March 2001
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From the New York State Assembly   Black Square   Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Naomi Matusow, Chair, Committee on Libraries and Education Technology

Assembly Budget Plan Increases Library Funding by $27.7 Million

Prepares libraries for changing needs
in the Information Age

The Assembly’s budget resolution includes a $27.7 million increase in funding to help libraries across New York State improve facilities and update technology.

Libraries play a crucial role in the educational, economic and social development of our communities, and as such, they must be prepared for the advances of the 21st Century. Changes in the way we process and gather information present libraries with a unique opportunity to offer innovative programs and services –– and the challenge of keeping pace with the rapid growth of the Internet and computer technology.

The Assembly Majority recognizes the need to increase funding for New York’s vast network of public libraries as they work to ensure that all New York residents have access to up-to-date information resources.

Ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to library resources

Libraries offer an endless array of programs and services to New York residents. Last year –– in recognition of the vital role libraries fill in making essential services available to the public –– the Assembly championed the first increase in public library funding in three years when it added $5 million to the state budget.

This year, our budget goes a step further, with financial assistance that will help libraries enhance their technological capabilities, update their facilities, and ensure increased access for all library users, including those in high need areas.

Libraries play a major role in narrowing the "digital divide" for New Yorkers without a home computer by providing public access to the Internet and instruction on how to use it. To assist them in making online information available to the public, the Assembly’s budget proposal includes $10 million in additional funds for public library aid and technology investments.

A portion of this funding will be used to expand NOVEL, the New York Online Virtual Electronic Library. For those who have access to a computer at school, home, or work and wish to take advantage of the vast resources available through New York’s public libraries, this innovative program enables all of the state’s libraries to provide free access to costly, subscription-only electronic databases.

As our libraries work to expand their technological capacities, many are confronting the need to expand their physical space as well. That’s why the Assembly plan provides $10 million in additional funding for library construction projects.

The Assembly budget also includes:

  • $6 million for school library materials –– making up-to- date information available to our schoolchildren; and
  • $700,000 to improve library services for individuals with visual and physical disabilities –– providing them with increased access to the information they need to compete effectively in academic and business pursuits and enhance their quality of life.

By helping our libraries provide free services to our communities, we are making an investment in the future and sustaining the promise of educational opportunity for all New Yorkers.

Helping our children develop learning skills

Studies have shown that the first three years of a child’s life is a critical time as 75% to 80% of the brain develops. During this early "window of opportunity," a child’s parents or caregivers have the chance to provide an infant with a range of experiences that will actually result in essential brain cell connections.

The power of early adult-child interaction is crucially important to this developmental process. According to education experts, interacting with young children both physically and intellectually –– holding, playing with and reading to them on a regular basis –– provides them with the experiences and the stimulation they need to develop learning and social skills that will serve them throughout their lives.

Recognizing this, many libraries have begun to create programs, on site and at other locations, which give parents the opportunity to spend quality time with their young children while exploring the many resources of our public libraries. These programs, open to the public and free of charge, help parents to expand new learning environments for their children and create a bond of shared interests and activities which will enrich the lives of both parent and child.

To help libraries develop activities and outreach for new parents and their infants, the Assembly budget plan proposes adding $1 million to the budget to fund Baby Steps –– an innovative new library program designed to encourage libraries to provide programs for parents to interact and read with their newborns and toddlers.

Continuing the Assembly’s commitment to New York’s public libraries

New York’s libraries provide an extraordinary range of services –– from providing toddlers with their first book to helping senior citizens explore the world via the Internet.

The appropriations proposed by the Assembly Majority this year –– combined with the $5 million we secured in last year’s budget –– will help to ensure that our libraries continue their long tradition of providing essential services for New Yorkers of all ages.

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