Findings - Prologue
When Virginia is taken as a whole and library input measures are compared to other states, the Old Dominion State ends up looking, at best, average. For example, using the fiscal year (FY) 2003 statistics (the most recent comprehensive statistics available) collected through the Federal-State Cooperative System (FSCS) and compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics, Virginia ranks 25th among the states in Operating Income per Capita ($28.41). The state ranks 27th on Materials Expenditures per Capita ($ 3.95) and 29th on Total Staff per 25,000 Population (11.73).
The picture is somewhat similar on the "output" side. The Commonwealth ranks 30th in Visits per Capita (4.38), and, in what should be considered a tribute to hard working library staff members across the State, 15th in Circulation per Capita (8.48).
However, a closer examination reveals that characterizing Virginia’s performance on common measures of library service as "average" is somewhat misleading. While the statewide Operating Income per Capita may be $ 28.41, the annual statistics reported by Virginia libraries for FY 2004 shows that income per capita for library operations ranged from $ 8.25 to $ 136.72. While the statewide average may be 8.48 circulations per capita, this measure varied among libraries from 1.26 items per person to 28.72 items per person.
The wide variation in both input and output measures raises questions regarding both the quality of library services offered in some libraries and the equity of library and information services offered across the Commonwealth.
It is also instructive to note that the library reporting the highest income per capita for FY 2004 was also the library with the highest circulation per capita. The library reporting the lowest operating income per capita, while not the lowest in the state in circulation per capita, was nevertheless solidly in the bottom quartile for this measure. It is obvious from a review of statistical data that, while operating income doesn’t necessarily translate directly into quality library service, nevertheless, money matters.
How much money is available for providing public library services and how that money is distributed are obviously important. Although state aid accounts for only about 10% of library budgets statewide, it is, nevertheless, critical to the success of most public libraries in Virginia. This fact is underscored when it is recognized that many libraries are almost entirely dependent on state aid for the purchase of new materials.
Another important question confronting Virginia’s public libraries is "Who speaks for libraries?" The twin topics of advocacy and public awareness were frequently raised as issues by members of the public library community. There are many evidences that the recent (and understandable) focus on public safety and security and on K-12 education have resulted in a marginalization of public libraries in the eyes of the public officials, and perhaps, even in the eyes of the general public.
The consultants believe that the findings and recommendations growing out of this study can be organized into four major categories. They are:
QUALITY OF PUBLIC LIBRARY SERVICES
EQUITY OF ACCESS TO QUALITY PUBLIC LIBRARY SERVICES
There are many specific issues that need to be addressed if Virginia is to be successful 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." However, we believe that the four categories listed above provide a framework for organizing and understanding these issues.
Findings - Quality of Public Library Services
If one sought a single word to capture the state of public library services in Virginia, it would have to be "uneven." Himmel & Wilson has worked on statewide studies of library services in more than twenty states. The spectrum of public library services in Virginia is among the widest we have witnessed.
However, the breadth of this spectrum isn’t entirely bad news. The libraries at the "high end" offer some of the finest public library services we have seen in the nation. For example, Arlington’s Central Library’s hours of service (76 hours per week - open four nights a week until 10 PM and open 8 hours on Sundays) are the best we have encountered. The highly developed web presence of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library provides a model worthy of emulation by much larger libraries throughout the United States. The adult programming offered by the Fairfax County Public Library for people of all ages is truly exceptional. Several libraries in the Hampton Roads area have highly developed partnerships that support various aspects of early childhood development. The Hampton Public Library’s exemplary Healthy Families Partnership with the Hampton Health Department and a variety of other community-based agencies seeks to ensure that every child in Hampton is born healthy and enters school ready to learn.
At the same time, the consultants also found that Virginia has a significant number of libraries at the bottom end of the spectrum. For example, the consultants visited a public library in Virginia that offers no public Internet access. We discovered a regional library with no web presence. Three libraries in Virginia expended less than $ 1.00 per capita on new materials in 2004. Our site visits revealed that numerous library buildings are not in full compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act Guidelines. Several libraries offer little or nothing in the way of non-print formats.
"Quality" can be a somewhat subjective term when it is applied to library service. Because public libraries fulfill many different community needs, there can be differences of opinion in terms of what constitutes quality. For example, if an individual values public libraries solely for their print materials, she or he may not be troubled that some of Virginia’s libraries offer little or nothing in the way of audio or video materials. On the other hand, the expenditure of less than $ 1.00 per capita on new materials might be seen as a significant deficiency. An individual with a disabling condition may not care too much about the collection of materials housed in a facility that is inaccessible to them.
No single measure can be used to determine whether a library offers quality services. It is necessarily a combination of factors. In the end, quality is a matter of the degree to which libraries are relevant to the people in their communities and are meeting individual needs. However, there is considerable agreement about many of the components that contribute to quality.
Virginia has a valuable document in place that attempts to identify these components. Planning for Library Excellence, while a bit dated at this point, is a fundamentally sound tool. There is no question that if all libraries in Virginia met all of the standards and guidelines presented in the document that the people of Virginia would be receiving improved services.
The eight categories used to organize the standards and guidelines document are also sound. They are:
Governance, Administration, and Planning
Community and Public Relations
Unfortunately, most of the standards and guidelines presented in Planning for Library Excellence have little in the way of teeth. There is, in fact, a relatively small set of "requirements" that must be met in order to qualify for state aid. The consultants have reviewed the requirements and believe that they are fundamentally sound. We believe that enforcement of this basic set of standards is critically important as a first step.
One particular concern in terms of the quality of library service is in the area of staffing and continuing education. As was illustrated in the introduction to this report, the 21st Century public library is more than just a passive warehouse of books. Professional leadership and an ongoing honing and refining of staff skills and competencies are critical to the success of Virginia’s public libraries.
Unlike some states, Virginia has been largely successful in addressing one major challenge. Through incentives for the formation of regional libraries, Virginia has been able to create larger, more efficient units of service. However, larger and often more complex governance units also deserve a high level of professional expertise in planning and implementing quality library services.
The past year has actually seen a deterioration of Virginia’s certification program for librarians and library directors at a time when what is truly needed is an even stronger program. Greater coordination of continuing education for library staff at all levels is also lacking. Other states on the eastern seaboard, including Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware, are working to develop comprehensive programs that will ensure that library staff at all levels will have the appropriate skills to offer quality library services.
While a updating of the State’s standards is needed (especially in the staffing and technology areas), an analysis of how State policies and funding programs encourage libraries to make progress toward the standards and guidelines is also needed. If Virginia’s public libraries are going to serve the public well, "library development" needs to be more than part of the name of a division within the Library of Virginia. Developmental policies and funding incentives that encourage excellence also need to be in place.
Developmental incentives such as requiring all library directors to hold a master’s degree in library science from a program accredited by the American Library Association in order to qualify for State aid is not just desirable. It is essential if Virginia’s libraries are going to flourish.
Virginia has a fundamental framework in place that describes and, in some cases, quantifies "quality" public library services (Planning for Library Excellence).
Virginia has a significant number of exemplary libraries that offer quality library service.
Virginia has a significant number of libraries that do not have the resources necessary to offer quality library service.
Virginia has some developmental policies and funding incentives in place that encourage quality library services.
Continuing education opportunities for librarians and for other library staff are somewhat limited and offerings by various providers (e.g., the Library of Virginia, Virginia Library Association, individual libraries, etc.) are largely uncoordinated.
Certification of library directors is an essential tool in efforts to ensure quality public library service.
The quality of library collections in most Virginia public libraries is heavily dependent on funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Much of the technology in place in Virginia’s public libraries is the result of grants and gifts; many libraries are unlikely to sustain their technology in the absence of supplemental funding.
Many, if not most, of Virginia’s public library facilities are inadequate in terms of amount of space, handicapped accessibility, and technological infrastructure.
Findings - Equity of Access to Quality Public Library Services
In the "Quality" section above, the consultants highlighted the fact that some Virginia libraries offer exemplary service while others are struggling to meet basic standards. The listings of libraries offered in the section above are merely a sampling of what the consultants observed and documented at the extremes. Many other libraries could be cited for exemplary services or for significant deficiencies. The point is that there is a wide gulf between a moderate number of high performance libraries and a significant number of struggling libraries. Depending on what criteria are applied, a case can be made for considering 15 20 of Virginia’s libraries as being exemplary. By the same token, at least 25, and perhaps as many as 40, of Virginia’s libraries could be considered sub-standard at least in some significant category. Approximately 40 libraries perform moderately well and deliver what might be considered an acceptable level of service.
The salaries and benefits offered to library workers in some areas of the state are poor. In some cases, libraries are overly dependent on part-time staff because of efforts to minimize the amount of the library’s budget that must be devoted to paying for basic benefits such as health insurance and retirement. These realities often make it difficult for these libraries to recruit and retain qualified workers. The situation is likely to get worse as the "graying" of the library profession continues. A few states, most notably Georgia, have instituted "personnel grants" that ensure that every county library has at least one staff member with a master’s degree in library science. While these people are not state employees, the amount of the grant is sufficient to pay an MLS at a level comparable to public educators with similar educational credentials. A program such as this might be considered as part of a supplemental "equity" funding package.
One bright spot in the equity of access issue is "Find It Virginia." The statewide licensing of a package of quality electronic information services offers residents of all parts of the Commonwealth extremely valuable, comparable resources. The importance of this program cannot be overstated.
Some other states have a larger number of libraries that can be considered inadequate; however, in very few states is the gap between the high end and the low end as striking as it is in the Old Dominion State. In large measure, the quality and quantity of public library service that is available to Virginians is dependent on where one lives. Although there are some notable exceptions, residents of northern and eastern Virginia have access to much better public library service than residents of the southern and western portions of the Commonwealth.
It would also appear that the quality and quantity of public library service are somewhat dependent on the relative wealth of the library’s service area. Of the 20 counties and cities with the lowest circulation of library materials per capita, 19 of the jurisdictions had median household incomes below the state median. Only New Kent County had a higher than average income while falling in the bottom group in circulation per capita. In contrast, of the 20 counties and cities with the highest circulation per capita, 13 also exceeded the state median household income. Furthermore, three of the seven jurisdictions with median household incomes below the state average that nevertheless performed well in circulation per capita are part of regional systems that include other jurisdictions with above average household incomes. Ironically, it appears that public library service is often poorest in the areas that would benefit from quality library and information services the most. The maps on the next page illustrate the correlation between household income and library use.
In short, it is clear that high quality library service is available in some areas of the Commonwealth and that a lack of access to high quality public library service is an issue in other areas of the State.
There is a great disparity between the public library services offered in some areas of Virginia compared to other sections of the State.
Disparities in the quantity and quality of public library services appear to be, at least in part, economically based.
Many of Virginia’s residents who could benefit the most from quality library resources and services do not have access to those services.
Find It Virginia is an important resource in addressing the equity of access issue.
Poor salaries and inadequate benefits make it difficult for some libraries to recruit and retain quality staff.
A few areas of the State have the wherewithal to offer higher quality library services but have not seen fit to do so.
Findings - Funding
In July 2001, Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released a legislatively mandated review of State aid to public libraries. The review looked at intended purposes of State aid to libraries and at the mechanisms used to determine the distribution of those funds. In general, the library community concurred with JLARC’s findings and was supportive of the Commission’s recommendations.
The Library of Virginia, the Virginia Library Association, the Virginia Public Library Director’s Association and local libraries looked forward to working with the legislature on implementing JLARC’s recommendations. However, the tragic events of September 11, 2001 changed the nation’s focus and put work on the JLARC recommendations on hold. The consultants were directed to review the JLARC recommendations as part of the current study.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission indicated that State aid to libraries was "
largely effective in achieving its objectives." Although the consultants generally agree with this conclusion, we offer the following observations. In structuring our response, we have used the categories used by JLARC in their Report Summary.
State Aid encourages the Maintenance of Standards and Local Support
We agree that State Aid has been invaluable in encouraging the maintenance of standards and in encouraging local support. Local libraries have been able to use State aid to leverage local investment in libraries. Furthermore, the potential loss or reduction of State aid has acted as a brake on the reduction of services below the required levels. However, we have already indicated that we believe that standards need to be strengthened. Expectations regarding the level and nature of services have changed over time and standards need to be revised to reflect this fact. We do not disagree with JLARC; rather, we believe that Virginia needs to increase its standards rather than just maintaining them. A strengthening of standards would likely require an increase in State funding as an incentive as well.
We also believe that the current level of State aid doesn’t do enough to encourage local investment. While the increase in local support documented by JLARC is impressive, much of the growth has been in burgeoning suburban areas rather than being distributed throughout the State. A higher level of incentive from the State would enable some of the roughly 40 libraries identified earlier as being "sub-standard" to gain much needed local support. Poor local support is the single factor most responsible for poor performance.
The Main Components of the Formula Should Be Kept and Updated
The three components of the State aid formula population, square miles, and local expenditures provide a sound foundation for the distribution of funds. This trio of factors has proven itself successful not just in Virginia but in several other states as well. JLARC’s assertion that these factors address both State goals and local needs is absolutely correct. We also concur with JLARC’s suggestion that the population and the expenditure caps should be lifted. However, the consultants would also caution that these steps must be taken in ways that do not exacerbate the equity situation.
Rapidly growing areas typically find their funding lagging population growth and the demand for services that this entails. The population cap potentially penalizes libraries in this situation. At the present time, only Fairfax County is faced with the dilemma of rapid growth and a population in excess of 600,000. However, this penalty could apply to other areas of the State in the future. It is sensible to remove this restriction while the cost of doing so is relatively low.
The removal of the expenditure cap is considerably more complex as well as being considerably more costly to address. A complete removal of the expenditure cap is probably impractical because of the nearly tripling of State aid that it would involve. However, the fact that the local expenditures cap has not been adjusted for fifteen years means that more and more libraries have been affected by the cap. JLARC proposed several alternatives for addressing the situation and seemed to favor the idea of applying a 3% inflationary rate per year starting with 1990. While this is a practical compromise, it fails to recognize that much of the growth in local expenditures is not due to inflation alone. Rather, significant growth is due to the fact that population growth has required additional expenditures simply in order to maintain service levels. The consultants believe that adjustments at regular intervals (perhaps every five years and starting with an initial adjustment) should be factored into State aid calculations. Consumer Price Index adjustments could be made in the intervening years to ensure that the cost of the five year adjustment is more feasible. Furthermore, we believe that the removal of the caps should be "triggered" by authorization and appropriation of funding to address the equity of access issue.
The JLARC Report also discussed the "regional bonus" available to libraries serving multiple jurisdictions. While some areas of the State that are not served by regional libraries take exception to the supplemental funding for regional systems, the consultants believe that this provision of the State aid formula is necessary to ensure the continuation of these larger units of service. Any reversion to smaller independent libraries would represent a setback in the development of quality library services. In fact, in the consultants’ opinion, there are still a number of libraries in Virginia that would benefit from participation in a larger unit of service.
Larger units of service do not guarantee higher quality service; however they do provide opportunities for economies of scale and greater coordination of services that make it far more likely that enhanced services will be available. Additional efforts should be made to encourage regionalization in the areas that could still derive a benefit from consolidated governance. Other efforts to achieve economies of scale should also be encouraged through grants and incentives. This would include efforts to build shared automation systems that serve multiple jurisdictions, regional coordination of continuing education opportunities, and the sharing of specialty staff (e.g., technology support staff, young adult librarians, etc.).
Local Ability to Fund Library Services Could Be Addressed
As was noted earlier in this document, people who live in some of the areas that could benefit most from quality public library resources and services do not have access to high level services. It was also noted that many of the libraries offering sub-standard services are in areas with low median household incomes. The consultants agree with JLARC’s conclusion that a separate stream of funding would be necessary to address this important equity issue. The two factors recommended for inclusion in a formula to distribute this supplemental aid, size of operation and low revenue capacity, are also seen as appropriate.
The consultants believe that the implementation of this JLARC recommendation with relatively robust funding has great potential for elevating the overall level of library and information services in the Commonwealth. It could significantly close the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" and could go a long way toward ensuring that every Virginian has access to good basic public library service.
Infopowering the Commonwealth Funding Should Be Restored
It has already been noted that Virginia’s public libraries are highly dependent on grants, gifts, and other "soft" money to meet their technology needs. Many Virginia libraries are struggling to sustain the technology they already have and are finding it next to impossible to upgrade their technology on a regular basis. Computers, network devices, and peripheral equipment purchased with Infopowering funds and received through Gates grants are nearing the end of their life cycle.
The JLARC report recognized that the nature of library services has changed and is continuing to change. JLARC also noted that the Infopowering the Commonwealth program provides a mechanism for bridging the digital divide. It is one of the few programs that offers a partial solution to the problem of equity of access to quality public library services. The State of Virginia should see the Infopowering program as more than simply an expenditure. It should be recognized as an excellent investment in the future of the people of the Commonwealth. The consultants thoroughly agree with JLARC’s assessment that Infopowering funding should be restored.
The Virginia library community also agrees strongly with this recommendation. The web survey of library directors that was conducted by the consultants asked participants to rate the JLARC recommendations on a five-point scale with 1 representing "very low priority" and 5 representing "very high priority." The restoration of funding for Infopowering outranked all other JLARC recommendations with a mean score of 4.63.
Public Libraries in Virginia Benefit from Collaborative Efforts
The consultants found many examples of highly developed partnerships between libraries and other community organizations ranging from schools and health departments to literacy programs and local history organizations. JLARC’s encouragement of ongoing collaborative efforts is fundamentally sound.
A Construction Component Should Not Be Included in the Formula
Restoration of the Construction Grant Program is Needed
JLARC indicated that nearly half of the libraries that responded to the survey JLARC conducted as part of their study reported significant deficiencies in their buildings. The survey conducted by the consultants garnered similar results. Over seventy-five percent (75.39%) characterized their library’s need for additional space as either critical or moderate with over forty-three percent (43.08%) saying that their need was critical.
The consultants observed many libraries that were extremely crowded and visited many buildings that were not originally designed to function as libraries. Many ADA compliance issues were observed. The question regarding funding for library facilities is not whether funds are needed for library construction and renovation. Rather, the question is the source of this type of capital funding.
The consultants believe that JLARC got it right in suggesting that mixing capital funds with operational funds within the basic State aid formula was ill-advised. The JLARC report characterized its recommendation for a separate program for library construction as a "restoration" in reference to the legislative intent in Item 255C of the 2000 Appropriation Act. In fact, this program never became a reality. Nevertheless, the consultants agree with JLARC that a separate construction grant program is a much sounder approach to meeting Virginia’s need for updated library facilities than is co-mingling capital funding with the operational funds provided through basic State aid.
A number of states, including Delaware, Massachusetts, and California, have extensive library construction grant or bond programs in place. State investment in public library buildings can serve multiple purposes. In addition to supporting improved library services, new or improved buildings can act as an economic development tool, can help improve blighted areas, and can stimulate local economies. As was stated in the introduction, public libraries are usually the most heavily used public building in a given community. The location of a major library structure can have a powerful impact on other development activities and can be used as a tool to combat urban sprawl.
The need for this program is great as is the pent-up demand. Detailed criteria and a mechanism for establishing priority projects will need to be developed if the construction program is reinstated and funded at a significant level.
Other Funding Issues
The consultants believe that there is at least one important funding issue that falls outside of the realm of the JLARC study. The consultants found little evidence that Virginia’s libraries had any dependable source of funding for innovative projects. In many states, Federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds are used for this purpose. At the current time, the lion’s share of Virginia’s LSTA allocation is tied up funding Find It Virginia. Nearly everyone agrees that this is a vitally important ongoing program.
However, the consultants wish to point out that many other states have been successful in convincing their state legislatures to fund similar online database licensing with state revenues. Securing state funding for Find It Virginia along with the other components of Infopowering the Commonwealth would have the double benefit of freeing up over $ 2 million for other efforts including innovative projects.
The Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission’s Review of State Aid to Public Libraries provides a credible, well-reasoned roadmap for legislative action in regard to State funding for public libraries.
The current State aid formula is fundamentally sound. Efforts should be directed toward refining the formula rather than replacing it.
The current State aid formula does not adequately address the issue of the local ability to fund library service.
Virginia’s public libraries are highly dependent on "soft-money" to fund technology.
Many of Virginia’s public library facilities are inadequate and/or do not meet ADA accessibility guidelines.
State funding for the Infopowering the Commonwealth program (including funds for Find It Virginia and for sustaining the technological infrastructure) is essential to the future quality of public library services.
Virginia libraries lack an adequate source of funding for innovation.
Findings - Advocacy/Public Awareness
A disturbing issue was revealed in the personal interviews conducted by the consultants. Although no one who was interviewed questioned the desirability of public library services, few non-librarians saw public library services as essential or as being a high priority service. One interviewee captured the general tenor of the interviews by referring to public library service as a "nicety."
It was clear that many decision makers do not recognize the important roles that public libraries can play in introducing young children to the world of books and reading, in supporting primary and secondary education, in stimulating economic growth, in developing an informed citizenry, in supporting workforce development, or in enhancing the quality of community life.
Virginia’s public library community seems to understand the importance of raising the public’s awareness of libraries as essential community institutions. The conversations in the focus groups repeatedly returned to the twin issues of advocacy and public awareness.
Public libraries have been positioned as highly relevant to their communities in some areas of the State; however, in many other communities, libraries have been marginalized. It appears that many decision makers at the State and County level recognize education as a high priority issue but fail to make the connection between libraries and education. The question is not whether additional advocacy and public awareness efforts are needed; the question is how to carry out these campaigns.
Some of the public library directors who participated in focus groups expressed the opinion that public libraries and public library development were not the top priority of the Library of Virginia Board or of the Librarian of Virginia. The roles survey conducted by the consultants underscored this point of view. Over seventy percent (70.97%) of the directors responding to the survey identified the Virginia Library Association (VLA) rather than the Library of Virginia as currently being the leading entity in advocating for public libraries. However, the directors saw a growing role for the Library of Virginia in this regard. While VLA was still ranked as the lead library advocate in the future, the Library of Virginia increased from just over three percent at the current time to over sixteen percent (16.13%) in the future.
Some directors participating in the focus groups came to the defense of the Library of Virginia and its limited advocacy for libraries. There was a strong sense that the services of the Library Development and Networking Division (LDND) are highly valued and an expression of a real sense of loss associated with staffing reductions within LDND.
However, several directors pointed out that public libraries are just one among a broad array of priorities for the Library of Virginia. The Library of Virginia is indeed a multi-faceted organization with many responsibilities that extend beyond public libraries. Nevertheless, there was a general consensus that the state library agency could be more visible in supporting public libraries.
The web survey revealed that it is library directors who feel most strongly about gaining greater support from the Library of Virginia. Survey participants were asked to indicate the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 representing "strongly disagree" and 5 representing "strongly agree." Just over fifteen percent (15.38%) of public library directors said they strongly agreed with the statement, "The Library of Virginia Board believes public libraries are essential to quality of life." In contrast, over fifty percent of general library staff and youth services librarians indicated strong agreement with the statement (52.97% and 56.92% respectively).
Directors did not portray the Library of Virginia as hostile. In fact over seventy percent of the directors rated their agreement with the statement at the mid-point or above on a five point scale. A score of 3.0 would indicate that a respondent was neutral, that they neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement. The directors’ mean response to this statement was 3.41 and only 2 of the 65 indicated strong disagreement. However, the less than enthusiastic endorsement also makes it clear that Virginia’s public library directors wish that their institutions were a higher priority for the Library of Virginia.
Follow-up conversations on this topic centered on the delineation of the differences between advocacy and lobbying, discussions regarding the range of the Library of Virginia’s responsibilities, and where advocacy for public libraries might appropriately fit within the Library of Virginia’s priorities. Most people agreed that public libraries have placed too much emphasis on the "full funding" issue and not enough effort on conveying the importance of the positive outcomes associated with increased support for public libraries. It was clear that greater advocacy by the Librarian of Virginia and the Library Virginia Board, while desirable, is not a "silver bullet."
The Virginia Library Association was seen as the leader in advocacy for public libraries both at the current time and in the future. This is not a surprising finding. State library associations rather than state library agencies do take the lead in advocacy for public libraries in numerous other states. However, most of the library associations that do so are either 501(c)(6) organizations under Internal Revenue Service codes or have separate political action committees. The Virginia Library Association’s 501 (c)(3) status limits what it is able to do in the way of "lobbying" or organizing lobbying efforts. A 501 (c)(3) organization is a religious, educational, or charitable organization. A 501 (c)(6) organization is a business or trade organization. One of the significant differences between the two is the degree to which political action is allowed. It is clear that Virginia libraries need a stronger voice. Whether that voice is a redesigned Virginia Library Association, a new entity, or an extension of the Virginia Public Library Directors’ Association is an open question.
In many states, library trustees and Friends are important players in advocacy for public libraries. The library trustees and library "Friends" who participated in the focus group sessions were relatively knowledgeable about their own libraries; however, they seemed less aware of the larger challenges facing public libraries at the State and/or national level. Trustees largely perceived their role as managerial or fiduciary while Friends saw their primary role as fund-raisers. During their interviews, representatives of VLA indicated that trustees and Friends have played a limited role in advocacy for libraries in regard to statewide issues such as state aid. Better communication of the key issues with Friends and Trustees and an active effort to recruit these individuals as advocates could pay handsome dividends in terms of legislative support.
Findings ADVOCACY/PUBLIC AWARENESS
Many decision makers view public libraries as a "nicety" rather than as an essential community institution.
The Virginia Library Association (through its members) is the primary source of advocacy for public libraries in the Commonwealth.
The Virginia Library Association is limited by its tax status in terms of its ability to lobby for public libraries.
Many library directors believe that the Library of Virginia needs to be more active and visible in its support for public libraries.
Library trustees and members of library "Friends" organizations have traditionally played a limited role in advocacy for public libraries in Virginia.