preserve Hawaii's cultural heritage. We in LIS Program would love to be a part of this endeavor.

I've heard only good things about Burns, so I am very pleased that the Board of Education selected him. It says a lot to hire people like Burns and Schindler, who have worked their way up the system, and are familiar with people here and our diverse culture. The state will loose a lot of strategic intelligence and connections with the upcoming retirements of Schindler, Yee, and many others. HSPLS and DHRD will have to continue to work not only on recruiting new
librarians, but also on how to mentor and reward future leaders.

We in the UH LIS Program value our warn relationship with the HSPLS, and look forward to continuing this in the future. Richard Burns wants to continue to this, and has already agreed to join our Advisory Board.

I should point out that in addition to Loren Moreno's fine article, there also is a nice piece in the Hawaii Section announcing that Governor Linda Lingle has agreed to release $3.8 million to continue to provide service to Manoa residents while the Manoa Public Library is being replaced. I'm on the Board of the Friends of the Manoa Public Library, so I am partial to this. It is exciting to see plans develop, including cooperation between the DAGS, HSPLS, and Manoa community to make it a library that is environmentally sound (LEED standard) and matches the architectual sense of community.

Many of Hawaii's libraries were built around the time of statehood -- when we could receive federal Library Services and Construction Act funding (back in the heyday of LBJ's "War on Poverty"). It should be no surprise that many of these buildings are in need of serious repair or replacement. It will be exciting to see how HSPLS and DAGS handle the Manoa Public Library, and what lessons we can learn in terms of continuing to provide service during construction.

There really is a lot to be thankful about now.

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