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The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) collects and reports on key data points about public library activities, behaviors, expenditures, and staffing annually in the United States. Pre-COVID era data is important to interrogate and understand because the framework for the COVID-pivot starts with library activities on the day of the shutdowns. In the research paper in "Public Library Survey Data: Some Answers, Many Questions", Syracuse University Emeritus Professor of Practice Jill Husrt-Wahl presents a thoughtful discussion of the 2017 IMLS Public Library Survey data as more than past history. She writes, "Comparing this year, for example, to a previous year will tell the story of the negative impact COVID-19 had on some parts of the library, as well as the positive impact it had on other areas, such as ebook and database usage. Some libraries may use their data to point to the level of funding and staffing it would like to return."
In "Public Library Survey Data: Some Answers, Many Questions", Hurst-Wahl takes us through several data points to interrogate both the underlying reports as well as questioning the conventional wisdom about critical interrelated issues like the legal structure of public libraries, the staffing comportment of libraries, and the ways that properly-funded libraries express their mission, vision, and values. The crux of this discussion focuses on the role and importance of library staff, regardless of their job title or classification. "We know that this [IMLS] definition does not capture everything that public library staff does, especially considering both physical and virtual spaces," writes Hurst-Wahl. "This definition does not reflect the depth of community services that members of the staff provide." This report attempts to connect these dots and offers library leaders valuable insights for planning for success in a COVID-impacted world.
The report is available as a free download from the EveryLibrary Institute courtesy of the author.
About the Report Author
Jill Hurst-Wahl is Emeritus Associate Professor of Practice at the Univerity of Syracuse. She has blended library science, information technology, and entrepreneurship throughout her career, where she has worked in information technology as a trainer and a programmer/analyst, managed two corporate libraries and started her own consulting practice. Besides being an avid blogger, Jill is a frequent author and speaker. Jill is currently a member of the Onondaga County Public Library Board of Trustees (Dec. 2016 to present). She is a former member of the USNY Technology Policy and Practice Council (2009 to 2020), Special Libraries Association Board of Directors (2011-2013), and of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries (2007-2012). She is currently serving on the board of directors for the EveryLibrary Institute. Her current areas of interest include copyright, innovation, and the future of the profession. Jill was the director of the SU iSchool MSLIS program from 2012-2017, including its specialization in School Media (2013-2017). During her tenure as program director, the MSLIS program had its ALA accreditation review and was received continued accreditation until 2022.