Free Direct Access

November 28, 1997


TO: The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents Committee on Cultural Education

SUBJECT: Regents Commission on Library Services

At the September 1994 meeting, the Board of Regents voted to establish a Regents Commission on Library Services. The purpose of the Commission is to evaluate current library and library system governance and finance against the backdrop of the changing non-geographic specific technologies. The Commission will prepare recommendations for State policy on library services for lifelong learning in a society characterized by radical change in the production, transmission, handling and use of information. The full charge to the Commission is contained in the attached document..

I recommend that the Regents take the following action:

VOTED: That the charge to the Commission on Library Services is approved.

Respectfully submitted,

(signed Carole F. Huxley)

Carole F. Huxley

Approved: (signed Thomas Sheldon)

Date: (dated Nov. 28, 1997)



The purpose of the Commission on Library Services is to develop and recommend to the Regents a vision for library service to the people of New York State and a plan for ensuring equity of access to information for all New Yorkers. The Commission will respond to changing information needs by preparing recommendations on financing and governance of library services, relationships of New York's 7,000 libraries to their customers and to each other, use of telecommunications and other technologies to meet new information needs, and the role of the State Library in leading and supporting new directions for library services.

The Commission will develop its recommendations for library services for lifelong learning in the context of radical change in the production, transmission, handling and use of information. It will explore the current challenges to free direct access to libraries, examine the 100-year old governance and financial base of New York's libraries in the light of tomorrow's information needs and review the bold initiatives of other states which provide new electronic information services to all residents. The Commission's work will be in pursuit of the Regents mission, "To raise the knowledge, skill and opportunity of all the people of New York."

The Regents authorized the Commission in 1995. It will be the first broad examination of library services by a blue ribbon group since 1980-81 when the Commissioner's Committee on Statewide Library Development examined and projected needs for the 1980’s, laying the foundation for the 1984 school library systems law.

The Commission will include prominent citizens, users of libraries and library leaders. It will take 18 months to prepare its recommendations.


The Commission will develop a set of policy recommendations which improve library service to the people of New York State, including:

  • universal library service to all New Yorkers through chartered libraries or contracts for services;
  • organization of New York libraries and library systems to achieve the most convenient and cost effective delivery of services and to promote cooperation, collaboration and leadership;
  • financial support for libraries and library systems, especially issues of local and state responsibility for funding library services, incentives for sharing services, incentives for new chartered service and incentives for merger and contract services;
  • central administration and coordination of statewide library services and role of the State Research library; and
  • visibility and public awareness of libraries and library systems, promoting their value as educational institutions and as a public good which must be sustained and enhanced.

The Commission members will develop recommendations and will serve as advocates for libraries and for the implementation of their recommendations.


The Commission will consist of 12 voting members plus an honorary membership category and a series of panels to focus on significant issues.

12-Member Commission:

The proposed Commission should be headed by a prominent citizen as chair (Judge Bergan, Alfred Giardino and others have successfully chaired earlier Commissions) and an eminent librarian as vice chair (directors of the Buffalo and Erie County, Rochester and New York Public libraries have in earlier instances).

The Commission should include leading citizens and professionals who represent stakeholders in library services – the 18 million people of the State. These stakeholders include those who: (1) use libraries or are members of various groups who particularly depend upon libraries (parents and children, students, lifelong learners, the business and research communities, the professions, rural people and people in city neighborhoods); (2) establish policy and provide funds for libraries at community, institution and state levels (trustees, foundation board members, leaders in education and government); and, (3) direct libraries and library systems and lead the primary library organizations in New York State.

Honorary Board:

An honorary board will be comprised of well-known New Yorkers who are prominent in the arts, publishing, telecommunications, business, entertainment and the media, etc. Honorary Board members will have a voice in developing the Commission's proposals, but they will not be expected to attend regular Commission meetings. They will be asked to lend their names and prestige and use their contacts with other leaders to advocate for libraries and help implement the Commission's recommendations.


The Commission will be advised on major issues by several panels. Each panel will be led by a voting Commission member and will draw its membership from statewide and national experts in the library community and from other groups, which are knowledgeable about the topics.

Panel topics might include:

  1. Improving access to libraries and library services:
    • Public library governance and library service in every community; local responsibility and free direct access.
    • Interlibrary cooperation: every library a doorway to all libraries of the State.
    • Functions and organization of library systems in the 21st Century.
  2. The changing information needs of New Yorkers: information access through technology and telecommunications.
    • Library service to New Yorkers in the 21st Century: the digital library.
    • Training library staff and customers for improved information access using technology.
  3. Organization and funding of Statewide Library Services to benefit all New Yorkers.
    • Purpose and future directions of State aid to libraries and systems
    • Need for and role of State Library in leading and supporting new directions in library services
    • Building, creating and negotiating resource access
    • Consultation and training
    • Partnerships and funding


The Board of Regents will make appointments to the Commission, Honorary Board and panels. The appointees, viewed as a whole, will broadly reflect the backgrounds and interests listed below.

Appointees will be sought who each have broad and varied experience (wear many "hats"), each reflecting more than one of the following characteristics:


targeted populations




In-state/Out-of-State (national)

Type of library/system/institution in which library is located*:

public libraries, central libraries, public library systems

school libraries and school library systems

academic, research and special libraries and regional library systems

networks (e.g., SUNY-OCLC)

Sectors of the Economy:


* NOTE: Not only librarians bring experience with particular types of libraries; non-librarians usually come from institutions that contain particular types of libraries (for example, college president-academic library; BOCES superintendent-school library.)

Last Updated: July 9, 2009