Waterford Township resident Judy Hauser is an information media consultant for Oakland Schools, where she has worked since 1985. As a long-time library advocate, she has served as the president of the Michigan Association for Media in Education and is a former member of the Michigan Library Digitalization Task Force. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Oakland University, a master’s degree in archaeology from Western Michigan University, and a second master’s degree in information and library studies from the University of Michigan. Recently, Gov. Rick Snyder named Hauser to the 13-member Library of Michigan Board of Trustees, which is responsible for making general policy and budgetary recommendations concerning the Library of Michigan to the Michigan Department of Education, representing librarians from public or private K-12 systems.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Library Board and the Library of Michigan?
JH: The Library of Michigan provides numerous resources to the libraries in Michigan, and the Board of Trustees will be, as you said, making recommendations on their services, how they provide them and some other issues.
For example, one of the great services they provide, the Library of Michigan, to all Michigan citizens, is MEL, the Michigan Electronic Library, and that is a whole system of databases. They are available to every Michigan citizen for free online. It’s great for everyone — for parents, for students, for older people, it’s good for everyone, and schools use them. Anyone can use them if they go to mel.org. They can see that list of databases and access those.
That’s one of the things we’ll be talking about. They have been around for several years, but it’s hard to get the word out to everyone in Michigan that they are available, especially in Michigan with the turnover of teachers. That’s one of the big things we will be talking about, is how to get the word out about the MEL databases so everyone can be using those and assessing those. A lot of those databases are full text, so people can go in there and get all kinds of information immediately.
There are many other services they have. One of the databases listed on MEL is Michigan Authors and Illustrators. The Library of Michigan updates that. That’s information, obviously, about Michigan authors and books that are written by Michigan authors and information about the books. That’s on there, so if people are looking for that kind of information, that’s updated regularly.
There’s a whole list of databases. The Library of Michigan also has the Michigan Center for the Book, which provides a lot of activities to do in 3D. Michigan Notable Books, where they pick up to 20 books each year that are written by a Michigan author or the book is about Michigan. Those are just a few of the things they do that we will be talking about.
Talking about the budgetary recommendations and the state of our budget right now, are you finding that there isn’t funding available to get a handle on a lot of things that need to be done?
JH: I don’t have details in front of me on the budgeting of libraries, but libraries, yes, they are having some trouble. I’m in the K-12 area and it’s rough because a lot of school librarians aren’t being kept in their positions. If schools have certified school librarians — that would be great if they all had one, at least one in each school. It does help with literacy and the students with reading and research, and a lot of areas. So, it’s rough when schools don’t have certified school librarians.
I can’t really speak so much about public and academic libraries. I don’t know too many details on that. I would have to get that information.
It’s rough all around, but people are also using libraries more than ever for a lot of reasons. E-books are very popular, and people are going to libraries to use computers. There are some other reasons that people are going to libraries also besides the traditional ways.
For a lot of people, a library is a quality of life issue. It really attracts residents and businesses, so if you don’t have a library, it’s a detriment to the community. At the same time, with more digital media available, are they able to cut back on some of the hours or operating expenses?
JH: I know people do have those issues where they think because things are digitized — it changes some things more than ever. For example, in my library, there is an e-book collection, so I may not have to go to the library unless I want to check out a book. But if I want an e-book, I can check that out from the library at home, and they have a collection so I don’t have to buy the book. I can check it out like any book. And to me, a book is a book, is a book, so whether it’s an e-book or a print book, it’s just a book.
I think that service is huge for public libraries. People may not physically have to go to the library anymore. For many reasons they still do, as we mentioned. But the e-book collection, they are very popular in libraries. They are getting people to use libraries more. And for computers, as we said, people do go to the library for things other than checking out books, using the periodicals or magazines, they do have the computers to use.
Even though a lot of things are being digitized, not everything is. Not everyone uses it. And also, when people are getting their e-readers, they don’t always know how to use them, so they go to libraries to check out the e-books the first time and maybe talk to the librarian on how to do that. They sometimes need help with that.
Returning to the K-12 system and the librarians there, what are your thoughts on how to best address some of those issues?
JH: With the services and the staffing, it’s rough. It’s really important to have certified school librarians at schools. It often comes down to budget. It has nothing to do with the programs or the school librarians — it’s never that. It usually comes down to the money… it’s expensive, and in schools a lot of time that’s the bottom line that’s looked at.
A lot of studies have been done — I’m afraid I don’t have them right in front of me — but to show how it’s important to have certified school librarians to work with students on literacy and research skills, and all kinds of things. It’s a tough one. People do the studies, they work on it, they advocate for it, and sometimes it does just come down to money.
Is it something that parents, specifically in K-12, will just have to demand more?
JH: That would really help. Parents should definitely voice their concerns and maybe even get to know their school librarian, or if their child’s school has a school librarian. When I say librarian, I’m talking about a certified person with a library degree. By the way, K-12 school librarians also have teaching degrees and a library degree, so they have a teaching degree, plus a library degree. It would be great if parents would know what is going on with their school library and their child’s school. That would help.
Anything else you would like to mention?
JH: I’m excited about being on the Board of Trustees. I’ve only been to one meeting (so far), but I think it’s going to be very interesting and exciting, and I’m very honored to be able to have some input.