Cultural Education Committee


Christine W. Ward, Acting Deputy Commissioner





2007 Update: Public Library Construction Needs in New York State



January 25, 2007













Issue for Discussion


          What are the most effective ways for the Regents and the library community to address the ongoing need for construction and renovation of public libraries in New York State?


Reason(s) for Consideration


          Review of policy.


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 $14 million in 2006/07 public library construction grants and consider strategies that will 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.”


          Promoting public library construction as a legislative priority, the Regents were instrumental in obtaining $14 million for a construction grant program in the 2006/07 state budget.


Background Information


New York’s public libraries need more than $1.7 billion to renovate and modernize library facilities.


Regents 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 3 decades old. Many of these libraries lack facilities to serve their communities adequately. Approximately 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 2006/07 legislative session, the Regents have proposed the New York Knowledge Initiative. This initiative will provide funds to help public libraries across New York State add access ramps for people in wheelchairs, build handicapped-accessible lavatories and parking areas, and add space for people, collections, and computers. It will enable libraries to upgrade lighting, heating, and cooling systems; replace windows and doors; and install new roofs and insulation, creating energy-efficient buildings with lower energy costs and provide more comfortable and secure facilities for patrons and staff.


The New York Knowledge Initiative will invest $14 million for 2007/08 and $30 million annually thereafter in public library construction grants to provide safe, modern library facilities to meet the knowledge needs of New Yorkers. It will help public libraries overcome the challenges of ageing and inadequate buildings and provide libraries that are accessible, safe, and able to accommodate new technologies.


This proposal is a modest first step towards solving the critical problems of New York’s public library infrastructure, and will begin a process to give New Yorkers the 21st-century library services they need to excel in school, be competitive in business, and be part of a productive workforce.




          Staff recommend that the Regents work with the library community to develop and implement strategies for obtaining legislative approval and funding for the New York Knowledge Initiative.


Timetable for Implementation


          The New York Knowledge Initiative is intended as a priority during the 2007 legislative session, and will continue in subsequent years.