Monday, February 04, 2008

For New Yorkers: Summary of Jan. 25 Regents Advisory Council on Libraries

On January 25, members of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries (RAC) met by telephone for about an hour. We called in from across NYS as well as Kentucky and Florida (yes, two of us were on the road). Besides members of RAC, there were also several members of the State Library and the State Education Department that were on the call. Those people helped to provide background and other information as needed. A summary of the conference call is below.

Two things stand out to me from this meeting, and the other two that I have attended. (Note that these are my thoughts and thoughts of no one else.)

First, there are many changes that are occurring in libraries -- for example -- the use of social networking tools to provide additional ways of interacting with patrons, the use of new technologies, and the need to focus less on information delivery and more on understanding analysis/interpretation/use. Although the myriad of changes that are occurring are very important, they are likely impossible to address at a statewide level in New York State because of how our library services are structured. Part of the problem is that are too many layers (or organizations) involved. In addition, we're are focused -- due to budget concerns -- on ensuring that basic library services are provided. Therefore, while some libraries are doing phenomenal work with "new tools", others find themselves woefully behind in just understanding what the tools are and why they might be beneficial.

It would be easy to say that the solution is to get our NYS library leaders setting examples for us by adopting the tools and attitudes that we see in progressive libraries, yet we need more than just examples (since those actually do exist). We need to know that our libraries do not have to worry about basic services, so they can work on new things.

BTW I should note that the changes I'm thinking of are not topics that come up in RAC meetings. We don't discuss Library 2.0, for example. It is the absence of those topics that I notice, although I should note that these topics do get discussed in sidebars (like discussing who is doing what with Second Life).

Second, we need our libraries in NYS to be properly funded. For many years, I have been hearing the plea for our libraries to be funded in a way so they can succeed, yet that has not happened. Each year, the State budget for libraries keeps our libraries at an inadequate status quo. As the summary below states, we'll be meeting with our legislators in February. I know that I may not have enough time with my legislators (State Senator John A. DeFrancisco and Assembly Member Joan K.Christensen) to talk in detail, but here are the things I hope to convey:
  • The amount of money in the governor's budget for school library materials is $6.25 per pupil. When was the last time you bought a book for $6.25? For a class of 30 pupils, that is $187.50. In 2006, the average cost for all children and young adult hardcover books was $21.60. That means that 8.6 books could be purchased for those 30 students, including any replacement books needed. If you wonder why outdated books are in some of our school libraries, this is why.
  • The amount of money in the governor's budget for public library construction is $14 million. NYS has at least 755 public libraries and 313 library branches. That amounts to $13,109.61 per library. Consider that older libraries need to be updated, that library buildings may need repair, and that some need to be expanded, and you'll quickly realize that the construction budget for public libraries is not nearly enough.
    • Besides the public libraries and library branches, NYS also has 144 bookmobiles, reading centers and other community outlets extending services to people in correctional facilities, nursing homes and urban and rural areas.
  • The initial proposal for 2008-2009 totaled $49,300,000. While the governor's budget is much less, it is important to note that NYS has 19,306,183 residents and that the budget would have amounted to $2.55 per person. That's less than one fancy coffee per year at Starbuck's for each New Yorker.
  • When we think of library innovation, we don't think of New York State. For example, when I talk about innovative digitization programs at the state-level, I point to North Carolina, Ohio, and others. If you want to point to truly innovative public libraries, most people will include in that list Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library and The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County. What public libraries in NYS -- outside of New York Public -- would quickly fall from people's lips?
I have rambled long enough, but there is one more thought I want to put into writing. 5.19% of New Yorkers live in areas that are not served by chartered public libraries. Although that does not necessarily mean that they don't have access to library services, they may not have the same level of access as those who live in an area covered by a chartered public library. In addition, this group may live in areas that do not have high-speed Internet access. There is a move afoot to recharter libraries so that 100% of NYS residents have full access to library services. However, without high-speed Internet access, they may still feel disconnected from information. We can talk about how we might creatively service this population, but the reality is that these people are not on equal information-footing with the rest of the state, and that is sad.

February 4, 2008

Colleagues in New York Libraries and Library Systems -

A brief unofficial summary of the January 25 conference call of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries (RAC) follows. Please contact me or any of the Council members if you have questions or ideas to share.

Visit to find a list of current RAC members with contact information.


Lucretia McClure
Chairperson, Regents Advisory Council on Libraries

Regents Advisory Council on Libraries
Unofficial Meeting Notes
Conference Call
January 25, 2008

Please note: This summary is not intended to be all inclusive. Its purpose is to highlight issues of statewide importance discussed by the Regents Advisory Council that will significantly impact the New York library community.

Proposed 2008 Executive State Budget: The 2008 State Budget proposed by the Executive would result in a decrease of $5 million in library funding from 2007-2008. The library package is the same as the Executive proposal sent to the Legislature last year. The New York Library Association is asking the library community to urge State legislators to consider reinstating the $5 million and increasing the library aid package. For information on the Board of Regents 2008 budget proposal for libraries and library systems, visit

Members of the Regents Advisory Council will be meeting with State legislators on Tuesday, February 26th in Albany to discuss the need for increased library funding.

RAC Goals: The Goals of the Regents Advisory Council were amended to better reflect a commitment to communication with the field and an ongoing effort to build consensus on policies and programs affecting all types of libraries in the state.

2008 Report to the Regents: Members of the Advisory Council are scheduled to meet with the Board of Regents on May 19th or 20th to offer their recommendations for the 2009-10 Budget and Legislative agenda. At this point, the primary initiative will be the creation of a “New York Digital Library” as discussed at previous meetings. An outline of this proposal is available at A meeting will be held this winter to bring together various stakeholders in the state’s current digitization efforts to discuss the proposal and fill in the details.

Joseph F. Shubert Award: The 2008 Joseph F. Shubert Award application for libraries and library systems will soon be posted on the RAC web page at: The $1,000 award is made possible by EBSCO Information Services.
State Library News:

New York State Universal Broadband Access Grant Program: The State Library, in partnership with the 23 public library systems and the New York Library Association, has applied to the Governor’s Office for Technology for a $1.25 million State universal broadband access grant to improve broadband access and digital literacy programs for the public through public libraries and neighborhood branches, particularly those libraries located in high-need areas of the State. For more information on this OFT grant program, visit

IMLS Connecting to Collections Grant: The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services has awarded the State Library and State Archives a 2008 federal “Connecting to Collections” statewide planning grant for $37,277. The project, titled "Partnership for New York's Cultural Heritage" also includes as partners the New York State Council on the Arts, New York Library Association, New York Archives Alliance, Museum Association of New York, Lower Hudson Conference of Historical Agencies & Museums, and Upstate History Alliance. The project will survey the state’s cultural repositories to learn the risks to their collections, challenges in preserving their collections, and their need for education.

New Associates in School Library Services:

Ms. Welch announced the appointment of two new Associates in School Library Services to the State Education Department’s P-16 Office. John Brock joined the Department on December 12, 2007; Dr. Joanne Parnes Shawhan joined the Department on December 31. Both John and Joanne have been assigned as staff liaisons from P-16 to the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries.


Technorati tags: , , , , ,

1 comment:

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

Someone emailed me with a comment and I want to post part of it here.

The person wrote:

"I am frustrated by what I'm seeing in libraries, especially when the choice is made by circulation figures. I see the disposal of classics and useful reference books and the acquisition of fairly junky -- and sometimes weird -- novels. I know that's not the whole story, but it is my perception both through acquisitions of ex-library books and seeing what the kids bring home from the school library to read."

Unfortunately, public and school libraries need to have collections that circulate. If the older materials are not being used, then they need to be replaced with materials that will be used. Hopefully, older materials that still have good content find good homes (like yours).

It is important to know, too, that our tastes in literature have changed and that is impacting acquisition strategies.