Nebraska Library Commission gaming audit, one librarian’s response

For those that don’t know MPOW got audited recently and the state auditor determined that our spending of state funds regarding gaming was inappropriate. The report and our response can be found on the NLC’s blog. Those interested in the local reaction can check out this article and the 60+ comments on the Lincoln Journal Star Web site. (It’s also made the TV news in both Lincoln and Omaha, along with an AP article that’s been reprinted in at least two other states.)

I’ve got my opinions and feelings about how this went down and the results but for now I need to keep them pretty much in-house. However, I did get permission from one Nebraska librarian to reprint his letter to the newspaper and to the state auditor. I am reprinting in here in case the paper doesn’t decide to print it. (The only editing I did was to add the link to Amazon regarding the book he speaks of and to remove his phone number and e-mail address.)

John W. Seyfarth
Information Systems Manager
Sump Memorial Library
4612 Sutley Circle
Papillion, NE 68133

Feb 25, 2009

Mike Foley, State Auditor
P. O. Box 98917
State Capitol, Suite 2303
Lincoln, NE 68509

An open letter to the Nebraska State Auditor, Mr. Mike Foley

Dear Mr. Foley,

I am a librarian at the Sump Memorial Library in Papillion.  I read the Journal Star article about your recent audit of the Nebraska Library Commission, the audit itself, and the response by the Commission.  It appears to me that perhaps you and your auditors don’t have a good grasp of what the current missions of libraries are.  The most important is that we are the community center for lifelong learning, and we are not just books, magazines, or the Internet any more.  Gaming and social networking are legitimate activities that contribute to lifelong learning.  Perhaps you should read one of the most authoritative works on the subject, “Don’t Bother Me Mom—I’m Learning!” by Marc Prensky.  I have ordered a copy to be delivered to your office on my dime.  I hope you read it, and discover that the manipulatives that are used in gaming are not just “toys” as you hinted in your audit.  As you stated, one of the objectives is to attract youths into libraries, and perhaps introduce them to gaming, and the other elements that libraries provide toward facilitation of lifelong learning.  There is lots of learning that takes place with both gaming and social networking.  Much of it is related to the enhancement of personal communication skills.  And in my opinion, we really need better communications between the citizens of our country.  So, if you haven’t tried it, I encourage you to attend one of the gaming tournaments that will undoubtedly occur at one of the Lincoln City Libraries.  The commission’s role in all this is to help libraries in facilitating these activities, and the Internet vehicles are low cost methods to get this information out to Nebraska Libraries.

Furthermore, one of the issues in your report has to do with the fact that the commission paid sales tax on their two on-line purchases.  On line vendors generally don’t accept our Nebraska Tax Exempt form, and furthermore, the 5½% of the 7% sales tax that was paid in these orders goes directly back into state coffers.  Of the $29.26 that was paid on the state credit card all but $6.27 went back to the state, since it was state tax.  I have included a check for $6.27 in Mr. Foley’s copy of this letter written out to the Department of Revenue to cover the city tax that was missed out on by the State of Nebraska.

It appears to me that there are many bigger “fish to fry” by your state auditors that the gaming purchases by the Nebraska Library Commission.  As I am also a member of a local Nebraska Foster Care Review Board, I see the results of many very important unaudited issues every month.  If the Audit Agency is hurting for topics to audit, just take a look as the State Foster Care Review Board 25th Anniversary Annual Report, and there is rich material to audit here, such as why almost 46% of the children in foster care have had to put up with at least four or more different case workers to manage their cases during their custody as state wards, or over 40% of children in foster care have been there over two years.

John W. Seyfarth

Director, Nebraska Library Commission
Executive Director, State Foster Care Review Board
President, Nebraska Library Association

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