Free Direct Access

September 30, 1997

To:    Public Library Board Presidents
          Public Library Directors
          Public Library System Board Presidents
          Public Library System Directors

From:    Janet M. Welch, State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries

Subject:    Statewide Discussion on Free Direct Access Policy

* Please Respond by November 5, 1997*

The State Education Department and the State Library are seeking your input, by November 5, on revising the "free direct access" regulation (CR 90.3) to:

  • end overuse of libraries by non-residents,
  • encourage communities to provide adequate support for their libraries, and
  • maintain the traditional principle of free library service available to all New Yorkers.

Enclosed is a report developed by the Task Force on Free Direct Access. A memo from Carole Huxley, Deputy Commissioner, Office of Cultural Education, is also enclosed to provide background on this important issue. Please note that the recommendations in the report are those of the Task Force, not of the State Education Department or the State Library. Also enclosed for your consideration and comment are questions derived from the discussion of free direct access policy at a recent Regents meeting.

Joining the Statewide Discussion

Please share the report of the Task Force and the enclosed questions with as many people as possible: library staff, system staff, trustees, public officials and users of libraries. It would be helpful if you could comment within the framework of the enclosed questions. Please direct your comments to me in writing by November 5. I appreciate your willingness to discuss this important issue with as many people as possible within the limited time available. My address and FAX number are:

Janet M. Welch
State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries
New York State Library
10C34 Cultural Education Center
Albany, NY 12230
FAX: (518) 486-2152

Background on the Statewide Discussion and Next Steps

The report of the Task Force is an important first step in a four-step process to develop recommendations for the revision of the free direct access regulation. Your participation in this process, and the broad participation of librarians, trustees, library users and public officials, is fundamental to its success. I look forward to reviewing your comments about the report and the questions included with this memo.

The four-step process is as follows:

Step 1. A task force composed of library and system directors and a trustee developed the enclosed report at the request of the State Librarian. The Task Force recently presented its report to the Board of Regents Committee on Cultural Education. Questions derived from the resulting discussion are enclosed for your consideration and comment.
Step 2. The State Education Department and the State Library will develop a proposal on free direct access policy after a thorough review of your comments about the report. The Board of Regents will discuss the resulting proposal in December.
Step 3. The State Library will distribute the State Education Department's proposal on free direct access policy to a wide audience to solicit reaction and comments for review.
Step 4. The State Education Department and the State Library will develop final recommendations for changing the free direct access regulation. The proposed changes will then be forwarded to the Regents for discussion and a vote.

For More Information

If you plan to attend the New York Library Association Conference in Syracuse on October 31, staff of the State Library will be available to discuss this issue with you at the program Statewide Services from the State Library. Local library board presidents and directors may also wish to consult with their public library system for further information on free direct access policy. If you have questions about the report or the process for developing recommendations, please call any of the following State Library staff members: Jim Farrell (518/474-6973), Maureen Read (518/486-4860) or Carol Ann Desch (518/486-1358).

Copies to: Directors of Reference and Research Library Resources Systems, Directors of School Library Systems

Questions on Free Direct Access Policy for Statewide Discussion

The following questions were derived from the discussion of free direct access at a recent Regents meeting. Examples have been included to stimulate discussion and should not be considered the definitive response or the opinion of the State Education Department or the State Library.

A. What short-term changes would you recommend in the free direct access regulation (CR 90.3) which would reduce the overuse of good libraries by non-residents while maintaining the principle of free library service for all?
Possible example: Keep library services and resources available without individual fees to all persons living in a system service area, but place restrictions on the loan of materials less than one year old and all AV material to non-residents.
B. What long-term changes in library funding and the responsibilities of local municipalities or districts for providing library service are needed to improve the quality of library service for all New Yorkers?
Possible example: Reformulate State aid to reimburse net-lenders.
C. How can we insure that people who reside in economically-deprived areas, and who do not have access to a local library, are not excluded from borrowing library materials because borrowing is limited to residents? Of particular concern are preschool and school-age children.
Possible example: Require all municipalities or districts to provide basic library service to their residents, as they do now for schools.
D. What new ways of defining system service areas and what reciprocal intersystem or statewide activities might be proposed to improve access to library services across current boundaries?
Possible example: Introduce a statewide borrowers card or multisystem agreements on access.

Please share the report of the Task Force on Free Direct Access and these questions with as many people as possible: library staff, system staff, trustees, public officials and users of libraries. It would be helpful if people would comment within the framework of these questions. Please direct comments in writing by November 5, 1997, to:

Janet M. Welch
State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries
New York State Library
10C34 Cultural Education Center
Albany, NY 12230
FAX: 518/486-2152

Last Updated: July 10, 2009