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Politics & Government

51 Year Old Law for Libraries Gets Modernized

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Pennsylvania libraries are being given more latitude as managers try to catch up with modern patrons with a new state code that updates old requirements involving staff education, collection requirements, facilities and technology. 

“Technology continues to change,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said.  “It changes the way we are learning and advancing our learning, and it changes our libraries,” Corbett said as he signed the legislation.

The governing of libraries in the commonwealth has not changed since 1961, but the new code, known as Act 210 of 2012, addresses several outdated mandates.

There are two parts to library law.  The actual code is the general framework, and the regulations fill in the gaps. The code allows the Pennsylvania Advisory Council on Library Development to update the regulations to allow libraries to count electronic books and periodicals toward their required collection levels outlined in the code.

Marilyn Jenkins, Executive Director of the Allegheny Library Association, said library services like electronic delivery of magazines to a library card holder with a compatible device is one of the ways the code adapts to modern times.

“Now that’s something that doesn’t currently count towards the requirement of magazines, but since this code was passed, then we have an opportunity now to look at those regulations that will allow us to update those,” Jenkins said.

The new code outlines specific changes to continuing education requirements for librarians.  Jenkins said the changes aren’t huge, but they ensure staff members are taking advantage of the opportunities to update their skills.

“If someone got their library degree 20, 30 years ago, like I did, there’s clearly been significant change in the library world,” Jenkins said.  “If I had not had a requirement to continue updating my skills and understanding this current delivery model, then I’d be way behind the times.”

The code also includes more librarians on the Advisory Council on Library Development and requires a complete review of all regulations that apply to the state’s libraries.