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Handbook for Library Trustees of New York


Technology continues to transform library service delivery and impact public perception of modern public libraries. The escalating change technology brings shows no sign of abating. Indeed, to remain relevant, the library must assume a leadership role in the utilization of technology within its community.  Technology is not an end unto itself.  Its wise use, along with a professional and well-trained staff, brings the best tenets of library service to everyone in your community. 

Access to technology of all types can have a tremendously positive impact on your community. Increased access to information and education through electronic resources can extend, supplement and, in some cases, replace traditional print materials. The provision of robust high-speed broadband connectivity to the Internet provides the social and economic connections necessary in modern life. Your library's website and mobile app, if well designed, can streamline the online patron experience and maximize their access to the myriad of resources available to them.  By featuring technology and skill development to which residents might otherwise never have access (such as coding and 3D printing), tech-based programming can spark and satisfy curiosity while preparing your community for the new economy.  Current, relevant and innovative technology can strengthen a library’s ability to connect with those they serve and remain relevant to the community.

This level of service requires both a staff who are comfortable and confident with technology and an institutional focus on the digital literacy skills of library users. Directors must select, and library boards must hire, staff capable of learning and teaching evolving technology tools to their patrons. Meeting and exceeding public expectations requires a library to be on the cutting edge.

As we look to the future, we can’t forget the basics: library automation is essential; up-to-date computers, printers and scanners are critical; and adequate bandwidth is a fundamental expenditure that libraries should plan to expand as necessary.

Boards must budget for equipment replacement and broadband connectivity on a regular basis. The practical lifespan of a computer workstation is about three years and funds must be available to replace it when it becomes obsolete.
It is wise for the board to approve a technology plan for the library to integrate technology into the delivery and improvement of public library services to meet the needs of your community. (See Sample components of a technology plan, as well as a Technology Plan Template.)

Internet access in particular raises issues of privacy, intellectual freedom and censorship. Education Law §260(12) requires every library to have an Internet use policy. Such policies must comply with state and federal laws regarding privacy issues. Libraries must be ready to address the concerns raised by members of their community, as well as the challenges presented by laws such as the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires libraries to filter Internet access if they accept federal e-rate funds to reimburse local Internet connectivity costs. Useful guidance is available through the ALA’s “Libraries and the Internet Toolkit.”

Related Policies and Documents

  • Internet & Wireless Use
  • Library Equipment Usage
  • Technology Plan