Responses to input on new Statewide Plan from Libraries

The Questions

The Responses

2020 Visioning Process: Key Questions for the Library and Education Communities

  1. What are the two most important roles of libraries today?  What will they be in the future?  How will libraries fulfill these future roles?
  2. What are the greatest challenges libraries will face over the next 10 years?  What assets and resources do libraries have that can overcome these challenges?  What are the barriers that will prevent libraries from meeting these challenges?
  3. How can library service be extended to those currently not using libraries?  How do we engage community members in connecting their needs to libraries?
  4. What will be the most important roles of school libraries in the future?  What will increase the visibility and relevance of school libraries?
  5. How can academic libraries be more integral to their own institution’s community? Is there a role for academic libraries beyond the campus?  If so, what is that role?
  6. What can public libraries do to ensure their survival?  How can they better serve their communities?
  7. What will be the most important roles of special and research libraries in the future?  What will increase the visibility and relevance of special and research libraries?
  8. What are the greatest challenges facing New York State’s library systems over the next 10 years?  What are the assets and resources library systems will need to meet these challenges?
  9. How can the State Library and the State Education Department help libraries position themselves to successfully meet the needs of all New Yorkers for library services in 2020 and beyond?
  10. What will be the impact on libraries with the rapid growth of commercial information sources like streaming video, iTunes, and e-books?  How can libraries prosper in a Digital Age?

Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library Board of Trustees

Question 1: Important roles today, and in future—Knowledge center for lifelong learning. Community meeting space. Entertainment centers.

Fulfill by keeping current. Access to information in all formats. Adopt/adapt to technology.

Question 2: Challenges are adequate funding, infrastructure decay, changing formats (digital).

Solutions are to affirmatively look forward, conduct future planning, keep up with advancing technology. Friends groups may be able to help with things like funding and advocacy in the community

A well trained, adaptable staff is a key asset in facing challenges

Question 3: More outreach, both in quantity and in sophistication. Professional marketing strategies.

Extend library services outside the building(s). Mobile services. Expand internet access.

Continuing communication with communities in a variety of formats; tailor the messages to the appropriate segments of the community

Question 4: Expose youngsters to sources of information. Teach research skills, how to use reference materials.

Increase library visibility through current technology; make library facilities available beyond school day, school year. Keep environment comfortable.

Create a comfort level in using libraries for students who can carry that into their everyday life

Question 6: Identify and serve the library’s specific community’ needs. Keep services, materials current for all groups, maintaining and providing access to all forms of info.

Question 8: Greatest challenge is state/local funding. Libraries and systems are diverse with different needs. Pressures will exist to limit funding.

Meet challenges by using technology, broadband to meet service requirements more efficiently. Consider resource sharing. Continue aggressive public education campaigns emphasizing value of libraries.

Continue to provide equitable access to library services for entire community regardless of income; education; language barriers, etc.

Question 10: Stay current with technologies; adapt/adopt them where possible. Keep staff up to speed.

Libraries are able to provide equal access to information

The Community Library, Cobleskill

Firstly, our Board completed a large, badly needed renovation plan for our Library in 2007-2008 with the invaluable aid of Library Construction Grants. Before they were instituted, the amount of money available for construction /renewal was so small that only the tiniest, comparatively, projects could be contemplated. We strongly urge that Library Construction Grants be made available well into the future. With old buildings such as ours, things like asbestos and lead paint removal will cost us tens of thousands before we even get started on making more space and more resources available to our patrons. And we do want to fulfill this goal. -- Linda Bidwell, Secretary

Question 1; Question 3: Our library offers a wide range of programs to our community. We do so not only to extend learning and recreational opportunities to our patrons, but to draw more community members into the orbit of the library. This is especially important with regard to children and our elderly for obvious reasons. We believe these goals will extend well into the future and we will strive to offer new services to these groups. More staff may be required, and it is our hope that more state operational aid will be extended. It is meager at best.

Question 2; Question 6; Question 10: To tell you the truth, one of the greatest challenges we face is the cost of utilities. Another is the inability of our treasury to support extended, more working-person friendly, hours. Of course, the ubiquity of all kinds of electronics may possibly be inimical to the expansion of patronage at libraries, but we have not necessarily found that to be true. Our patronage goes up steadily. We do offer wireless and patron-use computers at present, and these things are consistently used by those who do not have them available otherwise. We are currently exploring making e-readership available which may also be a boon to many of our patrons. As always, costs may represent the greatest barrier to offering new services.

In the "digital age," libraries offer the kind of community cohesion that digitals fragment. Libraries are meeting places, thoroughly consumer-friendly resources, cultural repositories, and free recreational venues. Library staff and trustees are well aware of competing resources and take care to offer them in-library when they can, and supplement them with the kind of local benefits that only they can offer. As I recently read: "libraries are places where you can read and reflect," and the "reflection" that can take place in these serene places may be the most important library service.

Question 9: I assume, though I do not know, that the State Ed. Department supports regional library associations such as our own Mohawk Valley Library System. Our experience is that staff at MVLS is extremely knowledgeable, well up on what libraries, staffs and trustees need to do, and very helpful in carrying through on our responsibilities. Future support of these regional systems, their staffing and offerings are extremely important.

Executive Board of the Member Library Directors of Nassau County

Question 1: The two most important roles of public libraries today are to 1) provide free, unbiased, authoritative access to information and materials in print and digital formats tailored to the needs of their patrons for the purpose of life-long learning, local history, research, and entertainment; and 2) provide comfortable, safe and neutral spaces for children, parents, teens, adults, and seniors to read, socialize, find information, do homework, attend a program, use the library computers, wireless Internet, fax machines, and copiers.

The role of the public library in the future will continue to be to provide free and unbiased access to information that is essential to the functioning of a democratic society. The information will increasingly be in a digital format. Libraries currently subscribe to digital materials such as online databases, electronic books, and audio books. Libraries will continue to purchase materials in digital formats and train librarians to be experts in understanding digital structures and digital search strategies.

Libraries will continue to be a physical place for patrons of all ages. Libraries will also become a virtual place bringing members of the community together virtually through the library website or portal. Libraries will maintain their facilities, develop virtual libraries, and provide patrons access to new technologies as they emerge.

Question 2: The Library is a trusted and cherished institution with a powerful brand. Libraries provide information and access to the Internet at no charge. This is a benefit for patrons who are on the lower end of the economic scale. Some patrons, regardless of wealth, prefer to borrow materials for short-term use rather than purchase materials from an online source making the public library their source for materials.

Libraries have a trained staff with expertise in various fields. The proliferation of “content farms,” which send search results to the top of the search results list, undermines the user’s ability to obtain unbiased authoritative information. A trained librarian is able to obtain information without a commercial slant or political viewpoint. A librarian is trained in many disciplines whereas a patron may be expert searching in a specific discipline. Librarians are able to obtain information based on a patron’s needs and level of capability. Google does not differentiate between the student searching the term “cancer” for a homework assignment or a senior citizen searching the same term for medical information.

In the next ten years, there will be an ever-increasing number of commercial services providing instantaneous digital content. The proliferation of computers and availability of high bandwidth allows patrons to obtain digital content from home.

The rapid change in technology and modes of delivering digital content will require that libraries continuously stay abreast of new and emerging technologies.

The younger generation has been trained since grade school in the use of computers and is more Internet savvy than their parents and grandparents. The next generation of patrons will be able to navigate the Internet to obtain information making the library seem irrelevant.

Libraries, subject to Civil Service law, lack the flexibility of hiring the most talented and diverse work force that will allow libraries to compete and be relevant.

Libraries will not be able to meet these challenges if they are unable to purchase digital content because of funding constraints or content provider restrictions. Libraries also need increased marketing to promote the services offered and create a new identity.

Question 3: Through outreach and greater partnerships within the community, libraries can extend their services to those not using the library. Libraries can engage community members by providing services using social networking, texting and chat tools.

Question 4: n/a

Question 5: n/a

Question 6: Public libraries can ensure their survival by continuing to provide access to free unbiased, authoritative information and materials. They must continue to purchase digital content and expand, maintain, and repurpose building space to provide areas for study, work, meetings, and programs for patrons of all ages. They must provide staff development for librarians to be experts on digital content, delivery methods, and data structure. Libraries need to develop tools used by commercial services such as recommendation systems that will automatically recommend materials based on a patron’s previous searches.

Libraries are repositories for local history.  Libraries can serve their communities by archiving and digitizing local government information, memorabilia and oral histories.  They must also create local histories thereby generating and preserving unique local material that can be used by generations to come.

Question 7: n/a

Question 8: The greatest challenges facing New York State’s library systems are lack of stable funding and support from the State.  No other state funded program serves so many people (over 75% of New York households and getting larger) with so little state funding (less than one tenth of one percent of the state budget and getting smaller).

Cuts in State Library aid fall heaviest upon library systems – which provide the cost-sharing, shared services and collaborative approach that save local libraries and their patrons money. Library systems ensure equitable access for all New Yorkers no matter what the size or resources available at their local library.  Cuts in funding to libraries and library systems is akin to imposing a tax increase on those people who can least afford paying for reading materials, those seeking ESL classes and those seeking assistance with finding jobs and new career opportunities.

These continued cuts will also result in further losses in matching federal funds that have already cost New York State over $2 million in Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grants.

The State’s view of libraries must be shifted so that they are not considered as luxuries, but as necessities.  Library systems are the backbone of our libraries and information infrastructure.  They are an example of how the library community has long been a champion and role model for regional cooperation, resource sharing and providing services in a cost-effective and efficient manner that saves libraries of all types and their patron’s money. 

Public Libraries look to their library systems for the services that will help them in the future such as:

  • Training librarians in emerging technology, formats and library trends.
  • Outreach and partnerships in the community. 
  • Cooperative purchase of goods and services including digital content.
  • Providing leadership, consistency and continuation of best practices as changes occur in library administration, personnel, and trustees. 

In order to provide these services to local libraries, systems need to plan, organize and schedule knowing that a consistent revenue source can be relied upon.  The continuing degradation of funding prevents library systems from being on the forefront of burgeoning opportunities; rather, they are forced to focus their attentions on the struggle to survive funding cuts.

Further, institutional knowledge is diminished when library systems are forced to reduce staff due to budget cuts, preventing a succession of personnel that have the expertise to achieve the goals of the system’s Plan of Service. 

The assets and resources library systems will need to meet these challenges are adequate funding, a budget year that coincides with the State’s fiscal year, and an experienced and well-staffed State Library and Division of Library Development, who can offer expert leadership, funding, and training to the library systems as they address the myriad State and Federal regulations.  Specifically:

  • State initiatives for streaming video, music, and e-books.
  • Provide ongoing State funding for NOVEL.
  • Quick implementation of Census figures.
  • Maintain the equitable distribution of State support of library systems.  Do not restructure State aid to systems based on matching funds from member libraries. 
  • Provide incentives for cooperation by offering additional State aid to those libraries using system services.

Question 9: In order to provide content to all New Yorkers, the State Library and State Education Department need to negotiate contracts with digital content providers to allow libraries to provide streaming video, digital music, eBooks, and any emerging technologies at the lowest possible price.

The State Library and State Education Department should encourage current commercial integrated library automation systems to developed products with public libraries in mind and to provide the necessary tools to retrieve data about the information needs of their patrons.

The State Library and State Education Department should develop portals to bring communities together, share information, download content, and provide training for librarians.

Question 10: Libraries have always been a source of free content. Commercial information sources are not free and therefore do not provide equal access to those on the lower socio-economic scale. Through future State initiatives for streaming video, music, and e-books, libraries in the digital age will continue to provide digital content at no cost to patrons.

Member Library Directors Executive Board:

Ellen Firer, Chair
Maureen Chiofalo
Susan de Sciora
Karen Leibman
Frank McKenna
Carol Probeyahn
Jackie Thresher
George Trepp

Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County


Question 1:

1.A.  Early literacy and access of information What will they be in the future?

Same, the way we deliver will change as technology changes.

1.B. It is becoming increasingly harder to provide what our patrons need/want. Every year the budget is cut and staff are let go leaving more work for fewer people and less training opportunities can be taken because it comes down to Who will cover the desk if I leave for a workshop or conference? If I can't develop in areas of technology and other advancements in the field, how can I expect to serve the public and their changing needs.

Question 2:

2.A. Staffing: funding to get and keep excellent staff and funding to train them.

2.B. People. Libraries have unbelievable staff that are dedicated, sometimes to our own detriment. We keep doing more with less and that has not helped us yet.

2.C. Funding and old school ideas of what a library should be.

Question 3:

3.A. We need to leave the building and talk to those people that do not come in and find out why and what we can do for them. What do they want? What would get them in? Educate the community on all the things we can and do offer.

3.B. Personal relationships.

Question 4:

4.A. Teaching children the proper use of technology and to how to be responsible users of the technology as well as teaching children how to select materials (print and no print) and be able to disseminate information.

4.B. Having proper staffing that can accommodate the students educational needs as well as entertainment needs. Reading needs to viewed as something fun to do, not just something that is assigned. Too many schools do not offer open libraries where students can go down and read just to read. Because of staffing, the libraries are not accessible to the students.

Question 5:

5.A. Working in a community with several universities, I'm amazed at the number of students that are shocked to find out that the public library does not have what they need for their papers and that their school library does, print and non print. There is a huge disconnect with students and their academic library.

5.B. Yes.

5.C. Downloadable materials and Databases.

Question 6:

6.A. Funding needs to be established for the services we provide and the time we need to be open to give the community what they want. For some reason governments continue to devalue the library and the services we offer and show it by the budget they allocate to us. We need to provide the service that the budget we are given allows for and stop bending over backwards to show how nice we are because it has not helped yet. I don't know if private funding is wise, what happens when the business we have relied on changes owners and they pull their funding? Then we are left to scramble. It should be provided by tax dollars.

6.B. Think outside of traditional library service, get rid of civil service, and try new things, don't be afraid to fail and try again. One of the biggest obstacles I see is that there are staff in positions not because they are the best person for the job but rather because they have managed to stay on the longest. Promotion because of time served does not help the library and the communities we serve. Civil service test do not test personalities, abilities, and knowledge brought from other experiences. Just because you take a class or attend more conferences than someone else does not mean you can do a better job. It's an unfair system that hurts us in the end and allows for a lot of dead wood.

Question 7: n/a

Question 8:

8.A. Meeting the changing needs of the community with less funding even though library use is up, keeping a quality staff dedicated to public service. With each slash of the budget, full time staff are cut leaving part time staff in place. Generally part time people have to piece together two or even three jobs at a time. This does not encourage people to give their best when we can't give them our best.

8.B. Open minds, dedication to the field, funding for full time staff and digital materials.

Question 9: Offer free training for librarians and library staff, maybe seek a consortium for benefits to help libraries keep full time staff rather than part time staff who are not as dedicated.

Question 10:

Hopefully those in control of the content will put aside their greed so that libraries can continue to offer digital content in a way that does not restrict what our patrons want, when they want it.

Tonia Burton, Children's Services Consultant

Wells Memorial Library

Dear Regents,

I am the Board President for Wells Memorial Library, a tiny gem in Essex County in the heart of the Adirondacks. We serve a population of 2000 across two villages with a shared school district and a budget of only $29,000, 70% of which we raise ourselves. We are currently in the process of long range planning with our focus being the question "What is our role in the age of Kindle and Twitter?"

Libraries have proven themselves to be vital players in communities, providing free services through collections and programs and technology. We are currently exploring getting eReaders to complement our Internet access and automation which has made our lending grow well beyond what we have on our shelves. Our library has been the social center of our rural region since 1906, hosting concerts, teas, yard sales, club meetings, story hours, art and other classes, literacy services and much more. Our role has shifted as new offerings come into our area, but we adapt and recognize people appreciate and value a place that is warm and inviting, with much that is familiar and dear alongside the latest thing.

Sincerely, Marie-Anne Azar Ward

Last Updated: August 12, 2011 -- asm