Notes of a Binge Thinker

Thoughts from NTLP's Executive Director

The Future of Regional Library Development and Collaboration in North Texas

I hope everyone is staying cool during the hot summer months.  I am going to take another month off from the Guideposts as well as take a month off from the ebook scenarios.  I am doing this because of recent developments here in Texas that affects the future of our regional library development and collaboration.  I feel it is important that I address this topic in some detail in this month’s column.

If you have not heard, North Texas Library Partner’s main funding body, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), has decided to end their regional library development program in September 2012.  They will fund the program for one additional year and invest $2.5M into the program.  After that, the government agency will go out for bid to fund some regional efforts but the Systems program as we have known it for the last 40 years will no longer exist.

At the July 29th System meeting, the current North Texas Library Partner libraries met to consider a recommendation from the bylaws committee to change the governance and structure of the organization from one of primarily serving as a regional system for TSLAC to one of a traditional membership driven organization.  The recommendation passed almost unanimously with only one no vote on any of the proposed changes.

What does this mean?  It means that NTLP officially becomes a membership driven nonprofit organization serving as a regional office for the Texas Library Systems program in FY2012.  In FY2013, which will start in October 2012, the organization will continue to exist, but its affiliation with TSLAC ends and funding the organization falls to the “partner” libraries to develop.

As you can imagine, this does mean that most likely there will be annual fees.  I am proud to say that the Board of Directors has been considering this possibility since early April and has formed a Development Committee to review possible fee schedules.  There has been much discussion and research done by this committee, including performing primary research by leading a discussion on membership fees at the July System meeting.  This committee will make a recommendation on a fee schedule to the board later this month.

In my conversations with library directors about this development, I came up with a parallel to the profit world that some might find useful.  In essence, NTLP, or NTRLS, has been owned by TSLAC for 40 years.  TSLAC came up with the funds to underwrite our operations and dictated to us how their funds would be utilized.  In FY2012 and beyond, NTLP will be owned by the partner libraries, who will advise the NTLP Board of Directors on how their funds will be utilized.  NTLP Partner libraries will take ownership of the organization and be able to move forward to begin programs and services that serve their needs and not the ones conceived of in Austin or Washington DC.  The organization will no longer be tied down by unreasonable or unrealistic rules and regulations on what NTLP can do for its libraries.

What will the libraries get in return for their investment in NTLP?  As hard as it is to imagine, libraries will get whatever they want in return from the organization.  NTLP staff will do a very intensive analysis of partner library needs each year and seek input from the partner libraries on what they want the organization to do for them and their communities.  NTLP staff will work closely with the advisory group of library directors in a focus group structure to better understand what libraries are currently facing in assisting their communities.  NTLP staff will continue to innovate and offer good ideas for the organization to research and explore as possible services, but now the NTLP staff will go directly to the partner libraries to get their “buy-in” versus looking at federal and state laws to see if the activity is “allowable.”   NTLP will create procedures and policies that will respond quickly to library’s needs versus waiting for the LSTA five-year plan to be rewritten.

One service that we will continue to provide is vendor discounts and consortia purchasing.  These are value added services because they bring relief to the partner libraries bottom line.  Janis Robinson, Director of the Grapevine Public Library, uses the phrase “cost containment,” when she talks about how she controls her expenses better through consortia because she gets the same service for less as a group than as an individual library.  She has told me she is willing to pay the annual fees to keep NTLP because consortia purchasing brings such large savings to her library that she will still save money even with the added cost of the annual fees.

We will also offer Continuing Education in some format.   At this time, we are not sure what form this will take, but we are working with a consultant who is assisting us with how to frame our CE program without the support of state funds.  Finally, we are seriously looking at how we can continue to provide consulting service as well as start to advocate more heavily for libraries in their communities, in Austin and in DC.

NTLP staff hopes that NTLP partners will be active members in the everyday life of the organization.  We realize that it is difficult to think of a regional organization when your daily lives at your libraries are so full and busy.  However, as “owners” of the organization, we feel that you will want to know how your investments are being used and want oversight on what we are doing.  With this in mind, we are forming a finance committee in September to meet regularly to review how NTLP is doing financially and provide reports back to the partners on its progress.

In the same vein, we hope libraries will work together and provide assistance where they can on raising funds in other ways like grant writing and fundraising.  The more funds we bring in the door outside of annual fees, the less strain it puts on the partner libraries.  With us working together, we can help the organization to pursue ways to help your library help your community.

I want to end this column by inviting all libraries in North Texas, both in our geographic region and those to the east and west of us to seriously consider looking into joining NTLP.  I believe you will be pleasantly surprised by the value it brings your library.  “Nothing in Isolation” is the unapproved motto of my tenure here at NTLP and I believe it holds as true today as it has in the past.  Let’s join together to make a difference in our libraries!

Read the rest of my colum

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Written by amwlkaw

September 1, 2011 at 9:21 am

Posted in Misc

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