A Word from the Roberts Library: Next Season, Next Steps
As I write this, the calendar has just officially turned to fall, which always wins my personal “Favorite Season” contest. Schools have started and we are finally feeling that nip in the air that we’ve been waiting for. CALS’s summer reading program has finished another successful year, UA Little Rock students are coming to fall semester classes in the Roberts Library, and we have the Six Bridges Book Festival coming soon.
When I reviewed my last post, written in June, I realized that we had hoped/assumed/planned to offer programs for you in person this fall. The summer didn’t turn out as we planned, but we’re still working hard to provide you with information about our activities, events, and collections in every way we can. This blog is one attempt; here, you can find out a little bit about all we do and what we have to offer under this roof. We try to use social media to keep you informed. Our crack CALS communication department spreads the good word about us, too.
Our CALS development office has been hard at work as well. You’ve probably heard about the wonderful grant CALS received from the Windgate Foundation: it will help us expand our community outreach and hire two digital literacy coaches for the local community. It will also help us offer visual arts classes and programs in all of CALS’s branches.
In addition, CALS received a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council to add alternative text (or alt text) to the 10,000+ pieces of media on the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas website and the media on both the CALS.org and RobertsLibrary.org sites. Alt text provides a description of solely visual media for folks with visual impairments as well as people with slow internet speed. Alt text can be used by screen readers, allowing the user to get a complete experience of the website. This grant will allow us to hire staff to create the text and therefore allow previously unserved patrons full access to our sites. This grant funding was made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and the project will be supported in part by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Stay tuned for more exciting news in the future.
On November 9, Little Rock voters will have an opportunity to vote on a property tax increase to support the Central Arkansas Library System. CALS has not had an increase in the operating tax rate since 2007. Since then, CALS has acquired or built six properties—including the Roberts Library, the Children’s Library, and others—and expenses have grown faster than revenues by about $3.5 million adjusted for inflation. If the millage passes, property taxes will go up by about $15 per year for the average home in Little Rock. The increased revenue will be spent on the rising costs of e-books and audiobooks, print collections, technology upgrades at branches, deferred maintenance at our buildings, and paying a living wage to retain our talented staff who do things like edit the CALS EOA, tutor kids in math, assist entrepreneurs, and serve kids and adults in our branches across the system. If the millage does not pass, we may see cuts to our materials budgets (in other words: fewer books available and longer holds times) and fewer specialized programs.
Finally, I want to mention David Stricklin (pictured here with Rhonda Stewart, our local history and genealogy specialist), who ably led the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies for many years before CALS administration stole him from us two years ago. He’s retiring from CALS in just a few days; I want to take this opportunity to thank him on behalf of CALS and the Butler Center and to wish him only the very best in this new step.
By Glenn Whaley, manager of the CALS Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art