Spring 2008

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State Librarian Janet Martin Welch Will Retire This Spring

Ms. Welch wrote the following comments for NYSALB members.Ms. Welch wrote the following comments for NYSALB members.

Spring 2008 issue of Trustee

After much deliberation and reflection, I have decided to retire from my position as State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries this spring.

I will depart with a great sense of satisfaction over the progress and achievements of the State Library and New York’s library community during my tenure. None of these would have been possible without the cooperation and collaboration of many individuals and groups, including the Regents, our loyal friends of libraries in the legislature, my colleagues in the Education Department, State Library staff and library leaders and organizations throughout the state.

Here at the State Library, we have undergone a major renovation of the Research Library; enhanced the Talking Book and Braille Library, which performs such an important function for the disabled; and added important historical materials to Manuscripts and Special Collections.A series of grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has brought more than $20 million to aid public-access computing in public libraries statewide and train staff and users in technology skills. New York’s libraries received E-rate discounts of over $18.4 million in 2007, the highest annual amount awarded in the 10 years of the program.

A substantial grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services has contributed to the recruitment of a new generation of librarians who represent and are equipped to serve their diverse communities.

Participation in the Statewide Summer Reading Program has soared to more than 1.3 million children. Since 1999, 35 public library districts have been created, and local public library service has been extended to more than 300,000 New Yorkers who previously had none.

Successful advocacy efforts of individuals and groups across the state have helped to obtain legislative approval for new funding for public library construction grants, increased aid for the library systems, and a small but important increase in school library materials aid.This progress is built on the visionary work of the Regents Commission on Library Services, led by Abby Milstein and Frank Macchiarola; the commitment of Commissioner Richard Mills; and the tireless efforts of Regent Jim Dawson.

I do leave with important objectives not yet met, including state funding for the Statewide Internet Library, building on the successful NOVELNY pilot project, and Saturday hours for the public at the Research Library. I also see an ongoing need to increase ethnic diversity and bring an infusion of younger staff members to the State Library.

My library career has been rich and varied. It started during my undergraduate years at Bucknell University, when I helped with library surveys that my father, Lowell Martin, was conducting across the country and around the world. It later included corporate research library, school library, public library, and academic library work, and then Director of the Rochester Regional Library Council. It has been a privilege to serve in leadership positions in the New York Library Association and the American Library Association.

I feel a great sense of satisfaction in being the first woman to serve as New York State Librarian. Although I haven’t succeeded in meeting all my goals for New York’s libraries, my grandchild in Virginia provides a strong incentive to leave my position this year. Hayden Robert Hart is nearly one year old, and I’ve seen very little of him so far. My family has always been a three-generation one, and closeness between grandparents and grandchildren has been an important part of growing up. My husband and I will settle in Virginia near our daughter and her family.

Thank you to all who have made my time as State Librarian an immensely rewarding and worthwhile experience. I extend my very best wishes to you for the continued success of libraries in New York State.

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