Aspiration and reality by Dee Brennan

I am going to be devoting a number of blog posts to our strategic planning process that is currently underway.  This is a very important project for RAILS. It’s our opportunity to create the future of RAILS.  We are doing this with a lot of input from members AND it will be based on a clear and realistic understanding of our economic, political and social environment.  The plan will be aspirational but also firmly grounded in reality.

Yes, there is inherent tension between aspiration and reality. That was clear at our Member Update Session last Thursday, September 5; this meeting was largely devoted to a discussion of three questions that are similar to the questions we are posing to our 9 strategic plan focus groups:

What RAILS services/programs are the most important to you?

What additional services should RAILS offer?

What challenges are you currently facing in your library, or expect to face, that RAILS can help you overcome?

It was very lively discussion and as the questions are interrelated the conversation flowed freely from current services to new services and future challenges.

The tension between aspiration and reality came up most clearly with the discussion of services to the unserved. For example: it was suggested that the community college system could be the basis for serving the approximately 10% of Illinois residents who are not served by a public library. It was then pointed out that funding of public libraries would be affected (decreased) as monies would be diverted to the college system to support additional services. There was a related suggestion that we need to look at legislation that could fix this and other structural funding problems related to library districts and tax caps.

Participants in the meeting also called for more consulting and training services in areas such as training for new directors; trustee orientation; human resources issues; and library trends, just to name a few (literally).  There was a request that we look at revising the standards for public library membership in library systems; a comment that RAILS can implement projects on behalf of member libraries that individual libraries cannot do by themselves, that systems provide real economies of scale; a request that we engage in group purchasing on behalf of libraries.  These are not all of the suggestions made; we are transcribing all of the notes and they will be included in the feedback that we bring to our members and Board as we develop goals and objectives for the future.

All of these suggestions and comments were aspirational. The reality is that we certainly can’t do all of them at once and we have to prioritize. The relationship between reality and aspiration is that reality requires us to have implementation plans so that we can achieve our aspirational goals, and that we be realistic about how long it can take but also believe that we can overcome obstacles if we persevere.

This morning, I had a conversation with Tim Jarzemsky  the new Chair of the ILA Public Policy Committee.  We got talking about legislation and the unserved and what is PPC’s role and how the system can be supportive.  We came up with some real specific first steps that will at least get us started down the road to solving this problem.  And we’ll tackle the other needs of member libraries in the same aspirational, realistic and collaborative way.

It’s important to remember that difficult goals can be achieved and that good things do happen. This year, the per capita grants for public libraries were increased for the first time in many years. I think librarians in Illinois are so accustomed to bad news that we have stopped believing that good news can and does happen. So, let’s be aspirational, create a  plan and goals that will make a real difference for all libraries in RAILS, and move forward together to make our aspirations reality.

RAILS Member Update September 5 | Online Viewing Instructions

Join us for the next RAILS Member Update on Thursday, September 5, from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. Executive Director Dee Brennan will host the meeting from the New Lenox Public Library District. You may attend at New Lenox, at a scheduled videoconference location, view it online, or watch a recorded version at a later date.

WebEx Instructions to view the meeting online:

WebEx Instructions to join the audio conference only:

  • To receive a call back, provide your phone number when you join the meeting, or call 1.866.469.3239 toll-free and enter the access code: 924 987 979

For WebEx Assistance

Those watching online will be able to email their questions and feedback to feedback [at] railslibraries [dot] info.

All RAILS members working in all types of libraries are welcome to participate. For more information and to register, visit L2 at http://www.librarylearning.info/events/?eventID=15483.

Construction Grant Ceremony

Member Spotlight

Marengo-Union Public Library District receives a ceremonial check on August 27 at an award ceremony to celebrate the library's construction grant. Pictured: State Representative Jack Franks, Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White, Board President Jude Schmidt, and Library Director Mary Hanson.

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RSA Hosts Back-to-School Workshops

Eighteen staff members from school libraries that belong to the Resource Sharing Alliance (RSA) LLSAP attended the fourth annual RSA Back-to-School Workshop. School library staff attended workshops on either July 24 or August 8, 2013, at the RAILS East Peoria service center. This is the first year RSA offered the workshops on multiple days.

Veronda Pitchford, RAILS Director of Membership Development and Resource Sharing, provided information on the statewide e-book project, resource sharing, and the OCLC WorldShare interlibrary loan migration.

RSA staff shared information relevant to school library operations. Participants received flash drives to store back-up copies of database properties, watched a demo of the RSAcat Discovery Search, received an update on new circulation policies, and learned about courtesy report options.

In addition to the topics on the agenda, there was plenty of time for participants to network with fellow school librarians and ask questions of RSA staff. RSA would like to thank all who attended.

RSA is one of four RAILS LLSAPs (MAGIC, PrairieCat, RSA, and SWAN) that serve more than two million registered Illinois library users. More information can be found at: http://www.railslibraries.info/catalogs.

Pictured: Kendal Orrison, RSA NFP Director, welcomes school library staff at the RSA Back to School Workshop on July 24, 2013. Photo and article contributed by RSA.