|Himmell and Wilson Report Response|
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Equity of Access to Quality Public Library Services
Recommendation # 5Support and pursue legislative action on a slightly modified version of the recommendations of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission’s (JLARC) recommendations.
The JLARC Review of State Aid to Public Libraries that was conducted in the year 2000 provides an excellent road map for library improvement. The consultants concur with nearly every recommendation of the Commission. The modifications that we are recommending are refinements rather than a rejection of JLARC’s findings.
Recommendation # 6Support JLARC’s suggestion that "add on" (an additional funding program) to the State Aid formula be instituted to address the ability, or lack of ability, of certain areas to support public library services adequately.
The consultants believe that addressing the equity issue is one of the most important recommendations, if not the most important recommendation, we are offering. Virginia will not be able to claim that it has high quality public library service until it addresses the significant disparities in service that exist. As we illustrated earlier, most of these disparities are, at least in part, economically based.
The consultants agree with JLARC’s suggestion that the legislature consider an "add on" (an additional funding program) category of State Aid. Furthermore, we strongly recommend that this add-on program be elevated to the highest priority for funding. In other words, the "equity package" of funding should be fully funded before other components of state aid are calculated. Full funding for the equity package might be used as a trigger mechanism to lift or extend the population cap and/or expenditure caps.
The consultants envision this new program to be separate from the current State Aid formula. That is, this new program would not change or adjust the current State Aid distribution method. Rather, it would be a standalone program that reflects the inability of some areas of the State to adequately fund public library service.
The consultants also agree with JLARC that the use of updated data similar to that provided in the State’s Report on the Revenue Capacity, Revenue Effort, and Fiscal Stress of Virginia’s Counties and Cities is a fair way of determining need. These data reflect actual conditions that make it difficult for some jurisdictions to fund libraries adequately. However, in order to make the additional program effective, it would need to be funded at a level that is sufficient to really make a difference. As many as twenty-five or thirty library jurisdictions might be included in an equity add-on program. It is anticipated that at least $ 4 million would need to be dedicated to this type of program if it is expected to have a noticeable impact on library services in economically stressed areas.
Recommendation # 7Shift the funding for Find It Virginia from Federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) monies to State revenues.
Find It Virginia is one of the most significant tools available to the State to address equal access to information and consequently, equal educational opportunity. Many other states that began funding their statewide database licensing programs with LSTA funds have been able to shift their programs to state revenue streams. This accomplishment recognizes the importance and the success of statewide database access programs.
Find It Virginia should also be expanded to include licenses for services such as tutor.com, which is an online homework help service. Governor Bob Riley of Alabama recently announced that his state would begin offering free access to the service to any child in Alabama with a library card. This resource is an invaluable tool that is directly related to student achievement. The service is currently available through at least one of Virginia’s regional libraries. Making the service accessible statewide would be an important step in offering quality services to all who wish to learn.
Shifting Find It Virginia from Federal to State funding would also have a significant secondary affect. At the present time, libraries in Virginia lack a source of funding for innovation and experimentation. In many states, LSTA funds are used to fund pilot projects, to offer competitive grants to libraries who are willing to try alternative delivery mechanisms and to encourage the adoption of new technologies. We have addressed this issue under a separate recommendation on innovation.
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