26 October 2014

Standards, Staff, and BDC Contingency Plans

Did you know that South Carolina has Standards for Public Libraries?  According to those standards, Beaufort County Library meets the target for Library card registrations and almost meets the minimum criteria for public computers.  We are in the ballpark when it comes to number of print volumes to provide "essential services" but this is no qualitative measure of the currency of the volumes or content of the volumes. (With a population the size of Beaufort County's, the target print collection would be twice the size.) However, our branch libraries are all under the minimal standard (1.25 square feet/population) when it comes to the physical size of our buildings - even the award-winning St. Helena Branch Library that was built only a few years ago.

Those who've been in the County during the past 5 years are aware that the Library has taken it on the chin when it comes to funding.  The Library was clobbered with a budget cut from $4.9 million in fiscal year 2011 to $3.5 million in fiscal year 2012, with a further reduction in FY 2013 to $3.4 million. The County budgeted $3.9 to the Library system in FY 2014 and FY 2015. It was decided to minimize the effect on public services caused by staff reduction due to attrition and no hiring, and maintain hours of operation as long as possible.  By June 2011, hours had to be reduced at the three regional branches to a sustainable 40 hours per week. The Library's desire to serve County residents as best we can, coupled with political pressure, led to an administrative decision to add 10 public service hours per week to the schedules at Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head Branch Libraries beginning March 1, 2014.  Each of those branch libraries is now open 50 hours a week. Taking all the public service units into account, the Beaufort County Library system - including the Beaufort District Collection - is currently open to the public 265 hours a week with a staff of less than 50 librarians and library associates.

Although the Beaufort County Library is a system, for the purposes of argument, let's look at the standards for hours open in relation to the population served by regional branch libraries.

  • Greater Beaufort has a 2010 population of 45,343 people. According to the standards, a population that size should have a branch library that is open 48 hours a week to provide basic services; the target is 54 hours a week.  At present, the Beaufort Branch Library is open 50 hours a week. According to the standards, basic level staff, i.e., those performing direct service for the public, would be 22.7 Full-time equivalent people of which 7.6 would be MLS librarians. As of this writing, the current labor force at Beaufort Branch is 14 people of which 4 are MLS librarians. There are 3 positions open.
  • Greater Bluffton has a 2010 population of 52,361 people. According to the standards, a population that size should have a branch library that is open 58 hours a week to provide basic services; the target is 62 hours a week.  At present, the Bluffton Branch Library is open 50 hours a week. According to the standards, basic level staff, i.e., those performing direct service for the public, would be 26.2 people of which 8.7 would be  MLS librarians. As of this writing, Bluffton Branch has a staff of  12 people of whom 5 are MLS librarians. There are 5 positions open at Bluffton Branch.
  • Greater Hilton Head (including Daufuskie Island) has a 2010 population of 38,209 people. According to the standards, a population that size should have a branch library that is open 48 hours a week to provide basic services; the target is 54 hours a week.  At present, the Hilton Head Branch Library is open 50 hours a week. According to the standards, basic level staff, i.e., those performing direct service for the public, would be 19 people of which 6.4 would be  MLS librarians. Hilton Head Branch has a staff of  18 people of whom 5 are MLS librarians. As of this writing, Hilton Head Branch is fully staffed. 
The standards say that Beaufort County Library should have a minimum of 81.12 staff to keep a basic library system running for a population of Beaufort County's size, of whom 27.1 should be MLS librarians whose jobs are not primarily administrative. We have 16 MLS librarians on staff who meet this criteria. We have 3 MLS librarians whose duties are primarily administrative. If the Library met the target levels of service, staff would serve residents 274 hours a week with a staff of 121.7 FTE.

At the end of June 2014, the Library had the equivalent of 49.26 full-time employees, including the BDC, the Technical Services department, Administration, and IT. The regular branch libraries are open 230 hours a week. (The BDC is open to the public 35 hours a week with one degreed librarian and one associate and there are no SC state standards for special libraries within public libraries.) But life happens in a library just as it happens in any other for profit or non-profit or governmental entity. Since June 2014, the Library has lost staff due to retirements and/or personnel leaving for better positions elsewhere. We've experienced slow filling of open positions (for a number of reasons, many of which are outside the control of Library administration) and some staff are away on temporary medical leaves. When people leave employment, those remaining on the team pick up the slack as best they can.

For a number of months now, staff from Beaufort Branch, St. Helena Branch, and Technical Services have been helping out at Lobeco Branch. Staff from Hilton Head Branch have been helping fill gaps in staff at Bluffton Branch as well. Virtually everyone on the BCL team has been covering at least a portion of someone else's assigned duties for quite some time. This chronic staff shortage is now reaching into the Beaufort District Collection. The only staff "reserves" left are Charmaine and me. Thus, the BDC's Preservation Associate is being temporarily re-assigned to Lobeco Branch Library beginning November 1st. In one fell swoop, the BDC labor force will be cut in half.

In other words, the entire Library system is feeling the impact of the long-term situation when it comes to staffing which in the end really comes down to long-term issues securing sufficient funding for operations.

Here's what's going to happen in the Beaufort District Collection come Monday, November 3rd:

As always, visitors in the Research Room are our first priority.

1) I will do my best to keep the Beaufort District Collection's Research Room open our customary 35 hours a week, that is, Mondays through Fridays, 10 am - 5 pm.
      Corollary: The BDC Research Room may have to close with little or no notice if I have to be out of the office for any reason.
2) BDC programs and outreach for 2014 end with the Zupan and Ballard presentation on Thursday, November 6th.
3) Maintaining and creating new segments for the "Virtual BDC" will slow down.
4) I will do my best to respond to telephoned and e-mail reference questions within 20 business days.
5) Processing of archival materials is suspended until Charmaine returns full-time to the BDC.
6) A planned digital project with the Lowcountry Digital Library about the "Hurricane of 1893" may  be delayed if Charmaine's re-assignment extends into January 2015 or later.

As soon as it is possible, we will return to being that full service special local history collection and archive you know and we want to be.

I know that all these statistics are difficult to absorb. A document comparing Beaufort County Library to the Public Library Standards with tables and charts, created by Interim Director, Jan O'Rourke and presented at an open to the public Library Board of Trustees meeting, means I can share this public document with whomever asks for it. Just e-mail me if you'd like a copy. The Library has nothing to hide. 

23 October 2014

October is Family History Month

As I’ve mentioned before, October is a busy month in the BDC.  It is Archives Month. It is Archaeology Month. And October is Family History Month.

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, says: 
Public libraries have a responsibility to serve the needs of patrons interested in genealogical research by providing basic genealogical reference materials and how-to-do-it books in the library and by providing access to additional genealogical research materials through interlibrary loan or referral.

Beaufort County Library goes one step further and supports some genealogical reference services through the Beaufort District Collection, the system's special collections local history library and archives. Approximately 35 – 40% of our Research Room and e-mail customers are interested in exploring their roots – and they want immediate answers.  Led astray by some of the popular television series purportedly unraveling major mysteries in a celebrity’s background in less than 45 minutes, many the genealogical neo-phyte has presented himself in the Research Room or over the telephone with nothing but a name and a family story that the ancestor was in Beaufort district at some point in the past. The lucky ones have a  name and approximate date of residency for the ancestor. 

Here’s the skinny:  BDC staff guide researchers through our materials. We share access to genealogical databases. We provide basic instruction in how to use the databases and resources we have in our Research Room. We provide general advice on how to approach genealogical research. We keep vertical files on particular families resident here for two or more generations when former researchers give us copies of their work. We do not have the staff necessary to perform in depth genealogical research for customers, whether in-house or those who telephone, e-mail, or send questions by mail. We provide very limited services for those who cannot come into the Research Room to perform their own work.  We can send customers photocopies or scans of obituaries from our newspaper files under certain conditions and for a fee. In other words, we provide materials and guidance that facilitate the work of family historians. 

Perhaps this fishing analogy will clarify what we can and cannot do when it comes to family history research: We provide the pond, stock the pond with a few choice species, and teach you to fish but you’ve got to bring the pole, hook, and bait. And, you’ve got to hold that pole, bait that hook, do the fishing, scale any fish caught, and cook it. We try to set things up so that you have a better chance of catching a tasty fish. We hope that you catch a fish.  Indeed, we will celebrate with you should you catch a trophy fish.  But we do not guarantee that the fish will be biting the day you choose to go fishing. 
From the Donner Collection, copyright BCL
Although the BDC appropriately concentrates on genealogical materials relating to our immediate area of Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper Counties, we try to guide anyone interested in pursuing this avocation to appropriate sources of additional information. Because of the nature of the printed materials in this collection, we can help the most with South Carolina ancestors. For those interested in tracking ancestors in other states and countries, the Library system provides access to Ancestry Library Edition (inside all Library facilities) to support genealogical research at each of the branch libraries. To facilitate researchers, BDC staff offer occasional genealogy workshops, set up one-on-one research appointments or telephone reference interviews by prior arrangement throughout the year.  

Bluffton Branch has a genealogy interest group, led by Debbie Dubrucq, that meets weekly on Thursdays at 2 pm.  Contact Bluffton Branch for details: 255 - 6503.

The BDC is piloting a genealogy drop-in Q & A monthly session at Lobeco Branch on the 1st Wednesday of the month beginning on November 5th and extending to at least March 4, 2015. At that point, we will evaluate the community response to the effort.  

If you'd like links to our genealogy packet hand-outs, including the fee structure for helping off-site customers, e-mail us. Questions?  gracec@bcgov.net; 843-255-6468

19 October 2014

Archaeology of Native Americans Lectures Oct. 22

Professor Chris Judge, USC-Lancaster will be in Beaufort County on Wed., Oct. 22nd to deliver two talks at two locations. Be sure to pay attention to the locations and times.  It would be awful to show up at the wrong lecture.

1) Learn about the archaeology of the local Yamassee Indians from 1684 up to the start of the Yamassee War at Noon at the Coastal Discovery Museum. The lecture is free but reservations are required.  Contact: Natalie Hefter, 843-689-6767, ext. 223 nhefter@coastaldiscovery.org.

2) The evening lecture concentrates on the Woodland Period in South Carolina, 1000 BC to 1200 AD.  Recent research is shedding new light on these Native Americans. The lecture will be held in the area just outside the Beaufort District Collection Research Room, 2nd floor, 311 Scott Street beginning at 6 pm.  This lecture is the first talk in a three lecture series to supplement the South Carolina Historical Society's "Shaping of South Carolina" exhibit on display now. Both the lecture and the exhibit are free, but space is limited.  First come, first seated.  Contact: Charmaine Concepcion, 843-255-6468, cseabrook@bcgov.net.

16 October 2014

Calling all Artifacts!

No need to register.  Just drop by the 2nd floor, 311 Scott Street and try to stump the archaeologists! Added dividend: While you're waiting, you can enjoy the "Shaping of South Carolina" exhibit on loan from the South Carolina Historical Society. 

And don't forget that Prof. Chris Judge will be here on Wed., Oct. 22nd at 6 pm to tell us all about "The Woodland Period in South Carolina" following his Noon day talk at Coastal Discovery Museum on the Yamassee Indians.

13 October 2014

Great American Shake-Out

I felt tremors of the Spring earthquake.  Did you?

Although SC isn't exactly known as an earthquake zone, our history says otherwise. South Carolina is an active seismic zone with an average of 10 to 15 earthquakes a year. Back in 1886, the Charleston earthquake caused 60 deaths and rattled most of the east coast of the United States. According to accounts here in the BDC, the earthquake caused a tidal wave in the Beaufort River and the "Naked and Afraid" exposure of one of Beaufort's finest citizens to his neighbors.

For the visually minded, our partner, the Lowcountry Digital Library, hosts images of the devastation caused by the earthquake at http://bit.ly/11eZymv. Also we have no images of the tidal wave or the public exposure to share.

Do you know what to do when the earth moves? 

At 10:16 this Thursday, October 16th, "Drop. Cover. Hold On"! to participate in the Great SouthEast ShakeOut, an emergency preparedness earthquake drill. "Drop, Cover, and Hold On!" means to dive under a sturdy piece of furniture and hold onto it for at least 60 seconds.  You have to hold onto the furniture because during an earthquake furniture tends to move.  Don't have any sturdy furniture? Emergency preparedness folks say that in that case, it's best to get on the floor and cover your head, trying to stay away from windows and things that might fall on top of you. For more information visit the Great SouthEast ShakeOut website at http://www.earthquakecountry.info/dropcoverholdon/.