NJLA President’s Program: The Hyperlinked Library: trends, Tools, Transparency


Tomorrow night, I’m presenting the President’s program at the New Jersey Library Association Conference. It’s a very interesting and troublesome time for New Jersey librarians. The State Library recently informed NJ libraries that they are ending the QandA NJ program.

Peter Bromberg explains it well:

http://blog.peterbromberg.com/2011/04/qandanj-my-three-and-half-cents.html

On April 4, 2011 the New Jersey State Librarian announced thatQandANJ.org, New Jersey’s ground-breaking, award-winning 24/7 virtual reference service, would cease.  I think this is a terrible decision for New Jersey libraries — “a huge step backward” is the phrase I keep hearing from others — and it would be a huge loss for the tens of thousands of NJ students, teachers, jobseekers, businesspeople, and other customers who use QandANJ each year.

LACK OF TRANSPARENCY, LACK OF RESPECT
Beyond the what I see as the sheer wrongness of the decision I have two major concerns:

1) The decision was made with absolutely zero input from or consultation with the 51 libraries that actually staff the service, having easily given over 50,000 hours of their time (as opposed to writing the funding check — which has been the state library’s only contribution.).  The State Library’s unilateral decision, made with no input or discussion, shows a total disregard for the fact that this service is a partnership, not a dictatorship.

Read more from Peter here:

http://blog.peterbromberg.com/2011/04/qandanj-fact-sheets-and-forced-choices.html

http://blog.peterbromberg.com/2011/04/njla-statement-on-nj-state.html

The second link is the full text of a statement from NJLA. Here’s an excerpt:

NJLA believes the library community must have a voice in determining the programs and services provided by state and federal dollars to the residents of New Jersey. Currently, the NJ State Librarian has two committees with statutory responsibilities in providing direction for the use of state/or federal funds. These committees are the LSTA Advisory Committee and the Library Network Review Board. In order to provide transparency to the library community, the New Jersey State Library must consult with its proper advisory board when budgetary or programmatic changes are to be made. This will give the library community the opportunity to provide input to these critical decisions.
NJLA believes that the decision to eliminate QandANJ should have been presented to the proper advisory board for discussion and input by the library community. The loss of this service has serious implications for the residents of New Jersey and a thoughtful deliberative discussion by the library community would have been beneficial to the library community and the state library. In these days of declining resources NJLA understands that the State Library has the difficult task of balancing the needs of the New Jersey library community and determining how best to utilize these scarce resources. But we also believe the library community’s representatives to the LSTA Advisory Committee and the Library Network Review Board have much to contribute.  As the voice of the library community, their advice should be sought and carefully considered.

This comment on NJLA statement post by Janie Hermann was troubling to me:

I did ask a few librarians why they were not joining in the conversation and it seems that there is a fear in the NJ library community that we can not speak openly about our concerns. That to me is upsetting. Healthy debate and even sometimes tense disagreement is the only way for a large group to grow and move in the same direction. I feel fortunate that I am at a place in my career where I feel confident that I can speak out with minimal or no repercussions and I hope others will evaluate if they too are at that point where they can take the risk.

I already had my talk ready to go before this story broke and had already planned to talk about transparency, but this will be a truly interesting situation. I’d urge the NJ librarians like Janie to speak up through the various channels and mechanisms. I’m glad to see NJLA taking such a proactive stance as well.

I’d be interested to hear from other NJ librarians here or at the conference – what are your thoughts?

You can download my slides here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/239835/StephensHyperlinkedNJLA.pdf

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2 thoughts on “NJLA President’s Program: The Hyperlinked Library: trends, Tools, Transparency”

  1. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for helping to draw attention to the issues we’re trying to deal with in NJ. The immediate issue is the saving of QandANJ and the problematic way in which some are trying to kill it on short notice with little reasoning to support the decision.

    Beyond that though there are some larger issues of fear, intimidation, and implied threats which Janie alludes to. I understand that Janie and I enjoy a greater sense of safety and protection given the supportive boss we have in Leslie Burger, but it is my hope that others will find their voices too. Perhaps the strong statement issued by NJLA — as welcome as it is unprecedented — will help shift the climate and encourage others to speak their minds without fear of retribution.

    When a library director that desperately needs funding, or line-staff librarians who see layoffs happening all around the state and are worried about making their mortgage payments receive phone calls or emails from the State Librarian saying, “I’m disappointed that…” Well, that can put a little chill in the air.

    When librarians who are key to the QandANJ effort are told by their superiors that they are not to engage in ANY conversations or attend officially sanctioned NJLA events where QandANJ will be discussed — well, that to me is an outright ethical violation of a pretty high order. But the catch-22 is that those who are being gagged and instructed not to speak or cooperate perceive that they are in danger of losing their jobs or fear being blacklisted if they speak out.

    Thanks again for lending your blog space to the furthering of this conversation.

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