Report to the Board of Regents, May 2007
The members of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries appreciate this opportunity to meet with the Regents and discuss the key issues that are critical to all libraries in New York State — public libraries, school libraries, college and university libraries, and libraries in hospitals, businesses, and other organizations. We also thank you for the role you played in achieving increases in state funding for libraries for a second straight year.
Access to reliable, high-quality information resources, including print and electronic, is essential to New York’s success. Our libraries provide the means to that access:
- Southern Tier: Investors and small businesses in the Southern Tier Library System are frequent users of the Business & Company Resource Center, available through NOVELNY, to conduct research about publicly traded companies. Users can enter a single database to read a company profile, see financial reports, read magazine and newspaper articles, see industry rankings, and much more. One investor wanted information about a European-based commercial bank that his 401k provider was contracting to manage a foreign investment fund. The Business & Resource Center had a detailed history of the bank and showed its ranking among other commercial banks.
- Dutchess County: At a demonstration held at SeniorNet of Dutchess County called “Library Databases Promote Healthy Living,” a participant revealed that he had recently been diagnosed with diabetes. He was pleased to report that he had found help with his new, more stringent diet by searching the NOVELNY databases.
Why do we need to continue to strengthen libraries and ensure that they have adequate support? Libraries facilitate New Yorkers’ information access and improve their lives in the following ways:
- By providing information to fuel economic and business development, particularly small businesses without other access to expensive electronic resources;
- By offering tools, resources, and services to build the skills of people entering the workforce and those who are changing careers;
- By giving students in higher education top-quality academic and research resources, as well as incentives to remain in New York State to pursue their educations and careers;
- By improving student achievement through strong school libraries, quality collections, and expanded Internet access, e.g., access to 300 age-appropriate periodicals through NOVELNY;
- By raising the literacy and information-literacy skills of pre-schoolers, K–12 students, college/university students, and adults of all ages.
Libraries play an integral role in the education of all New Yorkers. They need adequate support to acquire and retain the best professional staff, obtain and maintain excellent collections, and provide indispensable services that improve the lives of people in countless ways.
We congratulate all the Regents for the leadership that resulted in an increase of $5 million in aid to libraries for 2007–08 over the amount in the 2006–07 State Budget. This $5 million increase is added to the $3 million increase for 2006–07 for the library systems, making a total increase of $8 million in System Supplementary Aid this year. The budget also includes another one-time $14 million for public library construction and renovation. We are grateful for your achievement in securing increased funding for these Regents priorities.
However, even with the progress made over the last two years, we have much work to do. With strained local budgets, many libraries find it increasingly difficult to sustain staff, collections, and hours of service, not to mention the successful services and programs that improve and enrich the lives of participants. Of particular concern is the continuing lack of state funding for NOVELNY, which is supported solely by federal Library Services and Technology Act funds. New Jersey spends more than three times as much as New York for licensing of electronic resources, and 88 percent of the total comes from state funds. Forced to use a significant part of the available LSTA funds to support NOVELNY, the New York State Library is unable to provide funds for valuable grant programs through the library systems.
The Regents Advisory Council is seeking support from the Regents in advancing the following priorities that will confront the issues above:
- $10 million in state funding for NOVELNY
- An increase to $30 million for public library construction, building on the achievement of the last two years
- An increase to $10 per pupil in School Library Materials Aid
- State funding for early literacy programs and the Statewide Summer Reading Program
- State funding for statewide library trustee education programs
Special Regents Action Recommended:
- Support initiatives to help libraries gain access to sufficient bandwidth for access to electronic resources, especially in rural areas, where libraries provide the only means of Internet access for many residents.
- Help all libraries succeed by providing support for State Library experts to assist libraries and for the library systems statewide, which provide the backbone of library services.
We are very gratified that libraries remain a Regents priority and that the Regents engage in legislative advocacy for libraries. We hope that you will continue to ensure that libraries are discussed at the meetings you attend and in statements to the media. We pledge to continue in our role of calling attention to the needs of New Yorkers for top-quality 21st century library services.
Regents Advisory Council on Libraries
Lucretia McClure, Chair
Mary Lou Caskey
Karen Patricia Smith
Irving Toliver, Vice Chair