What changes to the library code mean for Pennsylvanians

Gov. Corbett library code

Gov. Tom Corbett said that the new library code law will update requirements regarding staffing, collections, as well as update facilities and accessibility. (Photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Office of the Governor)

The Pennsylvania State Senate passed Senate Bill 1225 by a unanimous 48-0 vote. On Nov. 1, Gov. Tom Corbett signed Act 210 of 2012 into law. It updates the state’s “library code.”

So… what does that mean?

Even I wasn’t sure. So I called up Glenn Miller, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Libraries Association, to ask.

It turns out the original library code came into play in 1961, to establish — in state law — certain requirements that libraries would have to meet to receive financial support. In return, the state established requirements for the kinds of service standards Pennsylvanians could expect at libraries. Out of that code come regulations that get into more detail about how libraries can meet the standards set forth.

So far, so good — Pennsylvania gives libraries funding and, in exchange, expects certain standards.

Over the years, Miller explained, the code would be tweaked from time to time, put into effect with each budget cycle.

“But… sometimes things in Harrisburg don’t always work the way they’re supposed to,” Miller said, adding that the language changing the library code to instruct libraries on how to spend their funds might end up on a school code bill, or a fiscal code bill.

“Over the years, if you were trying to follow the thread of legislative history, pieces of the library code would be scattered,” he said.¬†Pulling the various threads into one statute provides an easier way to see “how we got to where we are and where we might want to go next.”

The Senate Bill also gets rid of some of the more obsolete library standards — such as the requirement for each library to have¬†a minimum of 300 16-millimeter films in its collection.

“It doesn’t solve all problems, but it provides a stronger, better, more forward-looking framework,” Miller said.

What does it mean, exactly, for the everyday library user in York County?

For now, not much, according to Miller. Although the law itself takes effect in April 2013, the regulations that will flow from the law — what libraries are required to have, what kind of librarian training is done annually, or what hours a library needs to be open to qualify for tax dollars — are decided in a process that could take up to two years, he said, beginning in the early part of 2013.

“I don’t know that you’re going to see dramatic or obvious service impacts off the bat,” Miller said. “I think library patrons are much more impacted by changes in funding than changes in service standards.”

Sounds like a waiting game until the law’s regulations are decided in the next few years.

About Sarah Chain

I'm an avid reader and book lover living and working in downtown York. Follow me on Twitter at @sarahEchain.
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