Category Archives: budget

What we could be doing instead of breaking the “ebook blockade”

EDIT 11/14 8:04 p.m. Please forgive the the tone of the following post. I’ve rudely overstated my point, that libraries should accept that publishers are being unreasonable in terms of ebook licensing. This is unfortunate and I hope at some point public libraries and big publishers come to an understanding. But, in waiting for something like that to happen, I believe in alternatives.

Above all, I’d like a healthy dialogue on this topic.

Breathless report on the ebook crisis(!) from our library neighbors:

Managers will share about a confusing and frustrating dilemma: publishers are not allowing libraries, including Pierce County Library, to buy e-books. Publishers have not provided a clear answer to their blockade of libraries or holding them hostage to outrageously inflated prices or heavy restrictions. With the advent of e-books publishers have drawn an arbitrary line and they are either not selling to libraries or doing so at costs 100-300% higher than the list price of books or with heavy restrictions. Currently, only two of the six major publishers will sell to libraries at either an exorbitant cost or with substantial restrictions. Pierce County Library wants to participate in the e-book business and supply the demand its customers are calling for from e-book choices. This month the Library will work to inform the public about the blockade and further tell publishers it wants to offer e-books to Pierce County residents.

Dilemma! Blockade! Hostage! Arbitrary!

If you’re unfamiliar with the issue between major publishers and libraries on ebooks, here’s some background.

But, basically, publishers have either not been allowing libraries to lend ebooks or putting on some pretty strict controls. And, honestly, I’m giving up caring about it.

First, it isn’t arbitrary (though it may seem so) for a publisher to want to control the at no cost distribution of their product. As much as I’d like to wish for there be no difference between ebooks and real books in the library/publisher relationship, there is. And, publishers don’t want to play, which is absolutely within their right.

Second, I’m wondering if its good for libraries to be so wound up about caring. I know a lot of our patrons now own ereaders (and tablets and phones). And, since we buy or lease a lot of copies of popular titles, we assume they we need to make sure our patrons can get those in any format available. But, at a certain point, if publishers don’t want that to happen… well okay, let’s move.

One thing I’ve learned in the last few year is public agency budgets are a serious zero sum game. If you’re not doing one thing its because you’re doing something else. So, lets ask: if we’re supplying popular ebooks from the big five publishers, what aren’t we doing?

My top priority would be cultivating local content. Digitizing essentially public domain titles we own that no one else owns (local histories, for example). Or, maybe local music.

I know this isn’t apples to apples in terms of patron interest. You wouldn’t be able to say to someone looking for “Graced, Dream Realms Trilogy, #3 – Part 1” by Sophia Sharp and expect them to walk away with an ebook of “How the West Was Once.”

But, getting back to the basics of public budgeting, what is the most important use of a public dollar? A great local history available no where else in the world? Or (something less local and more popular):


Laura has been reunited with Logan, and together they must face the elders. But this time, they have the angels on their side. It is a precious advantage, but only if used properly…


Okay, I was a bit rude using that passage to describe what I thought. I still think my overall point is valid. Let’s spend money on important things first, popular ebooks second.


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Filed under budget, technology, What I'm reading

My community conversation reflection (thanks to all who attended)

I attended the community conversation at the Lacey Library for about an hour last month. I couldn’t stay for the entire thing (and I was in and out throughout the meeting helping my oldest in the library), but I’m glad I went.

Before I go further, I encourage you to read Justin’s take of the same event here. He has the sort of optimistic view of libraries that we need to move forward.

There were some great suggestions during the meeting. I also noticed that it was a good opportunity for library staff to talk about what was actually available at the library, which brings me to my main reflection I suppose. There is a lot of resources (teaching modules for example) that our typical patron doesn’t really know about. And, I think there might be a way to better arrange how they access these resources.

For example, TRL has built hands-on activity modules. These kits include supplies for special activities that library staff can conduct with patrons. Or, more basically, we have a teen DIY night.

Ellen Duffy, TRL’s youth services coordinator, was in the middle of talking about a science module to a patron and the patron and the patron asked how they’d find out when one was being deployed. These modules (as I understand them) are activity kits that each library has access to. They (the library) checks them out and then schedules an event. Ellen said something along the lines of “you’d have to depend on the staff at your library” and check the calendar when one was being held.

Okay, here’s my point finally: this process of accessing the very rich, tactile and non-book resources TRL owns could be more like putting a book on reserve. 

1. Patrons should be able to see a list or database of all the possible moduled events TRL could offer.

2. Additionally, patrons should be able to “reserve” a module for a branch. A single reserve shouldn’t mean that the event will happen, but when several patrons (say 5) all request the same module.

Lastly, its awesome to point out that the results of the community conversations are already being inserted into our budget process. You can read the results of of the conversation here. Our draft budget prioritieshere reflect some of the lessons learned from the conversations. For example, “Highlight current services/resources through programs, resources, advertising, outreach” in the priorities being a direct result of “(m)ore often than we would like, they asked for services that we already offer” (from the Director’s report).


Filed under budget, Chat from the community, technology

Reminder: Give us your ideas!

Starting last week in Lewis County, the district has been holding public forums on what this library district should be doing. These forums are a new regular part of our budget process, and its a great time to talk to us about what you want out of your library.

Go here for more information, but the two Thurston County forums will be next week. There is also a chance to give us your thoughts online.

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Give TRL your ideas (May 15 and 17 in Thurston County)

Here’s an announcement for what will hopefully be a yearly tradition of holding public conversations with our patrons about what the Timberland Regional Library should be doing. These conversations will cover all aspects of library service, including collections, technology, facilities and programming.

These conversations are part of our yearly budgeting process, a sort of early look out to the public to see what we could be doing differently.

There isn’t too much more I can say about these meetings, other than: please, please, please attend a meeting near you. If you can’t, you can add your thoughts below. Or, TRL staff will be setting up some online places to get your opinion as well.

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Agenda for today’s special board meeting

Here is the agenda for the special board meeting to finish up the budget related work for last year.

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Filed under budget, Meeting reports, What Timberland is doing

Documents for the board meeting in Winlock tomorrow (budget, reports, etc.)

The document most worth reading is the draft budget (summary and detail). There is lots of exciting things in there, but I’ll probably talk more on them after the meeting.

The director’s and departmentalreports are always worth a read. And, take a look at how our staff are always working to expand services to unserved areas around the district (working with the independent Ocean Shores in the departmental report and unserved Lewis County communities in the director’s report).

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New docs: TRL Professional Development Plan and Action Plan (and a question for you)

Both of these are updates (hopefully near final update) on two long term efforts by the library.

The first, the Professional Development Plan, was a project the trustees required over a year ago when we hired our current library director. At the time, the feelings by the trustees were that the next time we had senior staff openings that we wanted to hire from within. While our current library director did come from within our organization, we wanted more Timberland staff to be able to stand for positions like library director.

The ten month program will start next year at some point.

The next, the Action Plan, will be the new way we connect with our patrons and communities, constantly updating our understanding of their needs and adapting the library to change. In essence, this process will replace every five year strategic plan process Timberland had used. Instead, we’ll go through this process each year as part of our budget process.

The one concern I had about this plan was the idea of community chats. In the document presented to the board by staff, they’re scheduled to occur every October. At the board’s last meeting we had a lengthy discussion about moving these chats forward to May, front loading the process (at least in my mind) with direct community input and conversation.

While we are collecting a lot of data from direct surveys from users and non-users, there is a fundamental difference between input you get from a Q&A and a conversation among several people. While the in-person community chats will be open to the public, we’ll also make an effort to invite specific community members.

And, since we are making that effort, who should we invite to the chats?

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Filed under budget, Meeting reports, What Timberland is doing