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:


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.

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:



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