Department of Libraries   NEWS

  109 State St., Montpelier, VT  05609 • (802) 828-3261 •

James H. Douglas, Governor  •  Sybil Brigham McShane, State Librarian
No. 136 • Fall 2006


Are Department of Libraries services keeping up with the demands of today's public libraries and their customers?   Will they be adequate in the future?    In what direction should our services be moving?    The Department felt it wise to conduct an impartial study to help determine if changes should be made and what priorities it should set.   University of Vermont Library Associate Professor Trina Magi conducted a survey of Vermont public and academic library directors earlier this year, and found that

Another goal of the study was to gather information about the strength and weaknesses of Vermont's libraries.   The survey found that

State Librarian Sybil Brigham McShane said that she is   "pleased that so many librarians gave the Department's services high marks and grateful for their thoughtful responses to the survey."   She noted that "In the best of all worlds, all libraries would be highly satisfied with all of the Department's services. That is an achievement towards which we will continue to strive."   Suggestions about future directions will be incorporated into the Department's next five year plan whenever possible.   Copies of the report are available at:


The Vermont Board of Libraries held its regular meeting on Tuesday, August 15 at the Midstate Regional Library, Berlin.    John Rosenthal of Charlotte was re-elected Chair of the Board, and David Brown of Shelburne was elected Vice-Chair.   State Librarian Sybil Brigham McShane offered the results of a recently completed survey of public library directors' satisfaction with Department services.    She noted that most of the responses were extremely positive and that librarians generally feel the Department is heading in the right direction.

Public Library Support Services Director Marianne Kotch discussed her recent calculations of public libraries' return on investment based on a South Carolina study and gave an update on the Vermont Library Association's Government Relations Committee' ongoing state aid initiative.

The Vermont Board of Libraries serves in an advisory capacity to the State Librarian and also is the state's hearing board for geographic name changes.   Members include David E. L. Brown (Shelburne), Susan Roush Bruce (St. Albans), Joan Rahe (Bennington), John Rosenthal (Charlotte), and Linda Williamson (Hartland).   It generally meets on the third Tuesday of the even-numbered months at 10:30 am at the Midstate Regional Library, Berlin.   Agendas and minutes of the meetings are posted at the Board of Libraries website:


Gerrie Denison of Montpelier has joined the staff at the Department of Libraries in Montpelier and will split her time between the law library, interlibrary loan, and the Technical Services Unit.  Most recently, Gerrie worked at Gary Library of the Union Institute and University's Vermont College campus in Montpelier.   She received her MLS from the University of Arizona (Tucson) and has worked in various types of libraries in Vermont and Massachusetts as well as Bear Pond Books in Montpelier and the Vermont Institute for Science, Mathematics, and Technology.


Vermont's 189 public libraries provide a wide variety of services to their communities, including information in a variety of formats, tools for lifelong learning, recreational reading, community meeting spaces, programs for all ages, and internet access.    Some tangible benefits of local public libraries might be measured by the number of people who obtain new jobs or learn new skills, or by the number of families that read together regularly due to library programs.

Vermont towns appropriated $12,049,932, or $19.39 per capita (based on the estimated 2004 state population of 621,394) in 2004-05.    Is there any way to estimate the monetary value that public libraries bring Vermont communities?

In June, 2006, data submitted by public libraries to the Department of Libraries for FY2004-05 were analyzed using the methods used by the South Carolina Public Library Economic Impact Study conducted by the School of Library and Information Science of the University of South Carolina (Daniel D. Barron, director) and published in January, 2005.   The following significant data was discovered:

Thus, total direct and indirect return on investment for every $1 expended on the state's public libraries by Vermont state and local governments is $7.41.

A copy of the Vermont study is available at:   Look for updated figures in February, 2007.


Are public libraries still relevant in today's society?   How can trustees justify increasing local tax revenue to support them?   These and more questions were raised and discussed from many angles at the annual statewide conference for trustees sponsored by the Vermont Library Trustees Association with help from the Department of Libraries on October 29 in Montpelier.

Introduced by David Brown of the Vermont Board of Libraries, morning speaker John E. Arnold, former chair of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), shared his "personal journey" of trusteeship and advocacy for public libraries.   "Public support reflects the perceived value of the library to each taxpayer, family, and community," he said, noting that most public libraries in his state receive around 1% of their town's budget.    Sharing a model based on The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore (Harvard Bus. Sch. Pr., 1999), Arnold pointed out that, not only do public libraries provide goods and services, but they also provide experiences and transformations.   It is the latter that give libraries relevance ("Is your library a place that people want to visit?") and offer suggestions for improving them.

Slides of John Arnold's talk are available on the MBLC website at:   For those who want to delve further, copies of The Experience Economy are available on interlibrary loan from Midstate Regional Library.

Over lunch, small groups discussed a number of questions raised by Arnold's talk, as did an afternoon panel of reactors who talked about library services in the future.   The Vermont Library Association's Government Relations Committee shared its recent activities, and VLA Trustee of the Year Kim Cushman of North Bennington offered a humorous but realistic overview of "What One Trustee Can Do."   The conference was planned by the VLTA Steering Committee which is now making plans for trustee workshops at each of the spring Town Officers Educational Conferences.  


State Librarian Sybil Brigham McShane announced on November 6 that the committee of librarians evaluating the bids/proposals received in response to the Vermont Online Library database request for proposal (RFP) issued this summer has selected Thomson Gale with which to negotiate a final contract for general periodical, health and business databases. McShane hopes to have contract negotiations completed by January 1.  The old contract which ends December 1 will be extended for thirty days to ensure coverage.   The database package and pricing will be announced when contract negotiations are completed.   There are a number of other databases ranked as lesser priorities by libraries in last spring's VOL survey still under consideration.   Details about the new VOL contract will be sent to all libraries via email.


Copies of minimum standards, the 2006 Public Library Report form, and an application form based on the 1986 minimum standards were mailed to Vermont public and community libraries in mid-September for a November 15 deadline.   Any Vermont public or community (joint school-public) library may apply for standards, and libraries must apply every year in order to meet standards.   All public libraries, whether they are applying for standards or not, should complete and return the public library report.  

Last year, 139 public libraries met standards and are, therefore, eligible for free cataloging through the Vermont Centralized Cataloging/MARC Service as well as for any grants that the Department of Libraries may offer, such as the recent Resource Sharing Grants.   Libraries that are close to meeting standards are eligible to receive technical assistance if they wish, and they will be considered as meeting standards during the year they are working with the Technical Assistance Team.    For details about standards, contact Marianne Kotch, Director of Public Library Support Services, 828-2320,

Libraries will receive notification that they meet standards around December 31, 2006.   Those that are found not to meet standards will have until January 30 to file letters of appeal for discussion by the Board of Libraries at its regular meeting on February 17.   The State Librarian will make a final decision and notify those libraries by February 27.


After many months of planning, on August 24, 2006, the Department of Libraries "went live" with its new SirsiDynix/Unicorn Automation system, replacing its aging DRA Classic system first installed in 1986.  While the change did not affect most public and library users of the Department's services, many behind-the-scenes routines have changed.   Regional library staff started using the new system to register patrons, check materials in and out, and place holds on items.   Since most staff members had been training for months in anticipation of changing to a windows-based system, by the end of the first day, one was able to say, "this is fun!"  Technical Services Unit (TSU) Head, Lorraine Lanius, and her staff worked very hard to prepare for all of the changes they are experiencing. They have had to learn new ways of doing all of the complex and detailed work that they do.  Though it understandably took some time to get up to speed on the new system, TSU is adapting well and though they may not quite be ready to say that the new system is fun, they are finding ways to take advantage of some of the improvements afforded by the new system.

August 24 also saw a slightly different public catalog.   A new website for the catalog – – shows that the former three buttons (Midstate, Northeast, Reference/Law) have been replaced with one button labeled "catalog."   Clicking on that button takes one to the main screen for searching the DOL catalog (DOLCAT).    In the top banner of this search page, instead of seeing a link to "Multiple Library Search," there is a square button with the label "Other Libraries."   That link will take one to the familiar screen for searching all VALS databases.   After that everything is pretty much the same, though some colors and fonts may be different.   In the coming months we will be working on changes to Web2 that can take advantage of some of the new features available with the new Unicorn system.  We are currently testing changes such as creating a "kept list" or search hits and emailing search results.   Our goal is to make sure that none of these changes interfere with the current request system, so we are testing carefully to make sure that adding a new feature does not break anything that already works.  If all goes well in the process, we also hope to add the display of "content" such as book jackets, summaries, reviews, and excerpts.

The VALS changes that libraries experienced most directly were the change in the electronic mail system.  The need to learn new ways of accessing and organizing email was a challenge for all and we appreciate the time and energy that VALS users put into the process.   Many DOL staff members are also using the web-based email system now, as evidenced by the new email addresses for the regional libraries (e.g., and

Please note that we all share your pain with the SPAM situation.   Though we are managing to block a lot of SPAM (averaging nearly 6,000 messages blocked per day, with these blocked messages representing at least 70% of all of the messages that are sent to VALS email users each day), we know that receiving any percentage of the spam messages directed at you is not what we want.  We continue to seek ways to make improvements and hope that the pending installation of new hardware will speed up users' interactions with the mail server and give us more options for blocking spam.  We are always willing to work with VALS users individually to address particularly severe cases of SPAM overload.   The first step in that process is to contact Dan Morse ( 828-6952) to determine a good time when he can consult with you about your VALS email issues.


Recently there has been an increased concern for safety and security in Vermont libraries.   Department of Libraries consultants have come to feel that there are some simple and relatively inexpensive steps that libraries might take to improve safety for librarians and patrons.   These include:

Department of Libraries regional consultants are also available to help with walk-throughs, miniworkshops, and discussions with staff.   We believe that Vermont libraries provide a very safe and friendly place for our citizens.   Nonetheless, if there are easy and inexpensive steps which will improve this level of safety, we can probably all agree that now is the time to take them.   We don't need to wait for an untoward incident to force us into taking more difficult and expensive steps later.

                                                             Robert Geiszler
                                                                       Regional Consultant


State Librarian Sybil Brigham McShane announced recently that the Chief Officers of State Libraries in the Northeast (COSLINE) has contacted with Himmel and Wilson, Wisconsin-based library consultants, to evaluate several state agencies' Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) five year plans.   The evaluation is required by the Library Services and Technology Act and will be submitted to the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).   It is an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of each agency's programs and services.   The evaluation should also assist each agency in developing new five years plans for submission to IMLS in June, 2007.

Ethel Himmel and Bill Wilson traveled to Vermont in early September to meet with McShane and Department staff to review goals and achievements in the plan covering 2003-2007.   Himmel returned in late October to conduct a series of focus groups with public, school, and academic librarians.   Telephone interviews with selected librarians are also planned.   A final report is due March 31, 2007.   A copy of the current plan is available at:


The Midstate and Northeast Regional Libraries have sets of Green Mountain Book Award (GMBA)   books for public and school libraries.    Cosponsored by the Department of Libraries, the Vermont Library Association, and the Vermont Educational Media Association, the GMBA is a new book award designed to encourage students in grades 9-12 to become lifelong readers through the introduction of great books.

The GMBA list has 15 books representing various genres and interests.   In spring, 2006, any high school student who has read at least three of the titles may vote for the winner.   To encourage as many Vermont teens to read the books, the Department of Libraries has purchased multiple copies of each title which will be available for loan.   There are two types of sets:

Any public or school library is eligible to borrow any of the sets for up to 60 days.   Because the sets are paperbacks, they can be easily mailed.

For a list of the books, see the GMBA website:   There is also an online forum related to GMBA at Vermont's section of WebJunction –    Registration to participate in the online discussion is free and takes just a few minutes.


Vermont Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz issues a monthly Opinions newsletter with news and answers to questions encountered in the course of working with towns and other government entities.   A number of opinions offered in the October, 2006, issue may affect public libraries and their boards:

Even if your library is an incorporated public library, it is wise to have a meeting room policy, to avoid discussing board business outside of meetings, and to view email as public.   To sign up to receive Opinions by email or to view past issues, go to the Secretary of State's website


I had an interesting reference question a few weeks ago that made me wonder about a long-held belief that a 1% loss rate is considered "good."   Where did this number come from?    Is it some library folklore I've just been carrying around or can we count on it?   The questioner, the father of a former employee, called out of curiosity to find out approximately what the loss rate of public libraries in Vermont is.   "Are people stealing the taxpayers' books?" he asked.    I couldn't really tell him what the loss rate for Vermont public libraries is, but what I found satisfied him anyway.

Colleagues at the ALA Office for Research and the Colorado Library Research Service could offer no hard facts, so I turned to the Vermont Online Library's databases.   In the 1980's Patsy J. Hansel conducted a study of libraries and estimated that somewhere between 6 and 11 million library items become long-term overdues every year, a loss rate that may exceed $200 million in value.   Her book Managing Overdues (Neal-Schuman, 1998)   offers some suggestions for solving this problem.

Richard W. Boss estimated in 1999 that about 3% of library items are lost each year, but he noted that all of the information about loss rates is purely anecdotal and that there are no reliable facts.   His assertion in "Security Technologies for Libraries:   Policy Concerns and a Survey of Available Products" ( Library Technology Reports , May/June, 199, pp. 271-356) was that Hansel's estimate was as good as any.

The 2005 compilation of public library data nationwide by the National Center for Education Statistics showed that public libraries nationwide own approximately 797,190,000 books.   If 6 million of these are lost this year, the loss rate would be approximately 0.7%.   If one uses the 11 million figure, the number would be 1.4%.    So the 1% figure appears to "split the difference," and, based on Boss' work, is a fairly decent guideline.    If your library has done a study of loss rates, I would love to hear about it.  

Marianne Kotch
                                           Director, Public Library Support Services



Continuing Education…

Websites to Explore…


Tues., Dec. 6, 9:30 am – Interlibrary loan workshop, Midstate Regional Library, Berlin.  Repeats Tues., Dec. 6.   Contact:   Vance Asselin, 828-3261,

Tues., Dec. 19, 10:30 am – Vermont Board of Libraries meeting, Midstate Regional Library, Berlin.  Contact:   Sybil Brigham McShane, 828-3265.   Snow date:  Dec. 20.

Mon., Dec. 25 and Mon., Jan. 1 – State holidays.  Department of Libraries central offices and regional libraries closed.

===>Miniworkshops are available on demand, either in your library or at a central location in your area, for librarians, trustees and library staff members.  For details, please contact your regional consultant.

by Grace W. Greene, Children's Services Consultant

Spring, 2007, Materials Review Sessions…

As always, there will be two "live "sessions of Materials Review this spring, and three sessions on videotape. This time, besides Northfield, the live session will be in Milton. RETN (Regional Educational Technology Network) will videotape the Northfield presentation, and that videotape will be shown in the other three locations.   The books, with the reviews inserted in them, will accompany the videotape, so whichever site you choose you will have access to all the books.  The schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, March 27

Brown Public Library, Northfield 


Wednesday, March 28 

Milton Public Library


Tuesday, April 3 

Sherburne Memorial Library, Killington


Thursday, April 5 

Kurn Hattin, Westminster


Tuesday, April 10  

Northeast Regional Library, St. Johnsbury


All programs begin at 9:00 a.m.  There is a formal part to the program and then plenty of time to examine all the books.

DCF Conference…

The fifth annual DCF Conference will be held on Friday, May 4, 2007 at the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont. The keynote speaker will be Vermont's own Karen Hesse The endnote will be delivered by Anita Silvey, author of several books on children's literature, including her new 500 Great Books for Teens   (Houghton, 2006). In addition, there will be workshops on various aspects of reading; on ways to run a DCF program; on how to read a graphic novel, and suggestions for promoting and discussing books with kids.   Books (both those on the 2007-2008 DCF master list and ones by Hesse and Silvey) will be for sale. Registration forms will be sent out to all libraries and schools in February.  Please alert all the 4th -8th grade teachers that you know, too!

Summer Materials…

Since we have joined a multi-state collaborative, the materials will be available earlier than usual. We will be sending the manuals and order forms out in January, rather than March, so you will have two extra months to plan your summers. The theme this year is mystery, and the slogan for kids is Get a Clue@ Your Library, and for teens it is YNK @ Your Library (YNK=you never know).  

News is published four times each year by the Vermont Department of Libraries and is distributed to all Vermont libraries, trustee chairs, state legislators, and others who care about Vermont libraries. News is available upon request in Braille, in large print, or on disk. Call 828-3261. NEWS is supported in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency, through the Library Services and Technology Act.   
Editor: Marianne Kotch, (802) 828-2320,

  Department of Libraries, 109 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05609-0601

Sybil Brigham McShane, State Librarian -


Library and Information Services Division
Marjorie D. Zunder, Director -
  Paul Donovan, Law Librarian -
     Gerry Denison, Librarian -
  Lorraine Lanius, Head, Technical Services Unit -
  Mara Siegel, DOL-UVM Access Office Librarian/CE Librarian (828-3261) -
                                  , Special Services Consultant (828-3273) -


Public Library Support Services Division
Marianne Kotch, Director -
  Grace W. Greene, Childrens' Services Consultant (828-6954) -
  Amy Howlett, Regional Consultant (463-0143) -
  Michael Roche, Regional Consultan/Northeast Regional Librarian (748-3428) -
   Robert Geiszler, Regional Consultant (786-3839) -


Vermont Automated Libraries System
Sheila M. Kearns, Information Technology Manager -
  Robert Longe, Information Technology Specialist -
  Daniel Morse, Information Technology Specialist - dan.morse