Basic Library Law for Trustees

The following is text of the PowerPoint presentation from a Webinar sponsored by the New York State Division of Library Development, November 8, 2013. Presented by: Jerry Nichols, Director, Palmer Institute for Public Library Organization and Management; Long Island University; LIU Post.

Welcome

Bernard Margolis, Assistant Commissioner for Libraries and New York State Librarian. Bernard A. Margolis has served as New York State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries since January 2009. Mr. Margolis administers the New York State Research Library and the Division of Library Development. In partnership with the state's 73 public and school library systems, the State Library delivers library services to 19.5 million people served by New York's 7,000 academic, public, school and special libraries.

Workshop Objectives

  • Explore the legal basis for public libraries;
  • Understand the legal and ethical responsibilities of trustees;
  • Provide resources for further review.

Topics

  • Core Values
  • Legal Structure of Public Libraries
  • The Laws and Regulations that you should know

Your Responsibilities as a Library Trustee

  • To provide your community with the best possible library service at a reasonable cost;
  • To understand that the library is an essential educational institution in your community;
  • To comply with the law and meet state standards;
  • To promote good governance;
  • To protect the Library, its staff and its assets;
  • To utilize professional consultants wisely.

Typical Legal Issues

  • Labor Issues:
    • Collective Bargaining
    • Grievances/Termination
  • Public Bidding
  • Construction/Automation Contracts
  • Real Estate Transactions
  • Capital Finance
  • Negligence Suits (Slip & Fall)
  • Article 78 Proceedings

Core Values

  • Intellectual Freedom (link to Intellectual Freedom Manual) external link opens in a new window
    • “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” -- 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
  • Access (link to Information and Technical Assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act) external link opens in a new window
  • Confidentiality of Library Records
  • N.Y. Civil Practice Laws and Rules §4509; §2307 external link opens in a new window
  • ALA Privacy Tool Kit external link opens in a new window

The Library as a Corporation

Critical Documents

  • Provisional and Permanent Charters
  • Registration
  • By-Laws
  • Policies
  • Minutes
  • Audits
  • Contracts & Other Legal Documents

By-Laws and Charter

  • The By-Laws are the rules and procedures by which the Board of Trustees functions.
  • The Charter is a legal document from the Board of Regents that incorporates the library, making it an education corporation that must meet certain standards of operation (Registration).
  • The By-Laws must be consistent with the current Charter, Education Law and the Education Commissioner's Regulations.

Types of Public Libraries

  • Lack of Constitutional Provisions
  • Who establishes public libraries?
  • Public vs. Private
  • Four Types of Public Libraries:
    • Association (“Private not-for-profit”)
    • Municipal
    • School District
    • Special District

Association Libraries

  • Oldest and Most Prevalent
  • Private not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organizations
  • Applicable Laws
  • Critical Aspects of Organization
    • Typical Service Areas
    • Board Membership
    • Budgets & Taxes
    • Capital Projects

Municipal Libraries

  • Establishment
  • “Public” nature and applicable laws
  • Relationship with municipality
  • Critical Aspects of Organization
    • Typical Service Areas
    • Board Membership
    • Budgets & Taxes
    • Capital Projects

School District Public Libraries

  • Establishment by community
  • “Public” nature and applicable laws
  • Legal structure and independence from School District
  • Critical Aspects of Organization
    • Service Area
    • Board Membership
    • Budgets & Taxes
    • Capital Projects

Special District Libraries

  • Establishment and definition of “Special District”
  • “Public” nature and applicable laws
  • Critical Aspects of Organization
    • Typical Service Areas
    • Board Membership
    • Budgets & Taxes
    • Capital Projects

Public library districts

A public library district is any library that:

  • Obtains a substantial amount of its operating budget through direct public vote.
  • Has a board of trustees that is elected by eligible voters within the library’s service area.
  • SEE: Public Library Districts: An Introduction external link opens in a new window

Governing Laws

Public Library Law in New York State:

Education Law – Critical Sections

  • §216 – Charters external link opens in a new window
  • §226 – Powers & Duties of Trustees external link opens in a new window
    • Officers, Composition and Quorum
    • Staff appointments & salaries
    • Control of Property
    • Vacancies & removal
  • §253 – Definition of a Public Library external link opens in a new window
  • §254 – Standards Section external link opens in a new window
  • §255 – Establishment external link opens in a new window

Education Law, continued

  • §259 – Taxation external link opens in a new window
    • “Continuing Appropriation”
    • Receipt and Segregation of Library funds
    • “Chapter 414” process
  • §260 – Powers of Trustees; school district library authority external link opens in a new window
    • Separate budget and trustee vote
    • “Requiring” School District to Bond Construction
  • §272 – Library Systems external link opens in a new window

Critical Laws for all Public Libraries

  • Open Meetings Law
  • Labor Law
    • Collective Bargaining
    • Hour & Wage
    • Safety

Laws for “Public” Institutions

Laws for “Public” Institutions, continued

  • Public Officers Law external link opens in a new window
    • Oath of Office
    • Indemnification
    • Open Meetings
    • Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)
  • Civil Service Law
    • §75

Commissioner’s Regulations

  • Authorized to establish regulations to implement law
  • Most “Popular”
    • Minimum Standards – CR 90.2 external link opens in a new window
    • Requirements for Library Directors – CR 90.8 external link opens in a new window
    • State Aid and Annual Reports – CR 90.9 external link opens in a new window
    • Public Library Systems – CR 90.3 external link opens in a new window
      • “Free” Direct Access – CR 90.3 (d)

Library Policies

  • Policies are the rules of the Library.
  • Policies should be developed thoughtfully and revised regularly.
  • Policies provide you and the library with legal protection.
  • Policies are useless unless you and your patrons know them.

Trustee Ethics

  • Conflicts of Interest
    • General Municipal Law; §800 external link opens in a new window
      • no officer or employee shall have an interest in any contract with the municipality of which he is an officer or employee…
      • The “appearance” of conflict;
      • Inclusion of family members;
      • “Free” services prohibited.
    • Application to Association Libraries

Trustee Information Resources

Last Updated: October 27, 2014 -- asm; for questions or comments, contact us