As presented at SDLA Conference 2020 -- Virtual Conference: Sept. 30 - Oct. 1
State of the State Library in South Dakota
Good Morning! I am Daria Bossman; the South Dakota State Librarian.
I have been the State Librarian since March of 2013 first serving from 2008 to 2012 as Asst. State Librarian for Development, and then Interim Director from October 2012 to my appointment in March of 2013. Before coming to Pierre, I was the Director of the Morningside College Library in Sioux City, Iowa for 15 years. I previously worked at Briar Cliff University as a Reference/Acquisitions Librarian. I was a classroom teacher before going back to school to receive my master's degree from Emporia State University (Emporia, Kansas). And when I was a teacher, I was fortunate to work in a school district that believed in well-resourced school library/media centers managed by a CTL—a certified teacher/librarian. My first school was in Oklahoma in 1973!
I want to welcome you to this session entitled: "Hidden in Plain Sight: The State Library is for everyone." By the time I finish this talk I think you may have a clearer idea of why I titled this message, "Hidden in Plain Sight"! You might say, why "hidden"? –if you drive down Governors Drive here in Pierre you see large letters on a building that reads, "MacKay Building" and the driveway sign says, "Department of Education and State Library."
Just a little South Dakota history, Ms. Mercedes MacKay was the first State Librarian and she held that office for 40 years before retiring in 1973! She is the longest serving state librarian in South Dakota and perhaps in the United States! I don't think I will give her any competition! But I thought you'd like to know the name behind the building's name. I digress: We'll get back to the "hidden" part later.
For now, I'd like to thank those organizing the SDLA online conference and for inviting me to speak as they always do. I appreciate you squeezing us into this shortened online version! This has always been a very inspirational and impactful conference. The advantage this year is that everyone can attend! And before I forget to mention it, you can find our contact information and a bountiful supply of free educational resources on our webpage: http://library.sd.gov
In South Dakota the State Library is a division of the Department of Education. It is important to remember: Every state has one, some have multiple functions and are housed in large impressive buildings; others are much smaller, tucked away within a department of state government… Whether large or small, each State Library has specific, federally mandated functions and serves as a conduit for federal funds to benefit the state's local libraries (school, academic and public). South Dakota State Statutes also guide our work.
In fact the state statutes point out very specifically in 14-1 what our purpose is: 14-1-42 reads, "The State Library Office of the Division of Library Services of the Department of Education is the official agency of the state which is charged with the extension and development of library services throughout the state." In 14-1-44 goes on to list the State Library's responsibilities: (paraphrasing) 1) Promote adequate library services for all the people of the state, 2) Supplement the services of the libraries, 3) Increase the proficiency of library personnel through provisions of in-service and continuing education programs for library personnel employed in the state, 4) Provide for specialized library services and materials (Like the Braille and talking Book Program), 5) Establish and operate a state publications library distribution center (which we now do mainly via digitization) and 6) Collect and publish annual statistical data of libraries in the state. The statutes go on to discuss services to state government agencies, aiding local libraries, maintaining a collection of library resources, participation in interstate networks and systems which we do today through our partnership with OCLC. This partnership allows us to interlibrary loan any book from any place in the world. Lastly, the statutes charge us with creating a "network to make library resources available to citizens" (14-1-48). Since 2016 this network, which replaced the 35-year-old SDLN network, is our South Dakota Share-It system—over 5,000 million titles available within the state among our college, school and public libraries! That is a pretty amazing collection of books and resources available within our state's borders! We still have a few more licenses if your school or public library wants to join the network. Contact Nina. Your library must be automated, your book title records available online, and you must have a willingness to loan as well as borrow and a willingness to update your files at least once a year if not quarterly.
Now all this is a lot to take in! Like they say in some TV advertisement, "But wait, there is more!" The State Library has three main departments: Access Services is our technical wing of our operation. This is where we catalog materials and guide the South Dakota ShareIt network. We help librarians run the InterLibrary loan system daily. We have a statewide courier system which helps get books across the state to certain spots so that travel is not too far or postage too expensive in retrieving that special book.
Our South Dakota ShareIt network is one of the major State Library accomplishments in the last decade. SD ShareIt network replaced an outdated fee-based, main-frame model that was expensive to operate and limited participation because of high annual fees paid by the individual participating libraries. The SD ShareIt network now has over 90 school, public, special and academic libraries and the State Library pays for the licensing software. Like I previous noted, it currently contains over 5 million titles accessible for viewing and interlibrary loan. And if you join the regional group, "ISSI," your patrons have access to over 20 million titles. All amazing if you do not have access to OCLC's worldwide World Cat network; In South Dakota only the colleges and half a dozen or so public libraries pay for this worldwide access and cataloging privileges. The State Library has OCLC access as well, of course.
Access Services is also the department that oversees the collection and storage of state documents. They handle and organize all our digitization projects, whether current materials or archival materials. Though we still receive print documents that we digitize in-house, most documents today are uploaded into our system digitally and therefore accessible 24/7 on any computer from anywhere. You no longer must come to the physical building to find an agency report from 1993 or 1886 for that matter thanks to a change in our state statutes in 2012. The more we place online, the more state documents are available to the public. That's a huge plus on several fronts: much less expensive than storing and sending paper documents to 13 centers across the state, takes less square footage to store, certainly more convenient for researchers, and it helps to preserve the resource as paper can deteriorate over time. However, the one negative effect is that our work and our work product is much less visible to the public. Hint: That's one of those reasons I entitled this message "hidden"! Oh… now I am getting ahead of myself!
Our second department is the Braille and Talking Book program. This is our only department that serves directly South Dakota citizens much like any other public, academic or school library. This department has six staff (out of our 23 staff) here at the State Library. We have three Reader Advisors who work directly with enrolled participants (about 2000 folks at any one time) who want to receive audio books geared to their likes and interests. They can be mailed one book title at a time or dozens of books depending on their reading habits. One 'RA' also works with the schools to provide large print and brailled textbooks. Another 'RA' consults with nursing homes and senior living facilities in the state to make sure they have working equipment and a rotating, broad selection of book titles. Any person in South Dakota (young or old) who has a sight issue or even difficulty holding a book, can become registered and served.
The highlight of this year for BTBL was the set-up of "Download on Demand." This is a computerized system that loads up to ten books on one cartridge! This saves time, money and frees our staff to do other things. This department runs a successful winter and summer book clubs which are very popular among the younger folks who often cannot participate in typical public library summer reading programs. The BTB program is paid for largely with federal dollars, and they are closely linked to the National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Disabled. (NLS) which is part of the US Library of Congress.
Our third department is our Outreach/Development office. These are the librarians most of you are most familiar. We have four Senior Librarians dedicated to promoting libraries, library services and assisting librarians (or teachers) with continuing education and building capacity at the local level. They are Alissa Adams, our School Library Technology Coordinator; Laura Kelly, our Children's and Youth Services Coordinator; Kathleen Slocum, our CE Coordinator; and Kim Bonen, Digital Resources Coordinator. After COVID-19 any of these librarians can come to your school to do in-service trainings for free. Kim, most especially, works with familiarizing teachers and library staff with our awesome array of subject-specific databases. These databases are constantly growing and changing in content and functionality. We recommend librarians or teachers receive training at least once a year. This collection is thoroughly reviewed every two or three years by a statewide committee of librarians and state agency employees. If you'd like to be on this statewide review committee contact Kim. We use about a half a million dollars of our federal funds annually to purchase subject-specific databases that are available statewide. They are a safe and effective way to teach students and local patrons how to do research online. Alissa can also instruct teachers and school librarians on how to maximize the student-use of these massive, high quality databases for research and for reliable information.
Let's face it, in the last two decades, the public has been duped. The Internet doesn't "have everything," (only a fraction of the world's knowledge by the way). And what it does have is not as "organized" as it appears. And it has become all too clear, the Internet certainly doesn't analyze the value, validity or truth of a subject posted. And in terms of search results, it is often way too much for the average lay person to digest when keying in one subject or a phrase. Lots of miscellaneous "stuff" to sort through. It is Information overload, overload and more overload! Too much that is unorganized and unfiltered, and I'm not talking about the potential 'garbage' our kids can see, but just unfiltered in terms of academic quality and level of understanding. On the other hand, these peer-reviewed databases are filled with scholarly magazine articles, chapters on peer-reviewed studies, quality teaching videos, and so much more laid out in an organized format which helps students and patrons learn to do research in a thoughtful and systematic way. And for the little ones, there are short, interesting articles, videos and photos matched to their age, subject matter and reading ability. There are e-books that assist in their learning to read with fun characters hopping across the screen and exciting things to explore behind every click. BookFlix comes to mind. It is really a fun, entertaining learning experience for preschoolers up to and through first graders. When you have a moment, please look for yourself! Go to our webpage, locate the "A to Z Database" page; scroll to the "Bs".
Sometimes we get school administrators or local leaders saying to us, "Why do we need these databases? … We have the Internet now." This is how I describe the difference between just "the Internet" and one of the 58 databases SDSL has purchased with our federal funding.
Let me make this analogy. We all know there is a difference between a road traveled on and a destination or a place. The same is true when you are "on the Internet—it is just a highway… a road to get you somewhere." It must be a good road, but it is just a road; it is not the destination.
Let's say you need new tires on your vehicle. You can drive to Rapid City on HW90 and along the way, you might find a tire along the road, maybe two or three tires at different spots. But what is the quality of these tires? Are they new or used? Are they the size you need for your car? Who knows? You might hit it lucky and get just the right tire for free! Well, probably not! Or you might arrive at a Kohls department store and not find any tires there! Hmm… what to do? However, more likely you don't want to spend your three-hour drive to Rapid City looking in ditches or going to stores that don't sell vehicle tires! You drive to a Tire Store and you purchase a quality tire that fits your vehicle.
Now that sounds like a ridiculous story, but that is exactly the difference between "the Internet" and a specific, quality-controlled site. You get what you pay for and it pays in more ways than one if you plan and know where you are going. That's what students and patrons are doing when teachers and librarians guide them to specific databases. They are getting quality, safe information that they can trust. AND it will be obvious who the author is and the sources and perspective of the article. The State Library staff can help local librarian select the databases that are age and project appropriate. That is what librarians do. However, we realize not all librarians are trained in how to use these online resources. That is where the State Library comes in. We are here to help, assist and guide.
Now the Internet is important. Afterall the "road" must be the best to get us where we need to go. Unfortunately, South Dakota looks like a "swiss cheese" map in terms of who has fiber and high-quality bandwidth. We still have a half dozen libraries limping along on DSL and a few with twenty-year old public access computers! We have been working with the Governor's office to give them current information where broadband construction is still needed and inform them just how vital (essential) public libraries are to their communities. Not everyone has a computer at home, but now days everyone needs online access at some point. Fortunately, the federal CARES Act gave the State Library this past year nearly $80,000 which we quickly converted to local technology grants. We are currently in Round 3 having given out nearly $60,000 to 33 local SD libraries! And we also purchased "Read Squared", an online app for summer reading and other online reading programs. This is statewide contract so if you haven't signed up yet, contact Laura and jump on board! We didn't make our 100,000 summer reader participants in 2020. However, we did have approximately 85,000 kids participating in summer reading programs across the state! That is amazing when most of our public libraries were closed or had very limited services and programming because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
You all deserve a bow for what you accomplished during this stressful time in our country! Libraries stood up and showed local communities that libraries truly are "anchor institutions" and essential services. A few libraries were ordered to close and then reopened after leaders had to deal with angry local citizens! During statewide Zoom calls we enjoyed hearing your stories! South Dakota librarians are hard-working, creative and just plain brave! Kudos to all of you!
Our 23 staff do quite a few things from digitization to technical work to training/teaching to advising and consulting on titles to read or trustee issues, as well as library standards to follow or policies to write. So, when folks see the State Library, they often see it from their various perspectives. If they work for State government, they see us as a research assistant who organizes and digitizes their state documents; If they are a public library, they see our technical assistance with South Dakota ShareIt, our Summer Reading program for kids or our continuing ed. programming for their library staff. Others may see us as the conduit for $1.1 million dollars in federal funds annually which provides for the statewide Courier service across the state or purchases half a million dollars of subject-specific databases. Then there are others who primarily focus on our support of the Braille and Talking Book program in South Dakota; while others see our specialized book collections or our collaboration with organizations within the state to promote equity issues or early learning education or information literacy. Speaking of collaboration, the State Library routinely collaborates with the SD Humanities Council to distribute their free books and in fact, due in no small measure to our promotion, a few libraries were the beneficiaries of some of the $400,000 they received in federal CARES Act funding! Gregory Public Library comes to mind who received a $6,000 grant as well as one of our technology grants! Custer County and Hand County also received SD Humanities Council awards and several other libraries! And I understand there are ten more applications in the pipeline!
So, as I conclude, why do you think I used the title: "Hidden in Plain Sight: The State Library is for everyone"? Well, I wish I could hear your ideas. I have already given you one reason… converting print resources to digital files hides a lot of the resources and hides our work with those resources. Also, I think we are sometimes "hidden" because for one, we are too good to be true. We offer an amazing array of services to all our libraries and indirectly to all our citizens for free.
Sometimes local leaders ask us, "Okay, how much will this in-service cost us?" They are amazed. We come free of any charges. I think we are hidden because we are a small division tucked away in a much larger Department of Education. We are a relatively tiny staff in the back half of a state government building. We are hidden because, frankly it is almost overwhelming to try to remember all that we are charged with doing, and I haven't even touched on our federal responsibilities today.
With everything going on, it is easy to forget we are here. Those school districts that have school librarians (about 80% do in the state), they get reminded from time to time about the state library's resources and services by their librarians. But others tend to forget about us. Those superintendents and principals have lots of other issues on their minds especially now days with COVID-19 concerns. Then there is this stubborn myth that "everything is on the Internet." And frankly, lots of folks don't think about libraries every day! I get that. But we are here to serve you when you need us … just like you are in your communities to serve when your citizens or local children need you!
Library services have changed dramatically in the last two decades and so has the State Library. We have many resources available 24/7 online, but you still may need a librarian to guide you to the right spot, to the right resource. Now we don't want you wasting time rambling down the Internet! We are here to give you some specific directions. So, remember: There are no dumb questions. We tell our students that and it holds true for the adults as well! Local librarians sometimes feel hidden as well when you and your awesome access to the world's information is right there on Main Street or in a corner of the first floor in a school or in a large building on a college campus! … Do we need a flashing neon sign board!? Sometimes I think we do!
This year we completed our new Strategic Plan which is only ten pages long and quite informative. It will give you a nice overview of our mission and purpose. I'd love to send you a ring-bound copy. Or you can print it off from our webpage: https://library.sd.gov/SDSL/PUBL/index.aspx#Plans (Board>Publications>Plans)
It looks like this.
We have some amazing programming planned for the coming year—post COVID-19! Stay tuned in for in-person workshops geared to Early Literacy and other workshops with a focus on serving Teenagers! In March, Carson Block, our Library technologist consultant will be returning talking about the need for keeping current with library technology and how lay librarians who are not trained in technology can ask the right questions and move things along locally. Mark your calendars to come to Pierre on March 25th. Farther down the road, we recently learned we are part of an IMLS regional grant to train library staff to lead their boards in meaningful long-term planning and goal setting. And don't forget to join us at the Public Library Institute, our 35th year this June or come be part of a new style of "boot camp"—soon to be re-branded, "ExCite!" for our school librarians.
I want to thank you for taking the time to listen to the State of the State Library speech. As you can tell, I am passionate, my entire staff is passionate about sharing the vast resources and services that equip our librarians and make our local patrons, educators and students successful. I'd be happy to answer any questions or send you a transcript of this session. And don't forget to catch some of our staff who are leading sessions later today. I've heard they are awesome! Again, thank you for your time and attention.
Give us a call at 605-773-3131! Have a great rest of your conference!!
Thank you to the South Dakota Library Association and Julie Erickson for sharing the video presentation.