Citizens’ Library Advisory Ad Hoc Committee
Thursday, June 19 2008
Ashland Public Library, Gresham Room
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Vavra, Gibb, Battistela, Burckholder, Churchman
Keil, Morrison (mayor) Seltzer (city liaison), Blossom (library
Guests: Jim Scheppke, Oregon State Librarian
Members of the public: 16
Commission Chair Vavra called the Study Session to order at 1602.
Burckholder introduced Jim Scheppke, Oregon State Librarian.
Scheppke provided a brief history of the development of Ashland’s library from a small subscription library (1891) to a free public town library (1909) to a county library (1970), and the evolution of state laws affecting library governance, then focused on four topics as requested (the following summary includes responses to questions and comments from commission members and the public).
1. State support cannot be expected in terms of financing, but can be in terms of consultation and advice.
2. Scheppke identified eleven models of governance now in existence (one of which has three variations for a total of 14 possibilities). He clearly regarded consolidated county libraries as the best model.
There are three types: those administered by counties (11), those administered by a special or country library service district 4), and those administered by a city under contract with a county library service district (1).
There is one federated county library district administered by a city.
Scheppke regarded federated models as second-best, noting a proliferation of meetings to reach decisions and a tendency of each unit to maximize its own autonomy and a multiplication of directors and staff, leading to losses of efficiency and economies of scale.
There are 22 library districts in Oregon; they take two main forms. County service districts are run by the regularly elected county commissioners. Special districts are run by an unpaid five-person board elected either at large or from defined zones who serve four-year terms. The former assumes trust in county government; the latter adds a new layer of bureaucracy to county government; elections tend to be uncontested.
District boundaries can be drawn in almost any fashion desired (including school district boundaries) but all voters in a proposed district have a vote as to whether or not a library district should be formed. It can be non-contiguous, can be multi-county, and can annex new territory later (with the concurrence of the territory annexed). It is more difficult to gain voter approval for a new library district in general because they are permanent and have a permanent tax base, but they are very successful where they have been passed. A weakness is the lack of a requirement for a minimum size district, which could be stated in terms of population, area, or best (and in use in Montana), total assessed valuation. Scheppke declined to put a number to the latter.
There are four libraries administered by school districts. School districts can form library districts, in which case it is governed by the school board, cannot have a dedicated tax, and may run up against limits on school board funding.
Models mentioned but not discussed in detail include libraries administered by cities (86), libraries serving areas smaller than a county administered by special library districts (13), libraries administered by non-profit corporations under contract with a county or district (4), special library districts served by city libraries (1), and cooperative library systems administered by counties (3), community college districts (1) and a county service district (1).
3. With respect to evaluation of libraries, Scheppke suggested two models. The first model is the quality standards of the Oregon Library Association, which rates libraries as threshold, adequate, or excellent in quality based on quality of service (e.g., open hours, staff numbers and qualifications, and available books and computers) and performance (e.g., circulation, attendance at children’s programs, reference questions).
The second model is comparison with peer libraries, as illustrated by a handout provided with 2006-2007 data covering the six county systems in Oregon on selected variables that he thought most important (population served, number of branches, average population per outlet, square feet per capita, librarians per 1000 population served, total staff per population served, operating expenditures per capita, expenditures on collection per capita, book units per capita, book units added per capita, audio units per capita, video units per capita, licensed databases per 10000 population, public access Internet per 1000 population, total main library hours in typical week, annual open hours per capita, total circulation per capita, reference transactions per capita, children’s program attendance per capita, adult program attendance per capita.
4. As to his vision for Jackson County Libraries, Scheppke said that he looked forward to Jackson County to continue its trajectory toward equaling the services provided by Multnomah County Libraries.
· Libraries have three main roles that are likely to remain vital for at least the next twenty years: Circulation of materials in various forms to the general public
· Programs: children’s, summer, and literacy
· Access to the Internet
Importance of reference questions appears to be declining, but these three main roles are likely to grow rather than be threatened. Literacy and children’s programs have few competitors, e-books seem not to be catching on significantly, and the increasing cost of Internet services and the larger number of data bases that libraries make accessible cannot be matched by individual users.
The meeting adjourned at 5:50 p.m.