New York State Library

Merger and Cross-Contracting Guidelines for School Library Systems


School library system programs or BOCES may on occasion choose to merge. If BOCES merge, then the school library system programs merge as well. A merger may also occur when the school library system programs of two BOCES combine to provide library system service, but the BOCES themselves do not merge.

Another way SLS may choose to work together is through cross-contracting. One or more SLS may cross-contract with another SLS for a defined period of time for some or all programs or services.

Both mergers and cross-contracting are presented in greater detail below.

Merger Guidelines

These guidelines are intended for long-range planning by school library system coordinators/directors, school library system councils, system liaisons from member districts, school districts and BOCES administrators, district superintendents and boards of education. Library systems must plan carefully in providing cost-effective delivery of programs and services. Economies of scale must be considered in this long-range planning for the merging of two or more school library systems.

Education Law and Commissioner's Regulations

Education Law §282, which established school library systems, and Commissioner's Regulations (CR) 90.18, based on that law, provide for a school library system to serve a BOCES, Big 5 City or combination thereof. Education Law states that "…each system to be composed of school districts which are located within a board of cooperative educational services area, or a school district serving a city…, or combinations thereof… …such school library systems shall be governed by either their respective boards"… (of education).

CR 90.18 "(b) Governance. (1) The board of cooperative educational services or the board of education of the city school district shall be the governing board of the school library system. In the case of a school library system serving a combination of BOCES and/or city school districts, one BOCES or city school district shall be designated as the official administrative agency."

Funding (State Aid)

Education Law §284 (f), amended by Chapter 654, Laws of 2007, provides for state aid for the merger of any school library system. Basic state aid levels include a base grant and formula aid factors (based on the total number of students, number of districts served, and square miles). When two systems merge there is a single base grant plus the combined formula aid factors, plus an annual $90,000 merger funds (in perpetuity). Administrative personnel costs and fringe benefits are usually less in a merged system (depending on staffing arrangements), thereby providing more money for program and services to member public school districts and nonpublic school members.


Commissioner's Regulations 90.18 (d) addresses the minimum requirements for system staffing. "Each school library system shall employ a full time coordinator of the school library system… At least one full-time clerical staff member shall be assigned to each coordinator. Other professional and support staff members shall be employed as necessary to execute school library system functions. The adequacy of the staff in relation to the plan of service activities shall be determined by the commissioner."


Recommendations for a merger should be directed to the program office at the NYS Library, Division of Library Development at least six months prior to the funding year of the proposed merged system.

The school library system state-aided program currently funds one school library system coordinator/director position for each of the school library systems (except New York City). CR 90.18 requires one full-time coordinator/director and one full-time support staff (except New York City). The salary and benefits of a coordinator/director and a support staff person typically account for approximately 80% of a school library system program budget.

When a school library system coordinator/director position becomes vacant, a merger study may be considered as part of a long-range planning process. Cross-contracting for program services or hiring a temporary coordinator/director until the director's position is filled is considered a short-term solution and must be approved by the NYS Library.

Merger Specifics

Merging of the school library system program occurs when BOCES merge. This is referred to as a BOCES merger.

A merger may also occur when the school library system programs of two BOCES combine to provide library system service, but the BOCES do not merge. This is referred to as a school library system merger. In this case, one educational agency would be designated as the local educational agency or sponsor of the school library system program.

Other options may also be proposed to the NYS Library as long as they are consistent with Education Law and Regulations of the Commissioner.


Requests for the initiation of a merger study should be sent to the NYS Library from one or more contiguous school library systems and their educational agencies by the district superintendents. Requests could be initiated at the time of a school library system director's position vacancy, during a BOCES merger study (vacancy of a district superintendent), or as part of a long-range planning process by school library system councils. In the case of a mandated BOCES merger by the commissioner, a request for a merger study is not necessary.

A task force on merger study will be formed by the submitting parties 30 days after a request for the study is approved by the NYS Library or when a BOCES merger order is approved by the commissioner. This task force should include representatives from all constituencies and "ex-officio" NYS Library representatives. Representatives from school library systems councils of the respective school library systems being studied are required to be involved in the merger study process. A merger plan outlining the major considerations of the merger and how a revised plan of service will be addressed must be submitted to the school library systems councils, the educational agencies, and the NYS Library.

Technical assistance will be provided by the NYS Library consultants throughout the merger study.

A new Plan of Service is developed and submitted to the NYS Library by April 30 for review and approval and implementation at the beginning of the funding year for the new merged system (July 1).

Major Considerations for Mergers

Desired outcomes of merged school library systems:

  • Sustained or enhanced member involvement in system planning, development and evaluation
  • Sustained and improved access to programs and services
  • Improved economies of scale (efficiency and effectiveness) of programs and services
  • Increased administrative level of responsibilities of the school library system coordinator/director in the educational organization
  • Increased percentage of state funds for programs and services as a result of lower administrative costs

External factors to be considered:

  • Client base size (number of pupils, teachers and administrators served)
  • Number of member public school districts and participants (buildings)/nonpublic school members served
  • Geographic size of school library system
  • Topography of system
  • Diversity of served population

Major parties to be involved in task force and merger process:

  • Representation from each school library system council
  • District Superintendents or designees
  • Representation from each school library system liaison group/committees
  • Administrators of member districts/non-public schools
  • School library system coordinators/directors
  • NYS Library Division of Library Development (ex-officio)

Program/Service Considerations:

  • Sustain resource sharing through mechanisms such as interlibrary loan, delivery, union catalog, virtual catalog
  • Support technology services in school library media centers
  • Provide access to expanded services and electronic databases
  • Provide professional staff development/continuing education opportunities
  • Sustain and enhance regional involvement/connections with other types of library systems and educational programs
  • Provide programs and services outlined in the five-year long range Plan of Service

Governance Considerations:

  • One designated governing educational agency
  • Equitable representation on new merged council from former systems' councils and users and providers of library service
  • A liaison from each public school district member and nonpublic representation in liaison group
  • Merger of committees
  • Submission of a new Plan of Service for approval by NYS Library

Cross-Contracting Guidelines

One or more school library systems may cross-contract with another school library systems for a defined period of time for all or specific programs or services as indicated in the system's budget application and plan of service. A cross-contract operates for a given funding year (July 1 to June 30 or part thereof) and is approved by the respective district superintendents and submitted to the NYS Library for approval. The goals established for these program services should be outlined in the system's Plan of Service and reported annually in the system's Annual Report.


Full funding for both systems may be approved during the cross-contract. Cross-contracting is a short-term solution for providing services and programs to the members of a school library system. It will not be approved on a long-term basis or for multiple funding years. State aid is released to the educational agency once a cross-contract is approved by the NYS Library. Cross-contracting considerations should be decided prior to the submission of the system's budget application for state aid for the following funding year (July 1).


Cross-contracting for specific services should be indicated in the normal budget application approval process. A formal contract must be approved by the district superintendents and the NYS Library. If circumstances necessitate that a cross-contract be implemented subsequent to a budget application approval, the educational agency must contact the NYS Library.

Cross-contracts between systems must be reflected in the program budget in the appropriate budget category. Budget applications and plans of service revisions are due to the NYS Library on April 30 preceding the following July 1- June 30 school year. Cross-contracts must be approved by the respective district superintendents prior to submission to the NYS Library for approval.

Last Updated: January 9, 2024