Who’s in charge? Public library boards in Indiana

Public board meetings have been all over the news lately, and public libraries haven’t been exempt. Even a seemingly quiet place like a library can be subject to unpopular decisions and conflict daily, frustrating both staff and patrons. A well-functioning library board is an essential component of an effective and welcoming library, and there are a number of laws that help ensure a library has one.

So how do public library boards work in Indiana and what are their responsibilities? Nearly all of the 236 public libraries in Indiana are governed by a seven-member board of trustees. These trustees gather monthly, in person or electronically, to meet with the library’s director and assist them in leading the library, to propose and evaluate library policies, to monitor the library’s progress on its strategic plan and to approve expenditures in accordance with the library budget.

In Indiana, public library trustees are not elected, but instead appointed, by local elected officials which may include representatives from their local county and school corporation. Trustees serve four-year terms which may be renewed for up to four consecutive terms, or 16 years total. There are some exceptions where trustees may serve even longer than that (e.g., if a trustee had joined by filling in for a vacant partial term, or if a diligent search of a small community did not produce a new qualified candidate). Trustees receive no compensation for their service.

Public library trustees are community members of the library they serve. In fact, trustees are required to have resided in the service area of the library they will serve for at least two years immediately before becoming a trustee. Ideally, public library trustees should be library users themselves. They should be advocates for the library in the community. They should be lifelong learners and willing to seek professional development opportunities to hone their skills as a trustee. Most importantly, they should always make decisions with the community’s needs in mind. All public library trustees are required to take an oath of office before serving.

Per the Indiana Open Door law, public library board meetings are open to the public to attend. Whether or not public comment is on the agenda is determined locally by the policies of each library board. There are rare occasions that a board may hold an executive – or private – session, in which case they are required to post a meeting notice stating the reason for meeting in private. Boards are not allowed to vote or take final action in an executive session.

The Indiana State Library provides support for Indiana public library trustees in the form of consultations, trainings  – recorded, virtual or live – and even a trustee manual, recently updated for 2021. We are also happy to connect library patrons with their local library board if needed. We usually recommend that anyone with a board concern try to reach out to the library’s director first. If they would still like to contact the board, they can send correspondence care of the library or attend a public meeting.

If you are interested in serving as a trustee at your Indiana public library, you may contact the library board or the various appointing authorities in your service area to let them know you are interested in serving should a vacancy arise. Even then, the appointing authorities have the final decision on selection. Additionally, the appointing authorities are the only individuals with the power to remove a board member should the need ever arise.

To read the Indiana Code related to library board duties and composition, click here.

This post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office.

American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

The Indiana State Library is pleased to announce that it has received $3,471,810 as part of the American Rescue Plan Act to support libraries and library services in the State of Indiana. The Institute of Museum and Library Services distributed $178 million to state libraries, who were then tasked with putting the funds to good use. The Indiana State Library opted to put more than half of their allocation directly in public and academic libraries’ hands by awarding ARPA sub-grants.

This isn’t the first grant the State Library created in response to the COVID pandemic. Last year’s CARES Act mini-grants helped libraries to defray the unexpected expenses necessitated by the COVID pandemic: masks and plexiglass dividers, stanchions for curbside pick-up, additional e-books and streaming movies for the times the buildings were closed, etc. 335 mini-grants were awarded to the tune of more than $650,000. While CARES addressed immediate needs, ARPA grants ask libraries to look into the future and consider what they can do to welcome back and safely serve the public moving forward.

So, what does that look like? For many, that’s finding a way to increase remote and outdoor access to library services. Some libraries envisioned outdoor areas equipped with Wi-Fi and furnishings to allow people to access the internet even while the doors might be closed, or to offer safer, open-air venues for programming. Others hope for some sort of bookmobile or delivery vehicle to make home services a reality. Many see the value in remote locker systems that would allow the public to pick up library materials after hours or during closures with no staff interaction. There are projects that expand the technology infrastructure, projects revolving around easily sanitized furnishings and better HVAC systems, and projects centered on staff training for a post-pandemic reality. In total, we received 154 applications detailing projects costing anywhere from the $5,000 minimum to even more than the $100,000 maximum possible award.

Now begins the challenging task of reviewing each project and deciding how much to award. While the state library aims to offer at least some assistance for all eligible projects, more than $7 million dollars was requested against the $2.4 million dollars allocated for aid. Grants should be awarded in October – which means there might be some exciting things happening at your local library later this year and through 2022!

All questions regrading ARPA grants may be sent here. The State Library’s ARPA Grants for Indiana Libraries page offers more information on the grants.

This blog post was written by Angela Fox, LSTA grant consultant in the Library Development Office at the Indiana State Library.

Federal CARES grants help Indiana libraries safely reopen

Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States in early 2020, libraries began to close as a precaution for their communities and staff. The federal government rushed into action to aid industries affected by the virus and subsequent closures. On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the CARES Act, which designated $50,000,000 for libraries and museums through the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

IMLS distributed these CARES Act funds to state libraries based on the population served and to other library and museum grant applicants based on need. In Indiana, a portion of the funds received were used at the State Library to ensure book delivery and other statewide services could continue. However, a majority of the funds were made available as grants to public and academic libraries to reimburse COVID-related expenses.

Allowable reimbursements through Indiana’s CARES Act grants for libraries included:

Personal protective equipment and facilities supplies and services, including:

  • Masks, facial shields, gloves, sanitizer and wipes.
  • Plexiglass shields.
  • Washable keyboards and mice.
  • Webcams.
  • Curbside service stanchions and signage.
  • And all other items related to preventing and protecting staff and patrons against COVID-19.

Hotspots and digital inclusion supplies and services, including:

  • Mobile devices.
  • Signal boosters and antennae.
  • Wireless routers and corresponding subscriptions for the duration of the grant.
  • Remote learning and videoconferencing platforms for the duration of the grant.

E-content, including:

  • E-books, digital movies and music.
  • Databases.

There was a great demand for these grants and to date the Indiana State Library has awarded two rounds of 336 CARES Act grants to Indiana libraries. Over $200,000 has already been reimbursed to Indiana communities through the program.

These grants will help libraries recover from the unexpected costs of new hygiene and distancing needs, while enabling library staff to try new service models including curbside pickup, delivery and virtual programming. Additionally, libraries were able to expand their e-book offerings to better serve patrons enjoying library services from home.

Many libraries have since reopened their doors to the public and will continue to reintroduce in-person services as the virus wanes. However, many of the items purchased through these grants will continue to benefit libraries by helping them to operate safely and expand their new virtual and curbside services.

Questions about CARES Act grants for Indiana Libraries may be directed to LSTA grant consultant Angela Fox.

This blog post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office.

Library trustee resources

Maybe you were just appointed to a library board for the first time, or maybe you have been serving as a trustee for 12 years and could do with a little refresher – whatever the case may be, we’ve got you covered at the Library Development Office!

On our Library Trustee page, you can find a copy of the statewide library trustee manual, titled IN the Public Trust. There is a copy of the Certificate of Appointment that is filled out by the Appointing Authority at the beginning of every trustee term and Conflict of Interest Disclosure Statement if it is every needed in the course of your duties on the board. You can find a template for board bylaws if you’re reviewing or updating your bylaws, which is required every three years by law. We also have links to the internal controls training required by the State Board of Accounts, which has to be completed by every board member just once. It can also be found on their website under Internal Control Standards.

In addition to these resources, we provide library boards with in-person – and now virtual – training upon request, as our schedules allow. There are five presentations types we may bring to your library board: a general overview, the trustee-director relationship, required and suggested policies, library expansion into unserved areas and a review of the Open Door Law and Access to Public Records Act. These training sessions are not public meetings under the Open Door Law, so you don’t need to schedule them to be held at your regular board meetings and you don’t need to post notice. We do, however, encourage you to host other nearby libraries during these training sessions in order to make the most of everyone’s time.

There may be times when we are unable to give presentations or when you don’t want to schedule a training for just a couple of members. In this instance, we have archived versions of most of our trustee presentations available on our trustee page under Webinars.

Other than the internal controls training through SBOA, none of these trainings are required by state law, but many library boards find them helpful in carrying out their duties. To learn more about our trustee offerings or schedule trustee training, contact Hayley Trefun in the Library Development Office at the Indiana State Library at 317-232-1938 or via email.

This post was written by Hayley Trefun, public library consultant, Library Development Office, Indiana State Library.

Resource sharing update recap

On Oct. 2, the Indiana State Library hosted a resource sharing update for the Indiana library community. The two-hour webinar detailed the latest resource sharing information in the state. This took the place of the annual Discovery to Delivery conference which is normally held in-person each year. This abbreviated virtual conference featured sessions from State Library staff and vendors, and was attended by public, academic, school and institutional library staff. State Librarian Jacob Speer and Nick Schenkel, director of the West Lafayette Public Library, kicked off the conference by welcoming attendees.

Sessions included:

EBSCO – Rick Rybak, Academic Regional Sales Manager, EBSCO
As of July 1, the INSPIRE virtual library has been updated to feature EBSCO databases, including an upgrade to Academic Search Complete. Rick explained some of the newer additions to EBSCO’s offerings, including eBooks and LearningExpress.

Teaching Books – Nick Glass, Founder and Executive Director
Nick introduced the group to the resources available through TeachingBooks, which is also part of INSPIRE. While TeachingBooks’ primary audience is educators and caregivers, Nick introduced the new Book Connections interface, which is intended for every reader. Resources on these sites include background information on books and authors, including complete audio and video book readings.

InfoExpress – Nicole Brock, Indiana State Library Resource Sharing Coordinator and NOW Courier Staff
Nicole gave an update on the courier service beginning with the shutdown in March to the gradual reopening this summer. Nicole passed along some best practices related to shipping. NOW Courier staff shared some insight on how their mission is aligned with the Indiana State Library’s and gave a preview of some upcoming developments, including an upgrade to a new platform which will reduce unnecessary stops.

SRCS and Indiana Share – Nicole Brock, Indiana State Library Resource Sharing Coordinator
Nicole Brock gave an update on participation in both interlibrary loan services, and a preview of upcoming SRCS enhancements. Following the presentation, Nicole also hosted an informal lunch discussion for SRCS libraries.

Project ReShare – Scott Garrison, Executive Director, Midwest Collaborative for Library Services
Scott capped off the morning by providing an update on Project ReShare, an exploratory service that has the potential to breakdown barriers between consortia and systems, putting the patron in the center and increasing access to library materials.

The recording of the workshop and presentations is posted to State Library’s Resource Sharing page.

This post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office, Indiana State Library.

Restarting resource sharing

As Indiana libraries closed their doors this spring during Gov. Holcomb’s stay-at-home order, resource sharing between libraries ground to a halt. As libraries across the state closed, the Indiana State Library made the difficult decision to suspend interlibrary loan delivery service. In fact, no delivery service was provided by the statewide courier during April and for most of May.

As public libraries began reopening their doors as early as May 4 – when allowed per the governor’s Back on Track Indiana plan – delivery service resumed shortly after on May 11. With academic libraries reopening later this summer, nearly 90% of our libraries are now back on InfoExpress and sharing books via Evergreen Indiana and our numerous resource sharing services.

During the shutdown, books in transit were safely held either at the borrowing libraries or at NOW Courier’s statewide hubs. Most materials have since been returned to their home libraries, but the company’s staff is still working to sort through a backlog of parcels, while working to accommodate libraries’ shifting schedules and reduced hours.

In response to the virus, and following industry best practices, NOW Courier has implemented safety measures for handling and delivering materials including wearing face masks and gloves and limiting contact with library staff. Additionally, safety precautions are being taken at libraries such as hand washing and quarantining of shipped materials and books. While some research suggests the COVID-19 virus cannot survive on most print materials for more than 24 hours, many libraries are opting to quarantine items for 72 hours or longer. Liquids and other disinfecting methods like heat and UV light are not recommended as they may damage materials. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared in a March 30 webinar for library staff that they do not believe library materials are a transmission route for COVID-19.

Now that most libraries are back to sharing, we encourage Hoosiers to take advantage of the resource sharing options offered by their library. If your library doesn’t have a book you need, ask circulation staff if it is available electronically or via interlibrary loan. Finally, all Hoosiers have access to INSPIRE.IN.gov, a free online library that includes research materials, news publications, eBooks, and K-12 resources.

A fall resource sharing update for Indiana library staff is scheduled for Oct. 2. Additional information and a link to registration can be found here.

This post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office, Indiana State Library.

Reducing barriers to access: Fine-free libraries

If you’ve ever accidentally kept a stack of books for an extra week, or needed an additional few days to watch a borrowed DVD, you’ve felt the pinch of the resulting library fines. While fines might be as little as a dime a day for a book, they seem to accrue exponentially. Not only are fines an annoyance, but they can be a legitimate barrier to service. Every day at circulation desks across the state, public library users are denied borrowing privileges, sometimes years after accruing fines, because of balances owed for overdue or long-lost items.

There are many reasons patrons acquire fines. For some, it’s simple forgetfulness. For others, it’s a larger issue stemming from life circumstances like a lack of transportation, work schedules or changes in housing. For example, when moving between families, foster children may forget to return borrowed books from their previous library. Or when packing up and leaving a precarious living situation, people may need to leave their library materials behind.

What if there was a way for library users to start over from scratch? Or what if there was more leniency for people who needed to keep books an extra week or so? Luckily, over the past years, there has been a nationwide push toward eliminating library fines, and the push isn’t only coming from library users, but the librarians themselves.

In Indiana, over 20 public library systems have opted to go fine free. This includes but is not limited to: Kendallville Public Library, Evansville Vanderburgh County Public Library, West Lafayette Public Library, Monroe County Public Library, Vigo County Public Library, Owen County Public Library, Morgan County Public Library, Anderson Public Library and more. Many more library boards are considering the move, especially after the Chicago Public Library boldly made the move in October 2019. The Indianapolis Public Library recently stated that in an effort to provide equitable service they are suspending the accrual of all fines and fees until further notice. Each library’s policy varies, and some fees may still exist for extremely overdue, damaged, or lost items, so please check with your local library for more details.

But don’t libraries need the money? While the public might perceive library fines as a major source of income for the library, they’re not. In Indiana, about 87% of a library’s budget comes from local sources like property taxes.1 Of the nearly $400 million in total revenue Indiana libraries received in 2019, only $6 million – about 1.5% – was received from fines and fees. Additionally, many systems have practiced writing off “uncollectable” fines over the years. At times, the cost of recovering materials or lost items can cost more than the materials are worth in staff time and collection service fees. Losing materials has always been a cost of doing business.

Some opponents to the fine-free library movement believe that fines and due dates teach “responsibility,” and not having them will encourage patrons to ignore due dates and hoard library materials. What some libraries are finding is the opposite. When fines are eliminated, not only are older materials are being recovered, and most items are still coming back before they are considered lost.

As a patron, what should you do if you have a large amount of library fines, but your library hasn’t eliminated fines? Try reaching out to the director or circulation manager at your library. While each library’s policy varies, some libraries offer the ability to reduce or waive fines and lost book fees in some situations. Some libraries periodically offer “amnesty” weeks where the fines on any books returned are forgiven. Some even offer opportunities to pay down fines with canned good donations or by tracking time read to “read off fines.” Some libraries write fines off as uncollectable over time, so the fines you thought you owed may have already been eliminated years ago. Please don’t let the $17 in fines you racked up in 1993 deter you from checking out all that’s happening in today’s public libraries.

1. 2018 Indiana Public Library Annual Report

This post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office, Indiana State Library.

2020 LSTA grants for libraries

Once again, the Indiana State Library will be the recipient of over $3 million dollars in Library Services and Technology Act grant funding through the Grants to State Library Agencies program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In IMLS’s latest budget, the federally-funded Institute received $6.2 million more for the LSTA program than the previous year, the largest increase in 12 years. These funds will be divided among all states and US territories based on population – a great reason to participate in the 2020 census.

To see how Indiana used grant funds received during the 2018-19 grant year, check out the following video created by Angela Fox, public library and LSTA consultant:

While a majority of the funds received for 2020-21 will be used to continue support for statewide services like INSPIRE.in.gov, Evergreen Indiana, SRCS and the Talking Book and Braille Library, a portion of the money will be available for 2020 LSTA grants for libraries. Two types of grants will be offered: A technology grant of up to $8,000 and a digitization grant up to $15,000. These grants are available to most libraries, including public, academic, institutional, special and school libraries.

Proposed projects should have demonstrable benefits to the library’s users and community members as a result of new products and services offered through the grant project. Library staff considering applying for a grant should reach out to LSTA consultant Angela Fox. Angela is available to answer questions about proposed projects and even provide a cursory review of applications before they are submitted.

All grant applications will be reviewed by a panel of State Library staff and external reviewers, which will be assembled from public, school and academic libraries across Indiana. Grant applications are due Mar. 20 and award announcements should be made by May 2020.

This post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office, Indiana State Library.

Helping librarians that serve the incarcerated – the Fall 2019 Institutional Workshop

Part of the mission of the Indiana State Library is to provide library services to state government and its branches and employees, as well as to provide specialized library services and training. One of the specialized populations that our Statewide Services Division serves are the prison and institutional librarians across the state. The Indiana State Library provides resource sharing services (e.g., interlibrary loan and book delivery) to the institutions. Additionally, Statewide Services staff provide continuing education to correctional staff, who are required to attend training to maintain American Correctional Association accreditation. To aid these special libraries, the Indiana State Library’s Professional Development Office staff provides site visits throughout the year. Finally, the library hosts an annual workshop where the correctional librarians can gather, network and learn about topics that can help them serve the incarcerated.

Each year, the morning of the workshop begins at the Indianapolis Public Library’s bookstore, where library staff and other nonprofits are invited to “shop” the books remaining after the public sale at no cost. State library staff are present to assist institutional libraries in shipping their materials back to their facilities via the InfoExpress courier service. This year, prison library staff gathered 50 large bags full of books, many of which were like-new popular titles – including James Patterson and Stuart Woods – to fill the shelves of their facility’s library.

The afternoon workshop was held in the Indiana State Library’s History Reference Room. Nicole Brock, ISL’s resource sharing coordinator, provided an overview and refresher on the state library’s resource sharing services. Wendy Knapp, ISL’s deputy director of Statewide Services, gave a presentation on library trends and the future of libraries as a whole, which helped prison libraries understand the current issues and climate of the profession.

Dr. Elizabeth Angeline Nelson (left) and Dr. Susan B. Hyatt

Finally, our featured speakers were Dr. Susan B. Hyatt and Dr. Elizabeth Angeline Nelson, two faculty members from the IUPUI School of Liberal Arts. Hyatt and Nelson have both worked within institutional walls on education and research projects, including the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program and the Indiana Women’s Prison History Project. Correctional staff learned about these programs and were encouraged to think about ways they could support continuing education in their libraries, of which many already hold or are seeking college degrees.

Attendees left with three contact hours which they can apply to their continuing education requirements. Planning has already begun for next year’s workshop and book giveaway, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 23, 2020. For more information on the workshop, contact Statewide Services or subscribe to the Institutional Libraries Listserv here.

This post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office supervisor, Indiana State Library.

An overview of the federal E-rate program

The federal E-rate program began over 20 years ago with a focus on providing low-income areas, schools, libraries and healthcare providers with telecommunications services, internet access and internal connections, including installation and maintenance at discounted rates. It is overseen by the Federal Communications Commission and administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company. Within USAC, there is a division specifically for E-rate in schools and libraries.

While the Telecommunications Act that established the E-rate program was passed in 1996, it really grew out of the Communications Act of 1934 that established the FCC and aimed to make telephone service universal, bringing it to rural communities across the nation. E-rate originally focused on both telephone and internet service, but in 2014 the E-rate modernization order was given in an attempt to close the Wi-Fi gap by providing only broadband funding. I guess they figured everyone had telephone service at this point, so yay for us!

The E-rate funding year runs from July 1 through June 30, but libraries actually start the process of applying for funds in the previous year. Right now, folks are starting to join the consortium or notifying vendors that they are seeking services for the funding year 2020, which won’t start until July 1, 2020. So, they’re always thinking at least six months ahead and usually an entire year.

This is the general timeline of the filing windows for the various forms, but the exact dates are announced through USAC’s website.

The State has our own State Technology Grant Fund that we use to help reimburse public libraries for a portion of their internet bills. This is allocated from the Build Indiana Fund and is a completely separate program from E-rate. We do, however, take into account the amount of money a library would be reimbursed by E-rate whether or not they actually file for it. So, if a library received a 90% discount from E-rate, we would only look at that 10% left when determining how much to reimburse the library from the State Technology Grant Fund.

Something that we aren’t involved with here at the State Library, but which may be useful to residents, would be the Lifeline program, which is also administered by USAC. The Lifeline program provides discounted phone and internet rates for those whose income is 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines, as well as those who participate in federal assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit and certain Tribal programs. They may also qualify if their child or dependent participates in any of these programs.

This post was written by Hayley Trefun, public library consultant, Library Development Office, Indiana State Library.