From the New Jersey State Library:
As we enter into calendar year 2019, we would like to provide an update for the New Jersey library community on the continuing work being done regarding the future of statewide services. We recognize that like us, many of you are working earnestly to submit and substantiate budget requests. We also recognize that your planning efforts are challenged by the uncertainties of network funding. It is our intent to share with you as much as we know, and in doing so, provide you with a view of what is still in flux and what is becoming clearer on a weekly basis.
This update focuses primarily on the services funded through state funds designated in support of the New Jersey Library Network; and administered by LibraryLinkNJ, the New Jersey Library Cooperative (LLNJ). LLNJ is the current, consolidated version of what was formerly the ‘New Jersey Regional Library Cooperatives’ system. The New Jersey State Library (NJSL) has contracted with LLNJ over the past 10 years to manage the provision of interlibrary delivery, some continuing education, and other statewide services and programming. LLNJ has always been a fully responsible contractor, providing significant value to the libraries and library personnel of the state. We applaud the role that LLNJ has played in connecting libraries to each other in order to promote and maximize resource sharing, as the state’s libraries strive to facilitate equity of access to information and services to all of the people of New Jersey.
Over much of calendar year 2018, we at NJSL have been involved in several long range initiatives geared towards assessing and monitoring current needs, available resources, and budget constraints, in order to more effectively plan for the future. The Statewide Technology Infrastructure Study is being finalized and will be released soon. The study is an overview of existing technology resources available to NJ libraries with an eye to future trends. In addition, our two-part library community ranking survey of current statewide services has come to a close, and we are now reviewing the data and will be releasing the findings in the coming weeks. And, perhaps most importantly, LLNJ’s Executive Board is is close to finalizing their determinations regarding the Cooperative’s future.
With the onset of calendar year 2018, LLNJ and the broader NJ library community faced challenges regarding one of their most important deliverables – interlibrary delivery. Although funding for the ‘NJ Library Network’ is administered by the State Library, LLNJ has its own Executive Board, President, Treasurer, and Executive Director, and they are responsible for their own management. The LLNJ Executive Board decided to enter into a contract with a public relations firm to develop a comprehensive crisis communications plan, and they formed an Advocacy Task Force to spearhead these efforts. Recognizing the deliberate division of power between the LLNJ Cooperative and the State Library, we have made every effort to take a step back as LLNJ has worked through these challenges, and we support the decisions they have made.
Once the bids came in, in response to the reissuing of the delivery contract RFP, and the funding shortfall became apparent, NJSL used what little flexibility we had within the FY19 budget to supplement our portion of several joint efforts between NJSL and LLNJ, thereby freeing up $115,000 of the Network Aid funds allocated to LLNJ. However, the Network Aid budget has been level funded for a decade, ever since having experienced a 43% cut. The FY19 budget is comparable to that of FY98, twenty years ago, and is not adequate to fully support today’s needs. Rising costs, decreased purchasing power, and the increasing demands of new and improved models of library service have left us with a budget that provides very little, if any, latitude. Therefore, it was not possible for the State Library to contribute additional funds to make up the current deficit. The LLNJ Executive Board has, as they often remind the library field, “left no stone unturned” in terms of securing additional revenue. To that end, a bill, A-4815, has been introduced in the New Jersey Assembly to provide supplemental funding for Network Aid in the current year. Additionally, there are efforts under way to introduce a companion bill in the Senate and they both will need to make their way through the legislative process.
Recognizing we are at a critical crossroads, NJSL has taken this opportunity to assess the value that the library community places in statewide services through a series of surveys. Every effort will be made to sustain the provision of support for those most highly ranked services – including delivery, interlibrary loan, technology, electronic resources and continuing education. As in the past, the extent of support is dependent upon available resources. It is clear to all of us that while services and demand have risen – so have the associated costs. Please know that we are taking into consideration all of the information we have managed to obtain from our research and your input, and will be making every effort to retain a functioning resource-sharing network for the libraries and people of the state.
In reviewing early results from the statewide resource sharing survey, it is obvious that DELIVERY is among the highest priorities.
The LLNJ Executive Board is scheduled to make a decision regarding potential dissolution or continuation at their February 7 meeting. In the meantime, we want to assure you that the State Library is committed to the continuation of the NJ Library Network purpose to “… promote efficient and effective cooperation among the various types of libraries in New Jersey so that the State’s residents will have full and equal access to library materials and programs.”
More information will be forthcoming. Please check back here for future updates.