State Librarian Lauren Moore announced the results of a new statewide survey documenting construction and renovation needs of more than $1.5 billion over the next five years for public library facilities, including neighborhood branches. The survey report “Estimated 2021 to 2025 New York State Public Library Construction Needs” is now available on the State Library’s website at http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/construc/needs.htm.
New Yorkers are using their public libraries more than ever before. Attendance is increasing in many libraries, and new construction and renovation are essential to accommodate accelerating use. There are 756 public libraries in New York State with more than 1,000 buildings, including neighborhood branches. More than half of the public library buildings in New York are now over 60 years old; 155 were built before 1900. Another 31% are between 30 and 60 years old. Many of these libraries lack facilities to serve their communities adequately. Twenty percent (20%) do not have all public areas accessible to wheelchair users.
With so many public libraries being housed in older buildings, many libraries still need to upgrade electrical and wiring for public access computers and broadband infrastructure; 2018 data indicates only 367 (out of 1067) public library buildings (34%) have a broadband connection greater than or equal to 100 Mbps. Many do not have sufficient space to house library collections. In addition, with the cost of fuel and electricity increasing each year, many libraries are finding that inefficient buildings are robbing the library of vital fiscal resources that could be used for program and collection enhancement. Libraries are adapting their facilities to the use of alternative energy sources and replacing or upgrading their buildings to make them energy efficient.
New York State provided $34 million in one-time capital funds for State Aid for Library Construction for 2019/2020. The results of this new survey show the critical need for additional State funds to address public library construction needs.
The Board of Regents approved at their December 2019 meeting a budget proposal to increase capital funds for State Aid for Library Construction by $11 million to $45 million for 2020/2021.