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.