Thursday, January 20, 2022

*The Board did not meet at a physical location. As part of the response to the threat of COVID-19, Governor David Ige issued an Emergency Proclamation dated December 29, 2021, suspending the requirement of having at least one meeting location open to the public, pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 92-3.7, to enable boards to conduct meetings without any board members or members of the public physically present in the same location.

Catherine Payne, Chairperson
Kenneth Uemura, Vice Chairperson
Bill Arakaki
Kaimana Barcarse
Lyla Berg
Lynn Fallin
Kili Namauʻu

Shanty Asher
Bruce Voss

Stacey Aldrich, State Librarian, Hawaii State Public Library Systems
Alison Kunishige, Executive Director
Kenyon Tam, Board Analyst
Regina Pascua, Executive Secretary
Lady Garrett, Secretary

  1. Call to Order

Board Chairperson Catherine Payne called the Board of Education (“Board”) Special Meeting to order at 9:31 a.m.

Board Chairperson Payne announced that Board Vice Chairperson Kenneth Uemura and Board Members Bill Arakaki, Kaimana Barcarse, Lyla Berg, Lynn Fallin, and Kili Namauʻu were participating in the meeting. Board members did not have others present with them at their nonpublic locations.

II. Discussion Items

Board Chairperson Payne called for public testimony on this agenda item.

Kristin Laitila, member of the public, testified that she has firsthand experience of the effects of staff vacancies in the Hawaii State Public Library System (“HSPLS”), expressed concern that a certain director level position has remained vacant for 7 years, stated that communication is an ongoing challenge, and that HSPLS staff deserve transparency.

Board Chairperson Payne called on Stacey Aldrich, State Librarian, to present her mid-year review of progress on the State Librarian Priorities.

Aldrich outlined her progress on Priority 1 to refresh the HSPLS’ mission, vision, and expand the strategic framework. She explained that she is behind schedule for this priority and dealing with the ongoing effects from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aldrich explained that she is working on a request for proposal (“RFP”) to hire a consultant to help with Priority 1 work. She stated that she plans on completing the RFP by the end of January 2022 and selecting a consultant in March 2022. Aldrich emphasized the importance of HSPLS developing a solid process to re-examine its vision, mission, and add to the current strategic framework.

Aldrich outlined her progress on Priority 2, which is to complete the Library Services and Technology Act (“LSTA”) Evaluation for the LSTA five-year plan (Fiscal Years 2018-2022) and update the LSTA plan for Fiscal Years 2023-2027. She stated that Priority 2 is on time and HSPLS selected OhioNet to work on the evaluation of the LSTA five-year plan for Fiscal Years 2018-2022.

Aldrich also shared that HSPLS launched its first digital newsletter and has received over 12,000 survey responses from the public. She stated that the newsletter helps to inform the public about the digital services HSPLS offers and HSPLS will use the newsletter to communicate future services.

Aldrich outlined her progress on Priority 3 to support digital equity in Hawaii through access to digital literacy skills learning opportunities and programs that support connections to digital health resources through HSPLS. She stated that HSPLS launched Northstar on October 1, 2021 and to date there are 217 unique users. Aldrich stated that participant numbers are low, but during this time it is so important for HSPLS to provide a tool for the community to gain basic computer literacy skills. She stated that the Workforce Development Council partnered with HSPLS to use Northstar to hold in-person sessions in libraries and community centers with a total of 601 unique users. Aldrich stated that HSPLS plans to extend Northstar marketing in 2022.

Aldrich shared that HSPLS is going to release a proposal for wifi hotspots, which will provide patrons with better connectivity. She also shared that HSPLS acquired 300 Chromebooks, which library patrons can check out and use together with the wifi hotspots. Aldrich stated that HSPLS purchased the hotspots and Chromebooks with funds from the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Connect Funding grant.

Aldrich expressed appreciation for the oral testimony relating to the HSPLS staff vacancies. She explained that HSPLS has many staff vacancies and that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a hiring freeze.

Aldrich stated that she completed the hiring process for the vacant position mentioned in oral testimony. She stated that a person has been selected and the interim temporary assignment has been informed, letters were being sent to the other applicants, and she would be meeting with the new Manager and interim next week. Aldrich shared that the staff at the Hawaii State Library would be provided with more information after that meeting. She stated that out of 151 staff vacancies, 69 positions are frozen, which has caused an immense strain on the entire organization. Aldrich stated that staff has been trying to keep the libraries open, working on new strategies, and hiring more positions for neighbor island branches. Aldrich stated that she will focus on restructuring public library services to better align with HSPLS’ vision and mission.

Aldrich expressed excitement for several other ongoing renovation projects to update facilities and noted that the most important updates are related to air conditioning, which are important for both patrons and library materials. She stated that there are five active projects, including: (1) relocation of the Kapa‘a Public Library currently located in a tsunami zone; (2) acquiring property to build a new library to replace the existing Kea‘au and Mountain View Public Libraries; (3) potential co-location of a new transit hub; (4) development of a Pearl City community library center for innovation and space; and (5) identifying a new location for a Waikoloa library. She also stated that HSPLS completed the Na‘alehu Public Library renovation.

Aldrich shared that the following services and programs that are taking place at public libraries, including: Music for Life Foundation providing all 51 branches with ukuleles, launch of the first digital newsletter reaching over 400,000 patrons, partnered with American Association of Retired Persons to do a digital pilot event for kupuna, signed an agreement with the Department of Business Economic Development & Tourism to accept repurposed laptops to give to patrons who attend Digital Literacy 101 courses, in process of implementing the e-rate project to upgrade hardware in all branches, received $2.3 million in American Rescue Plan from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, which will be used to upgrade computers and add more laptops, and installed an electric vehicle charging station at the Waikiki Public Library.

Aldrich also stated that she also is involved at the national level in library activities, which helps ensure that Hawaii is represented at the national level.

Board Chairperson Payne expressed appreciation for the amount of work that Aldrich and her team has achieved. She also expressed appreciation for Aldrich’s work to identify a library location for the Waikoloa community.

Board Chairperson Payne asked if she has an update on when the HSPLS positions will be unfrozen. Aldrich replied that there is no money so the legislature will need to include funding to hire for the 69 positions.

Aldrich stated that HSPLS requested more money to hire student helpers to ensure that there is enough staff to keep libraries open with staffing shortages. She noted that it is a challenge to keep libraries open on the neighbor islands because there is not enough staffing overall. It means there are not enough staff to move from one library to another to help keep a branch open.

Board Chairperson Payne expressed sincere appreciation for all HSPLS staff for their work during this time.

Board Member Berg expressed appreciation to Aldrich for navigating with calmness and encouragement for staff.

Board Member Kaimana Barcarse expressed appreciation for making things work for the communities and including details on where progress stalled. He shared that he has personally heard positive feedback relating to the new library in Na‘alehu.

Board Member Fallin expressed appreciation for the vision shared by Aldrich. She stated that the report Aldrich provided is well organized and helps Board members understand progress, indicators, and targets.

Board Member Namauʻu shared that it has been a privilege working with Aldrich. She asked how Aldrich is planning on identifying stakeholders for Priority 1 and gathering input.

Aldrich replied that she would like to have in-person focus groups because digital may not be the most beneficial medium because conversations get lost. She stated that HSPLS has many new branch managers and she would like to have more in-person interaction.

Board Member Namauʻu asked for clarification about the pilot program for co-locating library branches. Aldrich replied that the pilot program will work on developing what regional libraries may look like for shared community spaces.

III. Late Public Testimony on Board Agenda Items

Board Chairperson Payne called for public testimony from any individuals who did not have an opportunity to testify on earlier agenda items. No one provided oral testimony at this time.

No written testimony was submitted before the meeting.

IV. Adjournment

Board Chairperson Payne adjourned the meeting at 10:04 a.m.