Public Library Study Announced
On November 3, 2004, the Library of Virginia issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a comprehensive study of Virginia public libraries intended to assist LVA in assuring that the Commonwealth’ s public libraries are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century as valued community resources responsive to the rapid change in technology and society.
The study proposals are due December 15, 2004 and must address the following concerns:
- Laws, regulations, and legal authority directing the establishment, governance, funding, management, and administration of Virginia’ s public libraries, and the certification of Virginia’ s public librarians,
- Funding, programs, and services (including LSTA) administered by LVA to support Virginia public libraries and their development,
- The direct state aid program including purpose, formula, and uses in conjunction with the recommendations of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) study,
- Issues surrounding standards for Virginia public libraries and certification of public librarians in Virginia,
- Role and responsibilities of local jurisdictions in the establishment, funding, programs, and services of public libraries,
- Methods of fostering collaboration and resource sharing among public libraries and peer organizations,
- Societal, technological, and demographic factors that impact the continuing growth and development of public libraries in Virginia.
This study is part of a long history of similar studies undertaken on behalf of public library development. Since 1904, LVA has assisted localities in the provision of public library services. In 1936 Assistant State Librarian, Randolph Church, published a Regional Library Plan in which he made a strong plea for a state grant–in–aid program. His plan included 10 regions to serve the state. Although state funding was not allocated until 1942, the General Assembly enacted the first comprehensive general library law and declared "it the policy of the Commonwealth, as a part of its provision for public education, to promote the establishment and development of public library service throughout its various political subdivisions." This very important language remains in the Code of Virginia, §42.1 – 46.
In 1968, following decades of library establishment there still remained significant numbers of Virginia citizens who lacked access to public libraries. Therefore, the state library commissioned the Arthur D. Little Company to design a master plan to develop a broad program of library service. The Little report concluded that the present state aid formula (from 1942) was not satisfactory and the level of funding was too low. A vastly different program was recommended at a funding level of $5M+. Linwood Holton, campaigning for Governor in 1969, took note of the financial plight of the public libraries and endorsed the state’ s plan. As Governor he shared his concern with the General Assembly. In 1970, the library laws were rewritten, taking the format still used today.
By 2000, the library laws and regulations were showing definite signs of age. The General Assembly directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to study the equity of the state aid formula and the impact of technological changes of library services. The highly favorable final report, released July 30, 2001, concluded that the formula has served the people well, but suggested several possible amendments to address newer concerns. The tragic events two months later plus the unstable economy precluded implementation of any of the recommendations.
The proposed study will use the JLARC recommendations, but will also address broader issues than funding alone. Significant issues of equity, access to technology and collections remain. The proposed study will offer advice to guide LVA to a new era.