Smug for 30 seconds

I sat down at my desk feeling just a teeny-tiny bit smug. The 15-page, 200-plus question annual report with supporting documentation from the county commissioners, Lewistown Borough, Union Township, and the library’s board of directors was verified, locked and submitted to our district consultant.

It was a pleasure (and a relief) to know we met all the state standards except the one regarding the number of magazines required. And I had a plan for that.

To meet the state standards we need 75 unique magazine titles. We are 10 magazines short. When a standard isn’t met we apply for a waiver from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. In the waiver we explain how and why we haven’t met the requirement and our goals and objectives for correcting/meeting the standard in the coming year.

I believe that a baseline for services is a good thing. They ensure a minimal level of criteria be met to receive aid. They serve as a benchmark for what citizens can expect from their library. They are a yardstick that provides some measure of accountability to funders and the community.

See, I only need to come up with a plan to increase our magazine holdings by 10 subscriptions. How hard could that be? But, I also need to be able to sustain the plan for future years. No problem, right?

Let me explain how we select magazines. It would be so easy if we could just remove those little subscription cards that come in the magazines and order them in the same way as you, an individual, do. Nope, doesn’t work that way for public libraries. Well, unless we cheat/lie and have it sent to a specific name with the library’s address. Even that doesn’t work if the publisher has the library address in their database.

We use a subscription vendor that specializes in magazines and they negotiate a discounted price with periodical publishers based on the number of journals we purchase. They also help us to replace missing/lost/damaged items at no cost to us. We select subscriptions on a yearly basis and throughout the year evaluate readership, circulation, and popularity of individual titles. We gladly consider your recommendations for inclusion in the collection. Some folks even pay for a yearly subscription to a particular title they want the library to have. It all makes sense and we have this under control. Ah, not quite. Enter the world of online/electronic/digital magazines.

All I wanted to do was figure out a way to get 10 more magazines into our collection. Knowing the popularity of eBooks I called our subscription vendor to inquire about the Wall Street Journal and perhaps some popular magazine titles to add to our 24/7 digital library. Oh boy, my head is still swimming.

“What’s the difference between digital and online?” I asked our account rep.

“What do you mean by technology seats or simultaneous users?” I questioned.

“Does individual license mean only one person can view the magazine at a time? If I buy multiple licenses then how many individual subscriptions of the magazine do I need to purchase?” I inquired.

I ended up with more questions than answers. How did I get into this magazine muddle? Oh yeah, that darn standard. I’m still trying to figure it all out and have created several charts to try to wrap my head around all the components. Here’s what I’ve figured out so far.

Online versus digital. A digital magazine replicates the print version while online is created and published right on the World Wide Web. Seems simple enough except some publishers refer to their magazines as the ‘online version.’ Well, that’s easy to understand and figure out, NOT!

Technology seats versus simultaneous users. Tech seats are the number of public access computers available to view the digital/online magazine. Simultaneous users refers to the number of folks we want to be able to view the magazine at the same time, not necessarily while in the library building. I’d like you to be able to read these magazines at home, sipping coffee, in your PJs.

The individual license issue is a budgetary nightmare. I’m not even going there.

What do you think? If I can figure out the costs should we have some digital magazines/newspapers? And, all you smarty pantses out there, we aren’t going to consider Zinio, Newsstand or Next Issue because the platform to launch these services costs more than I paid for my first condo.

Well, I’m off to the grocery store to get this week’s National Enquirer and Soap Opera Digest since the library doesn’t have a paper or a digital copy of either.


Molly S. Kinney is the Director at the Mifflin County Library. She just finished reading The Hand That Feeds You by A. J. Rich. What an odd, eerie tale.