News from the NYS Assembly
Committee on Libraries and
Education Technology

A Message from the Chair. . .

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef
2004 Legislative Highlights for Libraries

At the end of my second year as the Chair of the Libraries Committee, I can hardly believe how much has happened in such a short time. I had hoped that I might be able to open this note by talking about our great budget victory, as I did last year. Unfortunately, at this time we are still trying to find enough supporters for library funding to override the Governor's vetoes.

Budget issues aside, this has been an exciting year for libraries and for me as the Chair. Throughout the year, I have had the opportunity to visit many libraries around the state, attend conferences, meet with many of you in my office, and hear from library supporters across the state at the hearings that I recently held.

photo Left to right: Chairwoman Sandy Galef, Speaker Sheldon Silver and Hamanus Bleeker Bear, (mascot of the Albany Public Library) outside the Assembly Chamber on Assembly Library Day.

While I frequently speak about the importance of libraries in our communities and as life long learning centers, as educational equalizers for our children and as community centers, I am still regularly astounded by the many ways that libraries impact our lives. Libraries and librarians help people find jobs, start businesses and change their lives. Libraries and librarians help medical personnel find information on cutting edge treatments and save lives. It would be a shame to see these valuable resources go to waste, either because the users cannot get access due to restricted hours and services, or because the important systems that provide critical support and resources to our libraries are stretched too thin.

I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to provide libraries and library systems with a steady, reliable funding stream, so that we can all continue to enjoy their services in our communities.

Sandy Galef
Chair, Assembly Committee on
Libraries and Education Technology
photo Left to right: Chairwoman Sandy Galef, Speaker Sheldon Silver and Hamanus Bleeker Bear, (mascot of the Albany Public Library) outside the Assembly Chamber on Assembly Library Day.

Sheldon Silver, Speaker · Sandy Galef, Chair
December 2004

2004 Budget Highlights
for Libraries

The 2004-05 budget fight saw public libraries faced with another tremendous threat to their ability to continue to provide services to their patrons. Despite overwhelming legislative opposition to his cuts last year, the governor's budget proposal contained a 5% cut to state library funding and a continuation of funding at the 1990, rather than the 2000, census figures. The legislature was again able to come together and negotiate a budget that restored many of the governor's cuts, including library aid. The governor responded by vetoing many of the legislative restorations - including library aid - as he did last year. Unlike last year, however, when the legislature was able to look past partisan politics and restore the budget they crafted to provide vital funding to their communities, when the Assembly returned to override the Governor's vetoes, we fell one vote short of doing so. This 5% cut in state aid will also trigger a 5% cut in federal funding if it is not restored by the end of the year.

Following this action, the Assembly Libraries Committee held a series of public hearings across the state to hear directly from libraries, library systems and library users about how this cut would affect them. These hearings were held in Kingston, Canandaigua, Manhattan, Rochester and White Plains throughout the month of October. The messages sent at these hearings were clear: please restore critical funding that the Governor cut. Libraries and library systems have been funded at a flat level for too long to be cut now. Furthermore, the buying power of the dollars they are receiving has significantly diminished since 1998, the year of their last increase. The threat of libraries and systems closing if help does not arrive soon is a real one.

Assembly Holds Library Day As Part Of National Library Week Celebration

National Library Week was celebrated during the week of April 18th this year, with exhibitions for legislators from groups such as the New York Library Association, the New York State Library, the Albany Public Library, the New York State Talking Book and Braille Library and many others. These groups reserved tables to display information regarding their programs and services. In addition to the exhibitors on the concourse level of the Empire State Plaza, the Assembly for the first year hosted a Library Day on the floor of the Assembly. On that day, Monday April 19th, a package of bills and resolutions were passed during session. Two resolutions were enacted as a part of this package: K.1949, which recognizes National Library week in New York State, and K.1950, which proclaims Thursday, April 22nd Library Staff Recognition Day in the State of New York. In addition to the resolutions that were enacted, the Assembly passed 4 bills. A.9705 and A.9706 were signed into law. The bills considered as a part of Library Day were:

  • A.3072 (Dinowitz) : This bill designates the third week in April each year as "Friends of Libraries Week";

  • A.4941-A (Pretlow): This bill establishes a revolving loan fund to provide low interest loans for libraries engaging in capital construction projects;

  • A.9705-A (Galef): This bill creates a "Love your Library" distinctive license plate and directs proceeds generated by the sale of such plates into a fund to support summer reading programs; and

  • A.9706 (Galef): This bill recognizes the name change of the New York Library Trustees Association to the New York State Association of Library Boards.

Creating New Library Districts

This year the Legislature authorized the establishment of three new library districts in the Towns of Athens, Greene County (Chapter 313/ A.4723-b); Lewiston, Niagara County (Chapter 88/ A.7381-A); and Oswego County (Chapter 166/ A.10157-C). With this legislative authorization, these potential districts are now free to vote as communities to decide whether or not they want to establish library districts. If they choose to do so, they then have the right to vote on their library budgets. This gives communities a means to place local dollars directly in their libraries and have a direct impact on the availability of services.

photo Left to right: Paula Smith, Assistant of the Rochester Central Library; Larry Naukam, Local Historian; Assemblywoman Sandy Galef; and Carol Nersinger, Director of the Rochester Public Library and the Monroe County Library System, on a tour of the local history room of the Rochester Public Library.

photo Left to right: Assemblymembers Willis Stevens, Robert Oaks, Sandy Galef and Adam Bradley with students Madeline Johl, Victoria Cafarelli and Jason Hickey from the Claremont Public School in Ossining at the Libraries and Education Technology hearing in White Plains at Pace University.

photo Assemblymembers Jonathan Bing, Sandy Galef and Patrick Manning hear testimony at the Libraries and Education Technology Committee hearing in New York City at Hunter College.

Support Summer Reading Programs
with a "Love Your Library" License Plate

photo Assemblywoman Sandy Galef reading with children at a community event at the Putnam Valley Free Library.

One of the most important ways that children can maintain their reading and comprehension skills over their summer breaks is to read. To that end the State Library helps to organize a statewide summer reading program in which libraries across the state may participate. Currently there is a small grant available through the state library to help with the costs associated with organizing and promoting this program. However, there is no money available to provide participating libraries with funding for books, posters or staff to coordinate this program.

In an effort to increase awareness and participation in this program, Assembly bill 9705-A (Galef) was enacted this year which instructs the Department of Motor Vehicles to create a "Love Your Library" licensee plate. Proceeds generated from the distribution of this plate will be placed in a dedicated fund to help subsidize the statewide summer reading program.

Communicating with Libraries
and Library Systems

In an effort to hear first hand what is going on in libraries around the state, each committee newsletter will include a column written by a guest who is affiliated with a different library, system or organization. This column was submitted by Linda Fox, Director of the Capital Region School Library System.

"Sufficient and up-to-date books, supplies, libraries and technologies"

This phrase taken directly from the decision of Justice Leland De Grasse in the decision in CFE vs. New York State, speaks directly to vast inequities in the availability of resources to students across the state. In some of our schools, the library is a fully staffed and fully functioning media center. Librarians are integrating information literacy skills into the content curriculum and collaborating on a high level with teachers and other professionals. In too many other schools, there is no library media specialist, the library is a classroom with some old books (maybe) and no program exists.

In spite of all of the research that documents the high correlation between high functioning library programs and student achievement, the state of New York has not yet figured out how to make quality resources and certified media specialists available in all schools. It remains an issue of money, will and enlightenment.

In order to begin the process of equalizing student access to information AND to promote the idea of resource sharing among schools, the legislature initiated the School Library Systems program across the state in 1982. The role of these systems is to facilitate resource sharing and to provide information to students, teachers and administrators at their point of need. The School Library Systems save schools millions of dollars by eliminating the need for duplication of resources and services - yet at the same time - providing students access to the information they need. The School Library Systems collaborate with other types of libraries, public, academic and special, across the state and around the country to obtain resources for teachers, administrators and students.

With the increased availability of technology and online information, School Library Systems play an ever-increasing role in staff development, helping teachers and librarians sort out and identify valuable online as well as print resources. School Library System directors bring workshops and conferences to school communities at great cost savings across the state. In addition to the staff development, school library systems work with schools to provide access to online databases and other high quality technology resources at the best possible prices. It is the role of the School Library System director to get all schools involved in the use of the NOVEL database, including registration and basic and advanced training.

It may be a very long time before all schools in New York State have access to fully staffed and fully functioning libraries, as Justice DeGrasse envisions. Until that time the School Library System program is critical to providing resources to all of our students regardless of their wealth or location. On the day when all schools have all of the books and resources they need for all of their students, School Library Systems will continue to play an important role in the professional development of school librarians as they fulfill their increasingly complex but vital role as the information specialists in their schools.

Unfortunately, in spite of the vast and valuable services and savings that School Library Systems bring to schools, the funding of these systems has not been increased since 1992. Many of these systems across the state are in danger of collapse themselves. As they keep their own offices going with duct tape and paper clips, the directors' ability to fully serve their schools dwindles each year. School Library Systems in New York State are a large part of the solution to the issues of equity. In fact, School Library Systems have been addressing the issues of equitable access to information before it became so glaringly highlighted in the CFE decision. The failure to fully and adequately fund these systems flies in the face of goals such as equity, equal access, and any commitment to literacy that we claim to support.

Help Your Library Save with a "Chiller"
Installed by the New York Power Authority

One of the many rising costs associated with maintaining a library building is the cost of climate control. In some instances, these costs are unnecessarily inflated due to a library's lack of resources that would allow them to update their building's cooling system. Continuing to use outdated and inefficient cooling systems can drastically increase utility bills of the library, taxing already overburdened budgets.

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) offers a program through which your library can potentially upgrade its cooling system at no net cost to the library. In instances where an upgraded cooling system would save energy, the Power Authority may install the hardware known as "chillers" and provide low interest financing that may result in little or no net cost, as these systems pay for themselves over time. If you are interested in this program contact the Power Authority at 914-287-4271 and request an energy audit. Qualification and financing for this program is determined by the Power Authority.

177 individuals responded to the questionnaire in the last newsletter and, as promised, here are the results:

  1. Do you think that all schools should be required to have a certified library media specialist on staff?

    Yes 84%
    No 14%
    Respondents who did not answer this question 2%
  2. Would you support a constitutional amendment requiring the state to provide funding to libraries at the level they received the previous year, regardless of a potential loss of population to the area?

    Yes 80%
    No 18%
    Respondents who did not answer this question 2%
  3. Is your library connected to NOVEL and if so, have you ever used it?

    Part 1: Is your library connected to NOVEL?
    Yes 73%
    No 8%
    Respondents who did not answer this question 19%
    Part 2: Have you ever used it?
    Yes 72%
    No 42%
    Respondents who did not answer this question 2%
This year's survey appears below. Please feel free to copy this questionnaire and share it with others in your school, library, or community who may not have received a copy. The results of this questionnaire will be published in the next newsletter.

***Click here for a printable survey***

Please mail completed form to:
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef
Legislative Office Building
Room 540
Albany, NY 12248

1. Do you think that municipalities have an obligation to support their libraries?

box Yes
box No

2a. Does your community vote directly on library budgets and trustees?

box Yes
box No

2b. If your community does not vote on library budgets and trustees, would you support such a change?

box Yes
box No

3. Using the lines below, please comment on your answers or share other thoughts about the funding or management of libraries in New York State:


Committee on Libraries and Education Technology
Room 540 LOB · Albany, New York 12248 · 518.455.5348

New York State Assembly
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