After serving as the Kansas State Librarian for more than six years, Jo Budler will retire at the end of the month. Budler is our sixteenth state librarian, and her tenure has been characterized by an unyielding commitment to increasing access to library resources across the state. This is just one of the reasons why she was named Library Journal’s Librarian of the year in 2013 – not only has she given Kansas libraries more options when it comes to databases, ebooks and research materials, but she also had a substantial impact on the national conversation about ebook access.
When Budler became head of the state library in 2010, it was in the midst of negotiations with a digital content distributor called OverDrive. According to Library Journal, Budler realized that the “initial proposal in 2010 to renew the Kansas State Library contract with OverDrive would increase administrative costs by some 700 percent over the next few years.” Instead of agreeing to such an exorbitant cost increase, Budler rejected several proposals before reaching a deal that would allow the state library to “transfer titles from OverDrive to a new platform.” While the state library had been relying on a single ebook supplier, Budler ensured that it had agreements with multiple companies (such as 3M and Freading).
Libraries across the country are still learning how to deal with the surging popularity of ebooks and audiobooks, and Budler’s forward-looking approach has placed Kansas libraries in a stronger position to do so.
In 2013, Budler identified a series of problems with the way suppliers were providing ebooks to libraries. She argued that libraries should be allowed to transfer the ebooks they paid for after cancelling a contract with a vendor. She pointed out that some new ebooks were prohibitively expensive. And she fought against other restrictions that major publishers imposed on libraries’ acquisition of ebooks (which had led to “gaps on their digital shelves”). All of this effort made a huge difference. As Library Journal notes, “Budler and KSL have moved American libraries toward greater clarity about the issues surrounding ebook licensing and toward a more robust – if currently volatile – ebook marketplace for libraries.”
The state library is a critical resource for other libraries in Kansas – particularly the smaller ones located in rural areas. Budler explains that the state library serves as “a great equalizer to make certain everybody gets the same, basically good, library service.” By using federal funds from the Library Services and Technology Act, the state library is able to provide databases, ebooks and other materials much more efficiently across the state. Budler outlines the process: “We have databases that we purchase. About $1 million in cost. If the libraries across the state purchased it one at a time, it would be $53 million. That’s not a cost savings. That is a cost avoidance. Because there is no way we could afford that.”
Budler has been a tireless advocate for the libraries in Kansas, and she deserves our gratitude for steering the state library through a time of budget cuts and technological change. While she’ll be missed, she’s the state librarian we’ve needed over the past six years.
Members of The Capital-Journal’s editorial advisory board are Zach Ahrens, Matt Johnson, Ray Beers Jr., Laura Burton, Garry Cushinberry, Mike Hall, Jessica Lucas, Veronica Padilla and John Stauffer.