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Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State (2023 Edition)

Content from the latest edition of the Trustee Handbook.


Technology continues to transform library service delivery and impact our 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 and the deployment of technology to bridge barriers to access. 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--hardware and software--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, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality peripherals), 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. 

Libraries are leaders in addressing digital equity, inclusion, and literacy challenges in our communities. The National Digital Inclusion Alliance and the American Library Association have provided helpful definitions of these terms that you will find in the glossary found in the appendix of this Handbook.

Adequate broadband connectivity is essential to the operations of the library and to meet the needs of your community. The software that runs public-facing library operations is often cloud-based, requiring robust and uninterrupted access to high-speed connectivity. To fulfill their missions, libraries need to provide public access to the internet at speeds that meet their needs for common activities online, which are increasingly reliant on higher connectivity to download files and watch streaming media. Boards should approve budgets that meet the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) and American Library Association’s (ALA) recommendations for a minimum Internet speed of 100 Mbps for libraries serving smaller communities and 1 Gbps for libraries serving populations greater than 50,000 people.

Library staff should be comfortable and confident with technology and embrace an institutional focus on the digital literacy skills of library users. Library Directors must select, and Boards must appoint staff capable of learning and teaching evolving technology tools to their patrons. Meeting and exceeding public expectations require a library to be dedicated to staying on top of current technology topics as reflected in the New York State minimum standards for libraries which requires annual technology training for library workers.

Boards must budget for equipment (computers, printers, scanners, Wi-Fi access points, firewalls, etc.) 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. Boards must also contend with budgeting for the increasingly complex and expensive market of e-resources, in particular, eBooks and downloadable audiobooks. Boards are encouraged to take advantage of the federal E-Rate program administered by the FCC. This program can subsidize broadband connectivity and some networking equipment by up to 90% depending on your community’s economic need.

Boards will also want to budget for innovation. New technology and the need for training in new technology happens on a relatively fast cycle. Allowing the Library Director and staff to try new things can surprise and delight your patrons. 

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. A checklist for technology plans as well as examples of library technology plans are available through WebJunction.

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. 
If deployed well, technology can be a significant equalizer in our communities. Embracing technology does not mean letting go of other important aspects of a library’s print collection and meeting spaces for the public, it should complement and enhance the user experience and make life easier for staff. 

Related Policies and Documents:

  • General Data Protection Regulation
  • Internet Use
  • Library Equipment Usage
  • Privacy
  • Social Media
  • Website
  • Wi-Fi Network Use