Interview: Tricia Bengel
Scott Cohen, Interviews Editor
For the last two years, Tricia Racke Bengel has been with the Tennessee State Library and Archives working as Special Projects Coordinator. She began her library career at the age of 15 working as a page in her local public library. After finishing her MLS at the University of KY she moved to Syracuse NY to work for Gaylord Information systems installing and implementing their GALAXY and then Polaris library automation systems. At GIS she became the first librarian to ever work in their Research and Development department. But, her favorite job there was teaching the new programmers (many of whom barely spoke English and had never been in a public library) how American libraries work. After her husband threatened to leave her if she wouldn’t move out of the Snow Belt, Tricia went to work for the Kentucky Department for Library and Archives as a Regional Librarian.
You can contact Tricia at email@example.com.
Kim Hicks, Director, Madisonville Public Library
My question concerns the difficulty of convincing local funding bodies to give us enough money to do what we have to. I was wondering if the State Library and Archives is working with the Secretary of State to change any of the “recommendations” into laws. I am thinking specifically about the Minimum Standards and the suggestion that libraries become a line item of the funding body’s budget rather than a “donation.” Many of us share the experience that our funding bodies, be it county or city or both, will not do anything they are not required to do when it comes to libraries. Suggestions are great and I am grateful to have the minimum standards to compare our standing and progress, but when I brought them before our aldermen and commissioners their comment was that since they were not law they were not obligated to follow them and were not willing to spend the money to do so.
This is a great question and a problem many libraries across the state, as well as the country, face. Enacting library legislation that would require minimum standards would be one way to achieve some baseline of adequate library funding, but getting a high level of local library support can never be achieved through library legislation alone. You say that you took the minimum standards to the alderman and commissioners. If your library board and a group of concerned citizens took that information to those same officials and requested that adequate library resources were provided, things would probably change much faster. Your alderman and commissioners expect you to always request additional funding but if a group of citizens insist on it, they would be more likely to respond favorably.
Mary Ellen Pozzebon, Web Services Librarian, Middle Tennessee State University
State-wide collaborations and consortial arrangements are playing a key role in the acquisitions and electronic resources goals in all types of libraries. How do you think Tennessee can be looked as a model for cooperation among libraries?
I am extremely proud of the work that Tenn-Share has accomplished through its initiative to pool money for the purchase of statewide access to Literature Resource Center. When Tenn-Share representatives approached Secretary Darnell to expand TEL, he challenged them to raise money which he would match with available federal dollars. Aubrey Mitchell, Associate Dean of Libraries, University of Tennessee, and Cathy Evans, Director of Libraries, Saint Mary's Episcopal School in Memphis, co-chairs of Tenn-Share’s TEL Phase II steering committee, called on their colleagues around the state to meet the challenge. One by one, libraries across the state, ranging from small private high schools to large universities and everything in between, including Memphis Public Library, the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt, pledged the needed funds. So, just like NPR, those who can afford to contribute do so but everyone in the state benefits because all gain access. I am already looking forward to the next initiative such as this.
TEL is widely known and used by students in secondary and higher education. How can TEL become known to the general public as a source of information that is an alternative to the Internet?
I don't actually think we are going to be able to get people to stop using Google or Yahoo as their first method of searching for information in order to use TEL. I think we need to make it so that people can get to TEL from Google and Yahoo. Libraries and library systems are incredibly difficult to use - they incorporate too much jargon, are difficult to navigate and usually return results that require a lot of deciphering - no wonder people would rather go straight to the Internet where you usually get something on your subject even if it is bad information. Thomson Gale has a new product they are working on that I think all of the vendors will soon be copying as well. It is called AccessMyLibrary and allows patrons to query their favorite search engine and get journal and magazine articles from InfoTrac OneFile and Expanded Academic in their results. This should be the way we use TEL.
Scott Cohen, Library Director, Jackson State Community College, Jackson, TN
Do you feel that privatization of public libraries in Tennessee will have an impact in the future?
The privatization of library management has less impact on the community than the local level of support and funding of that library. If a library board wishes to privatize simply to save money and decrease taxes, the library will suffer. Public libraries should be supported with tax dollars. Additional fundraising is a worthwhile endeavor for all libraries but should not be used to raise operating funds - if the community does not wish to support the library with an adequate taxing structure, no amount of fundraising can compensate in the long-term.
James Staub, Government Documents Librarian, Tennessee State Library and Archives
How did your dog use the Tennessee Electronic Library?
My dog has actually benefited from TEL although I helped her with the typing and some of the bigger words. Emma, my doberman, has approximately 100 extra-hepatic shunts that cannot be fixed surgically - she basically has only 10% liver functions. To deal with this she can only eat a special kibble and has to take three medications twice a day. Well, she decided a couple of months ago that she was tired of her very expensive, very bland food and went on a hunger strike. After refusing to eat for days, I decided we had to do something. So, we turned to TEL and did some research on how to create a diet for humans with liver problems. Emma started getting people food and is much happier with her Mama. Turns out she loves cottage cheese and brown rice too!
Thomas Aud, Director, Jackson-Madison County Public Library
Is there any effort in Tennessee to allow public libraries to be taxing districts or other arrangements for local funding?
Having worked in KY, where the libraries are their own local taxing districts, I saw firsthand the benefits of this funding model. The library board was able to set its own tax rate and therefore could determine an adequate budget and the necessary tax rate to achieve that budget. However, establishing such tax districts in Tennessee would necessitate an interpretation of the current Tennessee code.
Dinah Harris, Library Director, Everett Horn Public Library, Lexington, TN
The Tennessee Electronic Library is one of the best things that has happened to Tennessee. More and more people are using the electronic databases, but small libraries are so limited in funding to purchase additional ones. In your opinion, which databases would be the most beneficial (provide the greatest bang for the buck) for small libraries to purchase?
If I were purchasing any additional databases for a small public library, I would first acquire a testing software package like "Learn-A-Test" or Testing and Education Resource Center. We all know that the ASVAB, GED, and ACT books rarely get checked out more than once because they rarely return after that first trip out the door.
If I had any additional money, I would get some newspapers. Newsbank just started a new deal where you can pick and choose specific newspapers and purchase them individually. So, I would try to at least get my local newspaper and the New York Times.