TO:                                            The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents


FROM:                                      Carole F. Huxley


COMMITTEE:                          Cultural Education

TITLE OF ITEM:                      Report of the Regents Advisory Council on  Libraries

DATE OF SUBMISSION:      April 23, 2004

PROPOSED HANDLING:      Discussion

RATIONALE FOR ITEM:         Yearly Report

STRATEGIC GOAL:                Goals 2, 3, 4 and 5





The Regents Advisory Council on Libraries will meet with the Cultural Education Committee at their May meeting to discuss plans and priorities for library programs to help achieve the goals and priorities of the Regents.


The Regents Advisory Council on Libraries, the oldest Regents Council, advises the Board regarding library policy, works with the officers of the State Education Department in developing a comprehensive statewide library and information policy and makes recommendations to the Regents concerning the implementation of the program.  Each year the members report to the Board on its activities.










New York’s 6,978 public, school and academic libraries have a powerful impact on their users, communities and institutions.  Libraries provide access to the information New Yorkers need for education, business and functioning in society, regardless of how much money they make, or the wealth or geographic isolation of their community.


    Vibrant public libraries play a significant role in community revitalization and quality of life.  New York State’s public libraries generate 111 million visits per year, while professional sports attendance numbers only 10 million.  Seventy percent of New Yorkers use their local public library as a source of entertainment, education and information that helps them improve their lives.

A mother goes to the public library looking for information on asthma.  Her child has asthma attacks and she is concerned to know more about the condition and various treatments.  The librarian introduces her to the Health Reference Center-Academic, a NOVEL database that is user-friendly for those who aren’t medical professionals and to MEDLINEPlus, a database produced for the public by the National Library of Medicine, one of the units of the National Institutes of Health.  These comprehensive websites include information on conditions, diseases and wellness, along with drug information, a medical dictionary and a medical encyclopedia. The mother can read and print out the information on asthma, knowing that it is from an authoritative source.


    Libraries are the information centers of New York’s communities and organizations, serving the needs of professionals in medicine and law, as well as leaders in government, business and education.  NOVEL, available to all New Yorkers through libraries and from offices and homes, holds the contents of the world’s best libraries within its databases, including newspapers, journals, photos, maps and more.

A medical student goes to a research library to learn what effects hypertension may have on a diabetic patient.  He tells the librarian that he has searched the MEDLINE database PubMed and has not found any good articles.  The librarian shows him how to enter the proper subject headings, diabetes mellitus and hypertension and then restrict the search to the gender and age of the patient.  This search produces many citations to good articles.  The student exclaims to the librarian, “You have empowered me!”

A high school teacher relies heavily on interlibrary loan and state-funded databases available through the school library.  “…I am able to read a variety of novels based on student needs and interests.  Also, through the databases, I am able to research in great detail topics of student interest that meet a variety of academic needs.  Without the books I have received or the access to these databases, I would not be able to provide such services to my students.”


    Libraries and library systems are a smart investment for New York State.  For every $1 of state aid spent on New York’s public library systems, approximately $12.50 in services is provided to public library users.  For every $1 spent in temporary Federal Library Services and Technology Act funds, NOVEL provides $30 in high-quality information resources.  NOVEL saves libraries more than $75 million through centralized licensing of electronic resources.

A middle school teacher relates, “In my experience of teaching for 30 years, never before have such vast resources been available to students to work with…. Students working on research don’t have to rely on arcane materials due to school budget constraints.  Instead, they have access to the most up-to-date information available, making their learning relevant and meaningful…. The electronic databases can even be used at school or at home by tapping into the school library web page…. An investment in this area is an excellent example of an efficient use of taxpayers’ money without short-changing our youth.”


    Research from 14 states clearly shows that strong school libraries are a vital component of education, helping to raise student achievement and close the achievement gap.  Effective school libraries with strong collections, Internet access and a certified school library media specialist raise reading scores by 10 to 20 percent.  Effective school library media programs are the number one indicator of student success when performance is compared with results in schools lacking good libraries.

A parent of two students in middle school and high school writes: “I can attest to the important role the school library’s online databases and interlibrary loan options have played in my children’s projects.  The teachers assign innovative and exciting ways to learn, allowing the students to use the Internet.  This would not be possible without the availability of these resources through our school library.  My children are on the honor roll and I’m sure using the tools the library currently offers has been a positive factor in their experience.”


    More than any other public institution, public libraries contribute to the intellectual growth of children from diverse backgrounds during the summer.  Studies show that library reading programs, particularly summer reading programs, enhance student achievement.


    Library Journal has described the library as the “people’s research and development department.”  Thriving libraries, strong education programs and an educated workforce act as a magnet for businesses and enhance the quality of life in communities.

We greatly appreciate the placement of New Century Libraries at the top of the Regents priority proposals and your active role in legislative advocacy for libraries.  Your discussions of the RAC legislative position with legislative leaders during recent Regents meetings are vital to strengthening the beneficial and important library services described above and making them more widely available to New Yorkers.  We know that many of you have held other meetings with legislators in your home regions as well.


We are also grateful that Commissioner Mills continues to be tireless in his library advocacy work, carrying our message to legislative and executive leadership.


We request that you continue to keep New Century Libraries as a top priority and persist in your advocacy efforts on behalf of libraries.  We urge you to ensure that libraries are discussed at the meetings you attend, at every encounter with the Governor and the Legislature, and in statements to the media.  We pledge to heighten our efforts as well and to keep stressing the needs of New Yorkers for 21st century library services.




Regents Advisory Council on Libraries


Louis A. Ciota, Chair

Lucretia McClure

Ladan Alomar

Cerise Oberman

Judith Avner

Samuel L. Simon

Mary Lou Caskey

Karen Patricia Smith

Martin L. Edelman

Carol Tauriello

Dottie Hiebing

Irving Toliver