Winter 2001

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No Ordinary Year For New York's Libraries: Regents Propose $95 Million For Libraries In 2001 And Beyond

Winter 2001 issue of Trustee

The coming year begins a new era in funding New York's libraries.  The New York State Association of Library Boards has endorsed New Century Libraries, a precedent-setting $95 million budget proposal for libraries from the Board of Regents that will be introduced in the coming 2001 legislative session.


In a recent letter to trustees, Commissioner of Education Richard Mills outlined the gains New Century Libraries provides to public libraries. They include the first-ever needs-based aid to establish a minimum funding level of $20 per capita,  support for public library construction and renovation, and incentives for the voluntary formation of public library districts.  The proposal also includes help for New York's struggling urban libraries and creation of NOVEL, the New York Online Virtual Electronic Library. 


"It's time for New York's libraries to be recognized for their vital role in education, the economy, and the community," said State Librarian Janet M. Welch.  "New Century Libraries is only the beginning of an action plan for continued improvement in library services for all New Yorkers." Libraries 2002 emerged from a pioneering plan from the Regents Commission on Library Services that outlines 10 recommendations to improve library services in New York State.  The Commission's plan was endorsed by the Regents, and they developed New Century Libraries, a proposal for a $95million investment in New York's libraries.


Making Excellent Libraries


Per capita support for public libraries in New York's communities ranges from a low of $2 to more than $200.  Meanwhile, some 1.3 million New Yorkers have no local public library.


New Century Libraries addresses these problems by proposing to implement the first ever needs-based aid to guarantee all public libraries in New York a floor of $20 per capita.


For the first time, state aid will provide significant funds to public and school libraries in poor areas and those that serve high needs library users. Additional incentive-based aid will be available to all types of libraries under the EXCELS Performance Program.


There will also be aid to help with the administrative costs of forming Public Library Districts, cost of living increases for library systems, and funding for academic and research initiatives.


Public Library Construction


New York's libraries will need an estimated $800 million for wiring and space upgrades for computers and Internet connections, and improvements for library users with disabilities. Yet only $800,000 is currently available.  New Century Libraries  proposes $20 million for public library construction and renovation.  Grants will be competitive within library systems and will give library boards a foundation on which to create partnerships and build a strategy for fund raising for capital projects. 


An Urban Library Initiative


The 24-7 life of a big city and large minority communities  mean high demand on New York's urban libraries for extended hours and multi-language services.


To help meet these extraordinary needs, New Century Libraries  proposes $9.7 million, or $1 per capita, for New York's urban libraries.  This will fund multi-language collections and programs, English and computer literacy programs, and expand outreach programs and weekend and evening branch hours.


Closing the Digital Divide


New Yorkers look increasingly to their public libraries for Internet and computer access.  New Century Libraries proposes to create NOVEL - the New York Online Virtual Electronic Library with $14 million.


NOVEL will become an electronic gateway to library resources, permitting libraries to share catalogs, digitize collections, and purchase electronic resources collectively at enormous savings.  Through NOVEL, libraries in even the most geographically isolated communities will be able to leverage local resources by supplementing their own collections with commercial databases and other materials selected, accessed and updated by librarians.


If passed by the Governor and Legislature, New Century Libraries will begin implementation of the recommendations of the Regents Commission on Library Services and will help move New York's libraries into the 21st century.  This is one of the most important investments New York can make.


For more information on New Century Libraries, see the New York State Library web site at, or contact Janet M. Welch, State Librarian, at 518/474-5930, email              

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