Public Library Districts: An Introduction

Recommendation 3*: Promote the availability of local public library service to all New Yorkers and improve local support for public libraries through the formation of Public Library Districts.

All New Yorkers should live in a community that has access to, and supports, a quality public library, and all libraries must have adequate local support.

*from Meeting the Needs of All New Yorkers: Library Service in the New Century, the final report of the Regents Commission on Library Services (July 2000)


Creating Public Library Districts in New York State: a “how-to” guide

[Prepared for the Division of Library Development by Panz Library Consulting]

Public Library Districts

A Public Library District is a library that enables voters to approve the library budget and elect the library trustees. Libraries can choose from a number of models:

  • School District Public Library – serves residents of a single school district
  • Special Legislative District Public Library – state legislation authorizes local election to create a district
  • Association Library District – private entity

School District Public Library

A School District Public Library is created by passage of a referendum placed on the school district ballot. A petition signed by 25 qualified voters within the school district is necessary to place the proposition for a vote. School District Public Libraries have service areas that coincide with the school districts in which they are located, and voters within the school district determine the library’s budget and trustees.

School District Public Libraries are totally independent of the school district. Once the library has been established, the library board has the authority to schedule a vote on a library budget each year. If the proposition to fund a School District Public Library passes, the school district must collect the tax money and pay the funds to the library. Because they are public entities, School District Public Libraries are subject to civil service and public procurement laws and regulations.

Click here for more information on School District Public Libraries (from Creating Public Library Districts in New York State: a "how-to" guide).

Special Legislative District Public Library

The vote to create a Special Legislative District Public Library is authorized by State legislation. A State Legislator introduces a bill specifying the service area of the library and authorizing a public vote to create the library, elect trustees, and establish a budget. Once the State legislation is passed, an election is scheduled within the municipality to select trustees and approve the initial library budget. Click here for sample legislation. The municipality collects taxes on behalf of the library and turns the funds over to the library board, which is completely autonomous. If the new Special Legislative District Public Library is replacing an existing library, the existing library transfers assets to the new library and surrenders its charter to the Board of Regents.

Click here for more information on Special Legislative District Public Libraries (from Creating Public Library Districts in New York State: a "how-to" guide).

Association Library District

This model is available to libraries currently chartered as Association Libraries that do not want to relinquish their “private” status by re-chartering as a School District Public Library or a Special Legislative District Public Library.

Although an Association Library District is not a public entity, the library can emulate the basic characteristics of a public library district by providing a process for:

  1. public election of its trustees;
  2. the library to secure 60 percent or more of its operating revenue through a public budget vote; and
  3. the library to ensure financial accountability by presenting annually to appropriate funding agencies, and the public, a written budget that would enable the library to meet or exceed the minimum standards (see CR §90.2) and to carry out its long-range plan of service.

Click here for more information on Association Library District Public Libraries (from Creating Public Library Districts in New York State: a "how-to" guide).

Additional Public Library District Resources

Further Background Information

Library Development Staff Liaisons for Public Library Systems and Member Libraries

Last Updated: June 19, 2014 -- asm; for questions or comments, contact us