New York State Library

Guidelines for the New York State Public Library System Services to State Correctional Facility Libraries State Aid Program



Library services to incarcerated individuals in New York’s State correctional facilities are delivered through both the General Library Program and the Law Library Program of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). The General Library Program is enhanced through a long-standing State-aided partnership between DOCCS and the New York State Library. The partnership was initiated through 1984 legislation which made funds available for a cooperative library services program between those public library systems which have State correctional facilities in their service areas and the State correctional facilities. For full text of the law and regulation governing this state aid program, see Appendix I: Education Law Article 5, Section 285, State Aid For Cooperation with Correctional Facilities; Commissioner's Regulations, 90.14, State Aid For Cooperation With Correctional Facilities.

Of the 23 public library systems, 17 currently have state correctional facilities in their system service area. These 17 public library systems work with some 60 state correctional facility libraries across the state. The number and size of state correctional facilities varies greatly from region to region. The number of correctional facilities in the public library systems’ service areas ranges from one to eight (Appendix III). The populations of state correctional facilities vary from 66 to nearly 3,000 incarcerated individuals. While the public library systems administer this program to make the system’s resources available to libraries in correctional facilities, the law requires that the program of services be developed in direct cooperation between the public library systems and the State correctional facilities. For each State correctional facility, the librarian and Deputy Superintendent of Programs are part of the process and their agreement is evidenced through the nnual Authentication of Negotiation.

These guidelines are intended to enhance the program as follows:

  • Provide guidance to public library systems for effective administration of the program.
  • Facilitate communication among all participants in the program.
  • Provide support that will result in quality public library system services to incarcerated individuals in New York State correctional facilities.

I. Cooperation Between the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Division of Library Services, and the New York State Library

The State Education Department, through the New York State Library, Division of Library Development and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision through the Division of Library Services, are the two State agencies that oversee the public library systems and the State correctional facility libraries respectively. The State correctional facility librarians are accountable to the DOCCS Division of Library Services, and the public library systems are accountable to the State Librarian & Assistant Commissioner for Libraries. Open communication between the two State agencies, as well as between the facility librarians and the public library system staff, enhance the success of this program.

New York State Library/Division of Library Development staff consults with the DOCCS Division of Library Services staff for clarification of correctional library procedures and policies as necessary. State Library staff review and approve public library system Five-Year Plans of Service, annual State aid applications, and annual reports to ensure that state funds are spent appropriately.

Copies of relevant directives and memos sent to the participants in the program by either the DOCCS Division of Library Services or the New York State Library will be sent to the other State agency to keep both agencies informed of policies, procedures, and problems that may affect the program.

II. Negotiation of Annual Service Agreements Between Public Library Systems and General Libraries in State Correctional Facilities

As part of their administration of the State aid program, public library system liaisons to the State correctional facilities work with the facility librarians and administrative staff to negotiate an annual service plan. Between January and June of each year, the liaisons meet with correctional facility librarians in the system’s service area as a group and, if possible, the Deputy Superintendent for Programs of each State correctional facility and with the DOCCS Division of Library Service Supervising Librarian or an associate librarian to develop the service plan.

After agreement has been reached:

  • Copies of the agreed-upon service plan and budget summary are distributed by the public library system to each correctional facility library
  • The public library system also distributes and collects from each facility an Authentication of Annual Negotiation form
  • This Authentication is complete when it has been signed by each of the following: public library system liaison; public library system director; correctional facility librarian; Deputy Superintendent for Programs of each facility
  • The signed Authentication of Annual Negotiation is required prior to release of State aid to the public library system and the Authentication is retained at the public library system.
  • A copy of the agreement is provided to the correctional facility library for use in their DOCCS facility accreditation

III. Eligibility for State Aid to Public Library Systems for System Services to State Correctional Facility Libraries

Public Library Systems with State Correctional Facilities in Service Area

State aid under this program is available to any public library system that has one or more State correctional facilities located within its service area. Funding is per capita based on the population in the correctional facilities as of July 1 of the year preceding the program calendar year. For example, funding for program year 2014 is based on the incarcerated individual population statistics collected and current as of July 2013. The funding rate in State law is $9.25 per incarcerated individual. If State aid to libraries is not approved according to Education Law, the funding is based on the percentage of the full amount which is appropriated by the Legislature and Governor.

Responsibilities and Agreements necessary for participation: Public Library Systems

  • The public library system will have a New York State Library / SED-approved Five-Year System Plan of Service that includes goals, activities, and anticipated results for services to State correctional facility libraries in the system’s service area, as well as evaluation procedures to be used to determine the system’s effectiveness in providing these services.
  • The public library system and the State correctional facility library will negotiate an annual service agreement as described above.
  • The public library system will submit and receive approval of the system’s State aid application.
  • The public library system will provide assurance, as part of the system’s State aid application, that the annual service agreement has been authenticated by each State correctional facility to which the system plans to extend services.

If a public library system plans to serve a correctional facility library that is not eligible as defined in the Commissioner’s Regulations 90.14 (a) (2), the system must request and obtain a Variance from the New York State Library / Division of Library Development.

Responsibilities and Agreements necessary for participation: Correctional Facility Libraries

  • Employ a full-time, certified librarian except for those state correctional facilities that are identified by DOCCS as correctional camps and minimum-security facilities. A public library system may decide not to provide services to a State correctional facility library if the librarian position in the facility’s library remains vacant for more than three months during any calendar year. A correctional facility must report any librarian personnel changes to the public library system which provides service to the facility within one month of the change.
  • Full operation, serving a resident incarcerated individual population, as of July 1 of the year preceding the calendar year of the program (Commissioner’s Regulations 90.14 (a) (3)). A correctional facility that is added to a public library system’s service area after July 1 will qualify for participation in the program only after July 1 of the following year, when DOCCS reports the facility’s population census to the State Library.

NOTE: The State correctional facility is responsible for the provision of equitable library service to the incarcerated individual population.

IV. Services and Programs Provided by Public Library Systems

The purpose of the program is to supplement library services and resources for incarcerated individuals in State correctional institutions by providing incarcerated individuals with broader access to library materials, services, and the statewide library network.

Funds are made available to public library systems to provide the system’s services to the correctional facility’s library and incarcerated individuals. The distribution of State aid funds for this program is based on the annually negotiated agreement between the parties regarding how the public library system’s resources may best be used to facilitate library service to incarcerated individuals.

DOCCS provides the basic annual budget for library staffing, acquisitions, and equipment for its general libraries. The Public Library System Services to State Correctional Facility Libraries State Aid Program is not intended to replace DOCCS’ responsibility to provide for the growth of the facility library program or as a substitute for basic library service and programs that each correctional facility provides for its incarcerated individuals.

Materials and equipment purchased through the program remain the property of the public library system, although the system may provide them to a correctional facility library on long-term loan. The library system and the correctional facility library negotiate responsibility for repairs and/or maintenance of these materials and equipment.

All negotiated plans for services are contingent on the public library system’s receipt of annual state aid funds for the program. The amount of funding is based on the budget approved by the State legislature and the governor. During the planning and negotiation phases, both parties may work with an estimated dollar amount based on the amount received by the library system during the previous year. Actual State aid amounts received by the library system and how they are spent are reported in the public library system’s annual report.

The funding for this program may not be used to purchase textbooks or manuals for academic education and vocational classes.

Some of the services that public library systems may provide include the following:

1. Interlibrary Loan and Reference Services:

Some of the most important system services to correctional facility libraries, ILL and reference services ensure access to system-wide collections and the statewide library network.

If correctional facility librarians do not have access to online searching tools and system catalogs, systems may have to handle ILL and reference requests from correctional facility libraries in a different manner from member library requests. The correctional facility libraries and the systems must ensure that requests are submitted and handled as efficiently as possible.

The systems and the correctional facility libraries will negotiate criteria for filling ILL requests from holdings within the system and for filling from outside the system.

It is common, while not required, to include in the negotiated plan a replacement policy and budget for lost ILL materials. Sometimes these expenses are covered by the incarcerated individuals’ funds, some through the correctional facility and some through the state aid program budget. Because incarcerated people are an outreach target population, systems may also consider use of Coordinated Outreach Program State Aid for ILL expenses.

The systems and the correctional facility libraries will negotiate criteria for filling reference requests that cannot be filled by the facility library. Reference requests are mediated by the correctional facility librarian before being sent to the system. Library systems and member libraries should not provide reference support directly to prisoners as DOCCS has criteria and procedures to follow regarding information which is being sent to incarcerated individuals. That process must involve the facility’s general library.

2. Special Formats:

Assistance with access to library materials in alternate formats, including Braille, large print, recorded and digital format for people with print-related and other sensorial disabilities is provided by the public library system.

3. Collection Development:

The system’s State aid funds may be used to assist the correctional facility librarian to purchase all types of library materials which supplement the collection of the correctional library. Consultation with the facility librarian regarding reader’s advisory resources; user needs assessment of the educational, cultural and recreational needs of incarcerated individuals; facility directives such as treatment or transition/re-entry; and resources for new readers or non-English readers ensures that the most-needed materials are purchased for long-term loan to the facility. Materials purchased with the system’s State aid funds remain the property of the public library system.

4. Cataloging and Processing:

The library system may provide cataloging and processing services for materials acquired for the correctional facility library either with program funds or with the facility’s library funds.

5. Consultant Services:

System consultant services may include: training programs, reading lists, identification and location of vendors for specialized materials, assistance with effective use of system resources, assistance with program development, workshops for incarcerated individuals, exhibits, advice on library management, operations, copyright compliance, etc.

6. Continuing Education:

Continuing education and specialized programs offered to system member libraries may also be useful to correctional facility librarians. Topics are designed to help correctional facility librarians maintain and develop professional skills, satisfy continuing education requirements for public librarian certification, and may include opportunities for professional conferences and travel when appropriate.

7. Programs:

Funds, resources and support may be available to correctional facility libraries for programs which encourage personal growth and learning by incarcerated individuals.

8. Additional system services may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Guides and directories to regional incarcerated individual transitional and re-entry services
  • Loan of rotating or deposit collections
  • Printing and graphic arts
  • Inclusion of correctional facility library holdings in the system’s union or online catalog
  • Technology support where appropriate

NOTE: Services noted under Section IV, items 1 – 8 are commonly carried out with funding from this State aid program. Those and other agreed-upon services and resources which directly impact library services to incarcerated individuals in State correctional facilities may be provided through this funding

V. State Aid Application

The public library system submits the state aid application for this program as part of its system state aid application to the New York State Library. Actual use of these funds is reported annually in the Public Library System Annual Report to the New York State Library and should reflect how the expenditures support the goals and expected accomplishments for services to State correctional facility libraries as they are identified in the library system’s approved Five-Year Plan of Service.

The State Library’s Division of Library Development will provide copies of the anticipated State aid amounts and the annual report on use of the funds to DOCCS.

As part of the public library system’s State aid application to the New York State Library, the system provides assurance that it has executed and maintains on file at system headquarters a signed Authentication form from each facility library. This Authentication of Annual Negotiation shows evidence of successful negotiation between the system and the State correctional facility library of the annual budget and service agreement.


Appendix I: Education Law and Regulation

Appendix II: Populations: New York State Correctional Facility Libraries Listed by Public Library System

Appendix III: Outreach Services Consultants; NYS Public Library Systems

Appendix IV: Form, Authentication of Annual Negotiations for the New York State Public Library System Services to State Correctional Facility Libraries; State Aid Program

  • Authentication of Annual Negotiations... form (in word document Word [330k]or pdf icon .PDF [43k] format)

NOTE: Librarian must hold either a professional or a conditional certificate as per CR 90.14(a)(2) and further explained in CR 90.7.

If this regulation is not met, contact Mary Beth Farr at the New York State Library Division of Library Development: 518-486-4927.

Last Updated: September 9, 2021