Board Retreat

Minutes—April 9, 2010


The one hundred nineteenth meeting of the Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN) Board of Trustees was called to order at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, April 9, 2010 by Board Chair Karl Colón at the State Library of Ohio in Columbus, Ohio.

Present were Board members: Don Barlow, Gary Branson, Jason Buydos, Ben Chinni, Karl Colón, Jim Kenzig, Jamie Mason, Bonnie Mathies, Gayle Patton, Sandi Plymire, and Jeff Wale.

Also present were: Stephen Hedges, Laura Solomon and Karl Jendretzky (OPLIN); and Diane Fink (State Library). Doug Evans (Ohio Library Council) joined the meeting at 12:35.


The Chair asked to postpone public participation until the afternoon, when Doug Evans was expected to arrive.


In addition to the postponement of the public participation, the Chair asked that an item, "Legislation update," be inserted as the first item of new business. No other changes to the agenda were proposed.

Gary Branson motioned to approve the agenda as amended; Bonnie Mathies seconded. All aye.

4. APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES of February 12 Meeting

Gayle Patton motioned to approve the minutes of the February 12 meeting; Jason Buydos seconded. All aye.


Diane Fink presented the Financial Reports as of March 31, 2010. Report A showed the budget and expenditures for Fiscal Years 2008 and 2009, which are unchanged from the previous meeting since those fiscal years are closed; Report B showed the budget and expenditures for the current Fiscal Year (2010); and Report C showed the revenue and cash balances for Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010.

Report B: Diane reported that the available balances for staff salaries and for telecommunications should be adequate for the remainder of the fiscal year. She also pointed out the two contracts with consultants, one for Explore Ohio site development, which is paid monthly, and one for E-rate services, which was paid in one payment. Finally, she noted that a $199,831 purchase order for the Juniper routers which the Office of Information Technology (OIT) purchased is still open, but does not appear on this report because it encumbers Capital Funds.

Jeff Wale asked Karl Jendretzky about the progress of the Juniper router roll-out. Karl replied that a few have been placed in libraries for testing, which is going well, but most should not be deployed until OIT completes the purchase of additional memory, to handle the latest version of the operating software. A discussion of the factors which have delayed the memory purchase followed. Jeff asked that OIT's planned roll-out schedule be shared with the Board; Stephen and Karl replied that the latest schedule they have from OIT, which anticipates completion of the project in July, is about a month old, so they will request a new schedule and then email it to the Board.

Report C: Diane reported that the cash balance in Fund 4S4 was about $1.5 million at the end of FY 2009. In FY 2010, OPLIN received one transfer of $3,702,150 million from the Public Library Fund. As of March 31, the cash balance was $1,425,485, but additional E-rate reimbursements are expected soon.

Miscellaneous: Diane reported that the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) has yet to release preliminary guidance for the FY 2012-2013 biennial operating budget, which is later than usual. Budget submissions will probably be due in September 2010. Diane also announced that Beverly Cain will become the new State Librarian on June 1.

Gayle Patton motioned to accept the Financial Reports; Jamie Mason seconded. All aye.

6. OLD BUSINESS — none


7.1. Legislation update

Karl Colón asked Stephen Hedges to report on news that legislation was planned that would eliminate the OPLIN Board.

Stephen informed the Board that Rep. Todd Book held a press conference on Thursday in which he announced his intention to eliminate or merge about 100 state boards and commissions. Bill Morris, Governmental Affairs Coordinator for the State Library, alerted Stephen that the OPLIN Board was on the list of boards to be abolished. The intent of the legislation seems to be to streamline government rather than saving money; the total savings would only amount to about $1 million, and most of that would result from the elimination of all funding for the Workers Compensation Council, which is likely the primary target of the legislation.

Stephen has been in touch with Lynda Murray of the Ohio Library Council (OLC). She plans to draft a letter which can be used by libraries to inform legislators who co-sponsor the bill about the negative effects that would result for public libraries from the elimination of the OPLIN Board, once we know who the co-sponsors are. Diane Fink has received word from our OBM analyst that it is likely that the elimination of the OPLIN Board would eliminate the entire OPLIN organization; this is probably not understood by Rep. Book and any potential co-sponsors.

Karl Colón asked Stephen to keep the Board informed of all developments and anything Board members could do to help remove OPLIN from this legislation.

7.2. Review Strategic Plan

7.2.1. Goal: Internet connections. Progress report and possible futures

Stephen Hedges provided the Board with copies of each goal of the current strategic plan with his comments inserted as a starting point for discussion. For background, Karl Jendretzky showed the Board a map of the current OPLIN Internet connections, divided between libraries with T1 circuits and libraries with Ethernet circuits; 67 libraries now have, or will soon have, Ethernet connections.

Stephen started the discussion by calling attention to recent federal plans to extend broadband, which depend heavily on community anchor institutions, such as libraries, to have large connections which can be shared with other community entities. He also noted that recent federal stimulus awards will provide some new opportunities for connecting libraries to fiber in some areas.

In regard to libraries sharing connections, however, Stephen pointed out that OPLIN currently has a policy on "Extending OPLIN to Other Public Institutions" which discourages this practice. Historically, the OPLIN Board has taken the position that OPLIN receives funding to serve public libraries only, and that prompted the development of this policy. Now, however, such a policy might not be politically prudent. While the Board acknowledged the change in the political climate and the possible need to re-word the policy, the fact remains that OPLIN does not receive funds to provide Internet connections to any entity other than public libraries, and that in fact the Ohio Revised Code restricts the organizations which may legally participate in OPLIN. If a library wants to share an Internet connection in its community, then it is up to the community library to purchase that connection; it could not use the OPLIN connection. The Board requested that Stephen make minor modifications to the wording of the policy and present the new wording for approval at their next meeting.

As for taking advantage of new fiber providers, Stephen explained that OPLIN has always assumed that it must purchase connections through contracts negotiated for the state by OIT. He has asked OPLIN's liaison from the Attorney General's office if this is actually a legal requirement, but has not yet received an answer. If it is not a legal requirement, then OPLIN might explore options to take advantage of new broadband build-out projects.

The Board asked Stephen to revise the wording of this and all other portions of the strategic plan, taking the day's discussion into account, and bring the proposed new wording to the next meeting for approval.

7.2.2. Goal: Databases. Progress report and possible futures

Stephen Hedges asked that Laura Solomon report on database usage as background. While the past two months have seen continued gradual increase in usage, Laura took this opportunity to explain some of the factors that affect statistics. All vendors tend to count statistics differently, and sometimes they make system changes that make it impossible for them to provide accurate statistics for several months. Such was the case recently with EBSCO, so some of those statistics have been estimated. A system change at World Book caused problems with the Ohio Web Library search, so their search statistics are much lower than usual. General usage trending within a single database resource is usually the only meaningful data. Stephen also shared a spreadsheet showing the cost of each resource and how those costs are distributed among the Libraries Connect Ohio (LCO) partners.

Board discussion centered on the areas of database training and whether or not continuous improvements in database usage are feasible. Staff from the State Library has previously provided database training, but that service is currently unavailable. There are some training videos that State Library staff developed, and which are posted on the OPLIN website, but no other training is provided. Some Board members felt that OPLIN had a responsibility to provide some sort of database training, perhaps in cooperation with other library organizations, but there was general agreement that this would probably have to be done through online training. There was a suggestion that the OLC Reference and Information Services Division could develop more training videos that could be posted on the OPLIN website.

As for continuous improvements, the Board noted that it was more tenable to commit to maintaining and monitoring database usage. The Board therefore asked Stephen to edit and combine the second objective of this goal ("Increase usage") with the first objective ("Provide online subscriptions"). The Board also reviewed the idea of providing custom database search interfaces for libraries, and heard evidence from Karl Jendretzky that illustrated the problems OPLIN had encountered in testing this idea.

Jim Kenzig motioned to remove the custom search interface premium service from the strategic plan; Jason Buydos seconded. All aye.

The Board took a short break for lunch from 12:00 to 12:40 and honored Laura Solomon for her recent selection as a Library Journal "Mover and Shaker."

7.2.3. Goal: Technology Leadership. Progress report and possible futures

Stephen Hedges reported that most of the activity taking place related to this goal took the form of communicating with libraries about new technology through various blogs, and the Dynamic Website Kits, but he also asked to again discuss the need to provide more assistance to libraries with their internal networks.

Laura Solomon provided an overview of the Website Kits development process, as well as a portfolio of completed Web Kits. Ten libraries are currently using Web Kits, with another four about to go "live." An additional nine libraries have requested Web Kits. Stephen noted that the Web Kits have been very successful, and that he has asked Vince Riley to start assisting Laura with some of the basic setup of new Kits. Stephen also provided a brief overview of Ohio public library websites that are particularly bad to illustrate that there is still a need for the Web Kits. Jim Kenzig noted that OPLIN originally had planned to review the pricing of the Web Kits after initial roll-out; Stephen acknowledged that now would be a good time for such a review, and promised a recommendation at the next Board meeting.

Turning to the issue of libraries' internal networks, Stephen noted that OPLIN staff often notice that libraries are not able to get full use of their OPLIN connections because of bottlenecks in their local network. Sometimes Karl Jendretzky may help a library with such issues as a "favor," but officially OPLIN is not responsible for anything beyond the OPLIN router, and usually cannot access anything beyond the router because of firewalls. Stephen also noted that the problem is not confined to any particular type or size library; library technical staff usually have skills for managing computer workstations, but may not have networking skills. It was suggested that another OPLIN blog, written by Karl and concerning networking issues, might be helpful.

Jeff Wale asked if OPLIN should spend money on more "pods." These are small computing devices that Karl and Terry Fouts (OIT) have developed which can be plugged into a library's router to test their OPLIN connection, or placed within the library's network to troubleshoot internal traffic. It is sometimes difficult to get the pod to a library site, however, requiring a trip to the library; Karl and Terry are now researching the possibility of building the pod software into the new Juniper routers as they are deployed in libraries.

Board discussion turned to the possibility of providing direct support to libraries for internal networking problems. Several possibilities were mentioned:

  • maintaining a list of approved contractors that libraries could hire for assistance;
  • selecting one contractor that could be dispatched to a library (at the library's cost); or
  • hiring additional OPLIN staff to work on internal networks, supporting their cost through user fees.

All of these options had one problem or another, ranging from liability issues to the likelihood of being able to sustain additional staff at a time when budgets may well be cut again. There was concern that before proceeding with any idea, more data would need to be gathered, possible response gauged, a careful analysis of the data undertaken, and a business plan developed.

Jim Kenzig motioned that the director develop a business plan for providing direct support to libraries for internal networking problems; Ben Chinni seconded. Jason Buydos attached a friendly amendment that the steps undertaken to develop the plan be at the director's discretion.

Because the Board seemed evenly divided in their discussion, the Chair requested a roll call vote: Don Barlow, aye; Gary Branson, aye; Jason Buydos, aye; Ben Chinni, no; Jim Kenzig, no; Jamie Mason, aye; Bonnie Mathies, aye; Gayle Patton, no; Sandi Plymire, no; Jeff Wale, no; and Karl Colón, no. There were 5 votes in the affirmative and 6 in the negative, so the motion was lost, and the director will not develop a business plan.

Stephen reported that the lack of conferences this year hampered OPLIN efforts to provide in-person programs on new technology. Doug Evans noted that there would be some limited opportunities for such programs at the OLC Expo in September.

7.2.4. Goal: Marketing. Progress report and possible futures

Stephen Hedges reported that OPLIN had not conducted any focus group sessions in the last few years, despite the fact that this is listed as an activity toward determining the technology needs of public libraries. Currently, it may be very hard to get library staff to travel to such an event. There was discussion of the possibility of using webinar software to do online focus groups, or perhaps doing a focus group at the OLC Expo. The Board asked Stephen to list some optional ways of doing focus groups when he re-writes this portion of the strategic plan.

Karl Jendretzky explained a problem encountered with implementing one of the services OPLIN had identified as valuable to libraries: text messaging library notices to users' cellphones. Any message over 160 characters exceeds the normal limits for a cellphone message and breaks the system Karl has set up. Since most library email notices are much longer, Karl asked the Board if OPLIN should still offer this service to libraries. The service only costs OPLIN the price of an annual cellphone plan, and would be free for libraries, but would have the 160 character limitation. Several Board members that currently have a similar service in their libraries said that they limit their messages now, and did not think it was worthwhile trying to find a work-around for the problem. They suggested offering the free service "as-is" with the limitation on message length.


The Chair paused before proceeding to the next agenda item and opened the floor for public participation, postponed from agenda item 2.

Doug Evans provided a summary of Lynda Murray's activities in regard to the proposal by Rep. Todd Book to abolish state boards, including the OPLIN Board. Lynda has heard that one possible co-sponsor may be Rep. Dan Dodd.

7.3. Prioritize goals and objectives

Karl Colón suggested that this item be tabled until a later meeting when the Board would have more time to consider it and would have the suggested revisions to the goals and objectives, to which the Board agreed.

7.4. Review introductory material (with mission statement)

Stephen Hedges suggested that the portion at the end of the introductory material, dealing with the "Funding Environment" and discussing fee-based services, was no longer accurate and should either be re-written or removed.

Gayle Patton motioned that the final section of the introductory material, headed "Funding Environment," be removed from the strategic plan; Jim Kenzig seconded. All aye.

Discussion then turned to the mission statement. As currently written, the statement could almost be taken to mean that OPLIN should serve as the Internet service provider for all Ohio citizens; Stephen pointed out, however, that a major revision may not be possible, since the Ohio Revised Code now assigns OPLIN, "...the purpose of ensuring equity of access to electronic information for all residents of this state." Stephen provided a proposed re-wording of the statement, but several Board members pointed out that the re-write may be too specific in its effort to limit OPLIN's mission.

Gayle Patton and Jason Buydos argued that the Board should wait to get some current feedback from focus groups before revising the mission statement. The Chair assigned Gayle, Jason, and Jamie Mason to an ad hoc committee to analyze input from the public libraries and draft a revised mission statement.

7.5. Board candidates

Sandi Plymire reported on behalf of the Nominations Committee that all four Board members whose terms expire this year—Gary Branson, Karl Colón, Jamie Mason, and Jeff Wale—are eligible and have agreed to serve for another full term.

Jim Kenzig motioned that Gary Branson, Karl Colón, Jamie Mason, and Jeff Wale be recommended to the State Library Board for re-appointment to the OPLIN Board; Don Barlow seconded. All aye, with Gary Branson, Karl Colón, Jamie Mason, and Jeff Wale abstaining.

Sandi also reported that the Nominations Committee had developed a slate of candidates for officers of the Board for next fiscal year. Gayle Patton and Bonnie Mathies have agreed to run again for Treasurer and Secretary respectively, Jeff Wale will be the candidate for Vice-Chair, and Sandi will be the candidate for Chair.


Stephen Hedges reported that OPLIN has now received a rejection letter from the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA), following the letter already received from the USDA Rural Utility Service, regarding our application for broadband stimulus funds to buy routers. Stephen did not submit a second-round request from OPLIN, but instead assisted the State Library with their application for funds to subsidize the purchase of 5,071 public computers for libraries.

Stephen also reported that he had testified before the Sunset Review Committee on February 18. This committee periodically reviews all state boards to determine if they have served their purpose and are no longer needed.

Finally, Stephen reported that he is working on a web page about the early history of OPLIN, before the establishment of the Board. This task is an outgrowth of the discussion at the last Board meeting concerning ways to recognize the contributions of the people involved in the creation of OPLIN. The work has been enjoyable, as he has been receiving a lot of information from those people and learning many new things.

8.1. Databases and Network Reports

8.1.1. Database usage

This was covered within the discussion of agenda item 7.2.2.

8.1.2. Support Center (February and March)

Karl Jendretzky reported that no unusual activity appears in the Support Center reports for the past two months. Many of the tickets opened initiated the first installations of Time Warner Cable circuits in libraries, which seem to be progressing very smoothly. Email problems continue to generate the most tickets. In response to a question, Karl explained that "complaint forms" generally result from music and movie content providers complaining about unauthorized downloads on library computers.


Karl Colón briefly reviewed the form used for the director's annual evaluation. He asked Stephen Hedges to email the blank form to all Board members, and asked all members to email their completed forms to Bonnie Mathies by May 14 to allow her time to compile the results and share them with the rest of the Executive Committee before the next Board meeting. Karl also mentioned that he had received several emails lately praising the OPLIN director and staff.

Karl reminded Board members to be sure they submit their Financial Disclosure forms to the Ethics Commission before the April 15 deadline.

Karl also reported to the Board that his legislators have reminded him that the projected budget for the next state biennium is likely to be much smaller. Karl speculated that the current transfer of money to the Public Library Fund to cover the cost of OPLIN may well be discontinued.


On motion of Sandi Plymire the Board adjourned at 2:53.