Libraries and library trustees in New York State are supported by one of the most
extensive and comprehensive library networks in the country. This network is both
institutional and digital.

Each public library is chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the
State of New York, one part of the vast statewide educational system. The Regents’
responsibilities include oversight of all educational and cultural institutions,
including more than 750 public libraries, upwards of $1.2 billion in public library
operating funds and over 6,000 public library trustees.

The Regents appoint the Commissioner of Education, who is the chief executive
officer of the State Education Department. Among the major offices of the
Education Department is the Office of Cultural Education, comprised of the State
Archives, State Library, State Museum and the Office of Educational Television
and Public Broadcasting. The Assistant Commissioner for Libraries, also known as
the State Librarian, is responsible for the activities of the New York State Library,
which includes the Research Library, the Division of Library Development (DLD)
and the Talking Books and Braille Library. The Division of Library Development
coordinates and administers federal and state aid programs as well as the rules and
regulations that govern public libraries and library systems. The Division of
Library Development also helps to develop new statewide programs of library
service and provides guidance on charter changes and other matters that must be
referred to the Board of Regents.

Nearer to the local library, and its first source of assistance and resources, is the
public library system. Virtually all of the public libraries in the state belong to one
of the twenty-three public library systems. There are three types of public library
systems: consolidated, federated and cooperative. Each has a different legal
structure and relationship with its members or, in the case of consolidated systems,
its branches. A comparison of the types of public library systems is available on
the State Library’s website (

Each public library system develops its own plan of service, reflecting the needs of
the libraries in the area the system serves. Local governance and control allows
library systems to offer programs and services that vary greatly from one region to
another. Nevertheless, all public library systems share the same common purpose
and responsibility for the development and improvement of their member libraries
while saving local tax dollars. The systems are also responsible for providing
library service in those areas without public libraries and coordinating resource
sharing among member libraries.

Finally, each system is required to designate a central library or co-central libraries
whose purpose is to offer resources in greater numbers and depth than usually
found in local libraries.

Public library system services may include the following:

  • Online catalogs;
  • Interlibrary loan and delivery of materials;
  • Administration of computer networks and integrated library automation
    systems (ILS), including circulation, online public catalogs (OPACs),
    acquisitions and other sophisticated software modules;
  • Cooperative purchase and support of electronic databases, Internet access
    and telecommunications services;
  • Continuing education seminars, workshops and training for library staff and
  • Consultation on library administration, governance, funding, programs and
  • Specialized support for Young Adult and Children’s Services;
  • Centralized purchasing, ordering and processing of library materials;
  • Assistance in materials selection and collection development;
  • Materials cataloging services and advice;
  • Coordinated collection development support;
  •  Public awareness and advocacy leadership;
  • Web page design and maintenance; printing and other duplication services;
  • Service to correctional facilities, nursing homes, and other institutions;
  • Outreach services to special populations and consultation on accessibility
  • Assistance in, and administration of, state and federal grant programs;
  • Services to unchartered areas including contract library services,
    bookmobiles or other extension services.

New York State also supports two other types of library systems that work with the
public library systems to broaden the variety of resources available to all residents
of the state. Reference and research library resources systems (3Rs councils) were
established to enhance resource sharing and to meet specialized reference needs.
The 3Rs councils serve primarily as the systems for academic and special libraries
but their membership also includes library systems, hospital libraries, and
specialized libraries of all types. The state is also served by forty-one school
library systems sponsored by the BOCES and Big Five City Schools. The school
library systems provide support services, professional development, consultation,
and assistance to both public and non-public school libraries. For more

The statewide library network leverages technology to ensure access to library
resources for all New Yorkers. All public library systems and the State Library
offer online catalogs, remote access to research and learning databases and locally
developed digital resources that are available online. Using the Internet and various
software products to link systems and databases, the State Library, the library
systems and New York’s local libraries offer seamless access to library and
information resources within the state and all over the world.

In addition to these resources library trustees have several statewide and national
associations available to help them fulfill their mission. Membership and active
participation in these organizations not only provides assistance on the local level,
but also adds significantly to the collective strength and wisdom of library trustees
throughout the State and the nation.

The Library Trustees Association of New York State (LTA) is an important source
of support and information for local libraries. LTA is the state organization for
library trustees, offering a range of valuable services. It advocates on behalf of

library interests at the state level, recognizes the accomplishments of trustees and
educates trustees through workshops, the Annual Trustee Institute, regional
presentations, print and electronic resources and via the LTA website:
The New York Library Association (NYLA) is the statewide organization of
library professionals, support staff and advocates. It is dedicated to advancing the
interests of all types of libraries and library service in New York State. By
representing the library community before the State Legislature, it provides
important planning and support in the development of library-related legislation
and offers extensive continuing education opportunities through its annual
conference and other programs. Find NYLA online at
Your library should have a budget line devoted to organizational memberships.
Each library benefits from the advocacy and professional development work done
by these groups.

Since many issues affecting libraries originate on the federal level library trustees
should be familiar with the American Library Association ( and its United
for Libraries Division ( Both organizations work diligently to
inform and support libraries, their trustees and their advocates on a national level.
Each public library is part of this national and statewide library community. An
informed trustee is familiar with the members and components of this community
and uses the information and opportunities available to improve the programs and
services of their local library.


  • American Library Association (ALA)
    •  United for Libraries (a division of ALA)
  • Library Trustees Association of New York State (LTA)
  • New York Library Association (NYLA)
  • Types of Library Systems: A Comparison [New York State Library]