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Meeting Minutes

Lincoln, Nebraska
December 8, 1995
Video-Conference Minutes

Present: V. Bialac, P. Brunken, D. Crews, S. Davis, D. Dragos, J. Leader, S. Person, R. Voeltz, S. Wise.

Staff: N. Busch, J. Minges, M.J. Ryan, S. Snyder, R. Wagner.

Welcome and Introductions

The video-conference meeting was convened by Sally Wise, Chair, at 10:10 Central Time. Introductions of Council members at each site were given. Sites for the meeting were: Beatrice, Chadron, Columbus, Kearney, Lincoln, Norfolk, Omaha, and Scottsbluff.

The agenda was approved as presented by acclamation. Phyllis Brunken moved and Richard Voeltz seconded the minutes be approved as received. The motion carried.


Federal Library Programs Status

Rod Wagner updated the Council on the status of the federal library programs. There has been little change since the last Council meeting. The House and the Senate have both passed versions of the new Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). A committee has been working on a conciliation of each version. We understand that the version being developed is close to the one the library profession advocates. Actual funding for LSTA is still unknown. It will probably lose the construction and technology part of LSCA. However, funds appropriated for LSTA will cover services and technology, and there will be leeway on how it is to be used.

Funding for the current LSCA is still unknown. The Library Commission received a partial payment of those funds. We must now wait for a budget from the President and Congress before we receive any additional funds.

State Budget Prospects

Rod Wagner reported on the state budget. There are some indications that state revenues are below projection and there may need to be some adjustments made. The Governor and the Legislature may consider some budget reductions in January. The impact of the lack of federal funds is also being considered. This is not yet a problem for the Library Commission.

Nebrask@ Online

Rod Wagner updated the Council on activities of Nebrask@ Online. The network manager is aware that some libraries have had problems installing and using the software. They will work with those libraries to resolve the problems. They are also hiring a new staff member who will be responsible for customer support.

Work is underway by Nebrask@ Online staff to convert the Legislative databases to a web environment. The statutes will be converted first. A demonstration version of the statutes will be ready in a week or two. Legislative committee calendars will be converted second, then the bills and bill action. The Library Commission has authority to provide that information to Nebraska libraries. The Commission considers it a basic public offering and we plan no fee connected in using it. When in demonstration form it will be available to libraries only, not for the public. Anyone affiliated with a library will have the opportunity to access it. We hope the Legislature will allow access by the general public after the demonstration is proven successful, it is their decision.

Randy Moody, Overview of Property Tax Initiatives

Randy Moody, lobbyist for the Nebraska Library Association, (NLA), updated the Council on property tax initiatives that are likely to be introduced in the next state legislative session. There could be five constitutional amendments on the ballot in 1996 to limit government spending or revenue raising in some way. Two efforts will probably come through the Legislature, three probably by petition.

The two that will most likely come through the Legislature are: 1) the resolution introduced in 1995, LR 93, puts a levy cap on local government property taxes. It was introduced last year, there were not enough votes to put it on the ballot. 2) Governor 's proposal will probably be introduced by resolution by a senator. Randy Moody has not seen it yet. It proposes freezing spending or reducing spending.

The three that will probably come via petition are: 1) an effort just announced by Ed Jacksha, Randy Moody has not seen it yet. It apparently proposes freezing spending at the 1997 level for three years. After that, the budget could be increased. They are currently gathering signatures.

2) the Trio Amendment would abolish all property taxes. No replacement revenue is included in the amendment proposed. One possibility is a transaction tax, for every transaction that takes place, the buyer and seller each pay 1/2 percent in tax. 3) The Citizens ' Amendment, supported by the Nebraska Education Association and the Nebraska Farm Bureau, contains levy caps of 1.80 for incorporated areas and 1.30 outside incorporated areas. This amendment contains protection for education by guaranteeing the quality of education for each student. Randy Moody is involved with this amendment.

The possible impact on libraries from these proposals is substantial. There is no protection for libraries included in any of the proposals. Government will have to look for other revenue sources.

Criticism of levy caps include: 1) involves a tax shift, property taxes are the largest. The Citizens ' Amendment balances the three taxes more evenly, 2) spending freezes don 't reduce property taxes.

The teachers support the Citizens ' Amendment since it is the lesser of the possibilities, and also to be proactive in supporting an approach that will give relief and still protect schools and education.

Some ideas for librarians to consider:

  • Libraries are always on the block for cuts, we should look at the amounts being spent on libraries in the state and ask for more state support for library service.  

  • Broadening the tax base via county libraries is a good approach and should be pursued. 

  • There will be more competition from many directions for state aid funds.  

  • There will likely be some kind of property tax relief because there is overwhelming support for it. Libraries need to be prepared and work with city officials and the state to determine other sources of funding. There may be two or three amendments on the ballot.  

  • People will look at the different layers of government and determine which is needed and which is not.  

  • Current property tax levys vary throughout the state. The range is probably 1.80-2.50. Caps were selected based on what, in general, would be a relief. The Citizens ' Amendment proposed $400 million cut.  

  • If property tax is abolished, that will eliminate 1.5 billion dollars. The Legislature will have to look at other approaches for revenue.  

  • The Citizens ' Amendment includes language that requires the Legislature to guarantee a certain level of education. "Quality education " is defined by legislation in LB 994 passed in 1994. 

  • The Governor is opposed to levy limits, he proposes less spending.  

  • The Legislature will adjourn April 15.  

  • If two or more amendments are on the ballot and both or all pass, what happens? If they conflict, the one with the most votes wins. If they do not conflict, the Supreme Court will have to resolve the issue. It has never happened before. 

  • For a constitutional amendment to pass, it must have 35% of total voting in the election, and a majority of the votes. 

  • For Nebraska to have good and equal library service across the state, we may want to look at more state involvement. Local governments in some communities are unable to fund their libraries adequately. State funds could ensure more equal service. Public opinion is very supportive of libraries. People often don 't know what they are missing if their library is underfunded.  

  • The federal government is saying it will give some funds (not enough) and responsibility to the states. The states are to determine where to spend the block grant funds. There are not enough funds for everything so states are looking for other revenue sources. At the same time, citizens are calling for less taxation.

State Aid Proposal

Nancy Busch stated she took the information technology fund proposal and expanded it based on the Council 's last discussion. The "Draft Document " included in the mailing prior to this meeting is a skeleton of where the current aid is expended. Brackets at the end of each section indicate whether state funds, federal funds or both are used. The Council is asked to discuss the possibility of requesting major increases in all areas of aid funding. An analysis of the sources of funding for public libraries in Nebraska could be used to support the proposal.


  • The biennial budget is to be submitted next September. We need to work extensively now until then for library community and other support for the proposal.  

  • We need to be proactive. The Council can help to provide a direction and a document to get things under way.  

  • There is a political dilemma, we don 't know what the chances are for any agency to receive additional funding. 

  • We have to be able to tell the Legislature and the citizens what they will get if this funding is increased. 

  • We also should develop some monetary amount to allow non-accredited libraries to become accredited, as well as encouraging larger service areas.  

  • It could be awkward. The perception of consolidation of services may be positive to some members of the Legislature. Consolidation is not necessarily popular with the library community. 

  • We can compile the numbers for what it currently costs accredited libraries to run, then extrapolate it over the remainder of the area to estimate service costs for a larger area.  

  • Scenario building could be a successful approach for this campaign. 

  • Teachers do not have unanimous support for the Citizens ' Amendment because some feel threatened. Administrators, in general, are opposed. The NSEA 's mission is to protect its members. In this era of budget cuts, many libraries may not survive. Consolidation is one way that the citizens will continue to have library service, or improved library service. It will take a lot of time to explain the plan and to reduce fears.  

  • We anticipate a lack of support in some areas for the increase. Maybe if we emphasize equality of service and access to information electronically, the campaign may be more successful.  

  • The support document should indicate the percentage of public libraries that are not accredited. It should also include information on the requirements to be accredited. If there are standards, let the citizens and Legislature know what they are. Three items: 1) get those below up to standard 2) funds to keep those accredited from slipping and 3) to become (or maintain) better than minimum standards.  

  • We need to state what are the critical attributes of libraries, or what are quality library and information services, as was done with education in the Citizens ' Amendment.  

  • Emphasize that currently public libraries receive less than 2% of state tax dollars. So much more could be accomplished with the increase.  

  • Compare the percentage of local funds and the percentage of state funds. Also show the source(s) of funds for each library in the state.  

  • Libraries are not now serving citizens based on equal tax base. An example is the $25.11 paid in Chadron for library service. People living outside Chadron pay $12.00 for an individual library card, and $17.00 for a family card. It is not an equal amount. 

  • Another emphasis is that libraries are a part of government that is working. Reward the positive.  

  • Some people assume that with the Internet communities will no longer need libraries. Reassert to people what the purpose of libraries is, and tie into new technology as a library service. Electronic access is another method of delivery of information.  

  • Randy Moody suggested we first conduct focus groups or a poll to find out scientifically what people 's impressions are of libraries. We can tailor our approach based on the response we receive from it. We will find out what message to promote from gathering this information.  

  • We also need to assess the library community and the level of support for the campaign.  

  • Look at the past: the library community had a good message six years ago, funds were available, and so libraries were successful in increasing state aid at that time. This campaign is different because there are not excess funds available. There will be competition. One advantage is that we are not large, and the total increase we ask for is not going to be near as much as others.  

  • Grassroots support is best: local librarians promoting this proposal to their individual senator.

Meeting Wrap-Up and Adjournment

The next meeting will be a two-day, joint meeting with the Commissioners. It will be held in Kearney on March 14 and 15, 1996. The Council will convene on Thursday afternoon, there will be an evening program, and a joint meeting of the Commissioners and Council will be held Friday morning. Separate business meetings will be held in the afternoon.

It was suggested that focus groups be held prior to the March Council meeting to use the information gathered to help the Council plan strategies.

Phyllis Brunken moved: The Nebraska State Advisory Council on Libraries major goal for 1996 is moving forward the campaign "Bucks for Libraries. " Verda Bialac seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.

Nancy Busch will work with a core planning group consisting of Jeanne Leader, Phyllis Brunken, Sally Wise, Jeanne Saathoff, and Verda Bialac. A January video-conference meeting will be scheduled. Other key people may be invited to join the planning group.

The Library Commission will investigate possible mechanisms for finding public opinion. We can search the documents from the WHCLIS conference for information we can use in support of the proposal. There are also some other sources we may wish to consider.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 12:00 noon.

Respectfully submitted, Sally Snyder.

For more information, contact Sue Biltoft.