Free Direct Access

Guidelines for System Plan for Commissioner’s Regulation 90.3(a) through (d)(4)

[These Guidelines are numbered to correspond with the Outline of the System Free Direct Access Plan to Fulfill Commissioner’s Regulation §90.3(a) through (d)(4)]

A simple majority vote by the member libraries is needed to approve the free direct access portion of the system plan. A copy of the vote results must be attached to the system plan. The system plan must include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following provisions:

  1. A description of the methods the system will use to assure that all persons living within the system boundaries, including those in jurisdictions with a population of over 10,000 that do not contract for library services or have their own library, will be served. No distinction in the provision of library service can be made by either the system or the central or co-central library concerning the over/under 10,000 population provisions of this regulation. (See §90.3(d)(2) and (d)(4) for central and co-central library obligations.)

    Free on-site use of the total resources of the system by all individuals residing within the boundaries of the system is a requirement of the regulation. Included in free on-site use is the use of computers and access to the Internet. Preference for such service may be given to local residents.

    Neither the system or member libraries may charge individuals for library cards.

  2. If a member library withdraws from the system, the system will not be subject to any loss of state aid so long as the residents of the area encompassed by the withdrawing library receive library services from the system. (See Education Law §272 (1)(c) for more information.) (Based on Commissioner’s Regulation §90.3(d)(2) and (d)(4) central and co-central library must provide services.)
  3. In describing what the system considers "serious inequities and hardships", the system may include the economic impact on the individual libraries. In determining the economic impact on individual libraries, measurements such as the number and proportion of non-resident borrowers, or number and proportion of loans to non-residents and the number of unreturned items loaned to non-residents may be considered.
  4. Excessive borrowing, while varying from system to system, must be defined in a reasonable manner based on the local system’s circulation patterns.
    1. An analysis of the library system must be made. The analysis should include, but not necessarily be limited to, a list of the unserved and a description of the underserved populations within the system.
    2. The system must provide an explanation of the criteria used by the system to identify libraries as having an inadequate level of local income to support the delivery of acceptable library services.
    3. The system, working with member libraries, should contact and negotiate with municipalities to either create or contract for library services where none exists and help to strengthen the support of those libraries with inadequate levels of local support. A summary of these actions should be included in this plan. In cases where the system and member libraries have made repeated and documented unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with municipalities to either create or contract for library services, hardship waivers as described in guideline 6 (b)(i) will be considered.
    4. A reasonable timetable for taking action must be provided.
    5. Assignment of responsibilities for taking actions on expanding the availability of library services to the unserved and underserved in the system must be provided.
    1. Certain modifications to the plan for unrestricted direct access may be made with the approval of the majority of member libraries and without prior approval from the Commissioner of Education. The plan must describe the conditions under which such modifications will be implemented. These restrictions may include:
      1. Not supplying library services to jurisdictions with a population of over 10,000 that do not contract for library services or have their own library. Central or co-central libraries cannot impose this restriction.
      2. Placing restrictions upon the loan of library resources. These restrictions are limited to non-print materials and equipment and printed materials, less than one year from the acquisition date, purchased with local funds. Libraries must certify to the system that they are able to identify what materials are being purchased with various funding sources in order to determine what materials may be restricted.
      3. Placing restrictions upon attendance at library programs. Such programs must be supported entirely with local funds.
    2. Certain additional modifications to the plan for unrestricted direct access may be made for individual libraries with the approval of the majority of member libraries and with prior approval from the Commissioner of Education. Such requests will be submitted in writing by the system board of trustees. The system board will not unnecessarily delay the submission of a member request for additional restrictions once the member libraries have approved the request to go forward. They will include, but not be limited to, the requirements below.
      1. Documentation of the serious inequities and hardships affecting the resident borrowers of the member library making the request. (For example, if an unserved community defeats a library proposition or terminates a contract for library services, the system may request a hardship waiver from the Commissioner on behalf of the affected library.)
      2. The proposed modifications that will be implemented. No modifications will be considered if they include charging for library services.
      3. A description of the anticipated impact on resident and non-resident borrowers after modifications are approved and implemented. Restrictions apply only for member libraries. The system may not impose restrictions. The system is expected to continue to serve those populations from areas where approved member library restrictions have been imposed.
      4. A time frame for the beginning and end of such a modification. Modifications for restrictions will be approved for a certain period of time. Renewals must be made on a timely basis.
      5. System recommendations for remedying the underlying inequity with a proposed timetable for action.

  5. The system plan of service, of which the plan for free direct access is a part, is a contract between the State Education Department and the system that allows the system to obtain state aid. As a condition of system membership, the member libraries agree to comply with Commissioner’s Regulations. It is the system’s responsibility to assure member libraries are abiding by the terms of membership.
  6. A description of the steps the system took to obtain member library input into the development and/or amendment of this portion of the system plan of service.

March 4, 1999; revised February 6, 2007

Last Updated: February 21, 2018