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Meeting of the Board of Regents | February 2008

Friday, February 1, 2008 - 11:05pm

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2008 Update: Public Library Construction Needs in New York State



January 24, 2008













Issue for Discussion


              Recent progress made in public library construction and renovation, as well as remaining needs and proposals to meets those needs: What has been achieved by the one-time capital appropriations in the last two years, and what are the most effective ways in which the Regents and the library community can address the continuing need for construction and renovation of public libraries in New York State?


Reason(s) for Consideration


              For information.


Proposed Handling


              The Cultural Education Committee will discuss the continuing need to restore and strengthen New York’s public libraries through new construction and renovation of existing library facilities. The Committee will also hear an update on the status of the one-time appropriation of public library construction grants for 2007-08 and consider strategies that will further encourage the Legislature and Executive to provide the help that New York’s public libraries need.


Procedural History


The Regents Commission on Library Services stated as their fifth recommendation: “Provide support for public library construction, expansion, and renovation to ensure that New York’s libraries are accessible to all library users and can accommodate advances in technology.” After an examination of the condition of the state’s public libraries, the Commission stated: “To provide the necessary support for public library construction, expansion, and renovation, the Commission recommends a substantial commitment of additional state funds within a specific time frame to arrest the deterioration of the physical library infrastructure in New York State.”


Background Information


The Regents were instrumental in obtaining $14 million for construction grant programs in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 state budgets. Updated statistics now indicate that New York’s public libraries need more than $2.1 billion to renovate and modernize library facilities.


Regent’s policy states that all public libraries should be able to accommodate new technologies and provide the knowledge resources New Yorkers need to be successful in an information-driven global environment. More than 40 percent of the 1,000 plus public library buildings in New York State are over 60 years old. Another 30 percent are more than three decades old. Many of these libraries lack facilities to serve their communities adequately. Some 29 percent cannot accommodate users in wheelchairs and 22 percent have no wheelchair-accessible restrooms.


Building on the Regents and the library community’s success in obtaining additional capital construction funds during the past two years, the Regents have proposed $20 million in permanent ongoing public library construction grants for 2008-09 and annually thereafter. Those funds would help public libraries across New York State add access ramps for people in wheelchairs; build handicapped-accessible lavatories and parking areas; add space for people, collections, and computers; upgrade lighting, heating, and cooling systems; replace windows and doors; and install new roofs and insulation.




              Staff recommend that the Regents work with the library community to develop and implement strategies for obtaining legislative approval and permanent ongoing funding for public library construction in New York State.


Timetable for Implementation


              Obtaining permanent ongoing funding for public library construction grants is a priority during the 2008 legislative session.