Public Library Expense Checklist

Public library districts are totally independent from any municipality or school district. The library board of trustees has sole responsibility, fiduciary and otherwise, to ensure that the library remains viable. In making the transition to a public library district, library trustees must be sure to account for the true expenses involved in running a library. Some of these expenses may have been previously paid as in-kind support to the library by its sponsoring municipality or other agency. When establishing the initial budget for a public library district, it is critical to include all of the expenses that the library will face as an independent entity. Prior to establishing a budget for a new school district public library or a special legislative district public library, the board of trustees should determine which expenses will be covered directly or in-kind by a municipality or school district. Though there is no legal basis that would require a municipality to cover the expenses of a special legislative district public library or continue to provide in-kind services, several do so as a community service. Though the following excerpt from an Opinion of the State Comptroller indicates that certain financial services related to school district public libraries must be provided without charge, it is recommended that the board of trustees of a new school district public library be prepared to budget for these services.

A municipal or school district treasurer with custody of library moneys must perform those services which are incidental to holding and disbursing funds. This includes maintenance of a bank account for the moneys, investment of the moneys as authorized by the library trustees, payroll preparation and incidental accounting functions. There is no authority to charge the library for the cost of such services. (Op. Compt. 86-54, August 19, 1986).

The following checklist is provided as a guide to the real expenses normally involved in running a public library:

Financial Recordkeeping

  • Bookkeeping/financial accounts: maintaining the library's financial records; managing all accounts receivable and payable, including issuance of invoices, checks, and preparation reports
  • Annual financial audit or review
  • Payroll: issuing paychecks; keeping records
  • Filing appropriate forms with federal and State governments

Human Resources

  • Handling staff hiring processes
  • Administering personnel policies and ensuring compliance with federal and State labor laws
  • Tracking employee time banks, i.e., vacation, sick leave, personal leave, etc.
  • Dealing with Civil Service
  • Dealing with employee unions: negotiation of contracts, handling grievances, etc.
  • Handling employee benefits: health insurance, workers' compensation, unemployment claims, retirement accounts


  • Coverage for library building(s) and contents
  • Liability insurance to protect against personal injury claims
  • Directors and Officers Liability insurance for library employees and board members

Legal Representation

  • To handle claims against the library and/or board of trustees
  • For advice on handling “Freedom of Information” requests
  • For advice on sensitive personnel and financial matters
  • To interpret and advise about laws pertaining to the operation of public libraries
  • To review library policies to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, i.e. meeting room policies, first amendment issues, etc.

Buildings and Grounds

  • Rent/mortgage/bond re-payment
  • Snow removal, grass cutting, landscaping
  • Routine maintenance
  • Security
  • Major renovations and additions
  • Emergency repairs
  • Cleaning

Library Materials

  • Books
  • Periodicals
  • Computer software
  • Other nonprint materials

Library Staff Salaries and Benefits

  • Administration (Director, etc.)
  • Departmental staff
  • Custodial staff
  • Health insurance for current and retired employees
  • Retirement

Library Programming for Adults, Children, and Young Adults

Travel and Training

  • Staff and trustee attendance at conferences
  • Attendance at training workshops, meetings, etc.

Equipment and Equipment Maintenance

  • Computers
  • Fax machines
  • Printers
  • Automobiles, delivery trucks
  • Other


  • Telephone
  • Gas and electric
  • Internet

Printing and Graphics

  • PR materials
  • Newsletters
  • Flyers promoting the library and programs


  • Cost of annual election
  • Community surveys
Return to What is a Public Library District?
Last Updated: February 24, 2017 -- asm [created January 27, 2005]; for questions or comments, contact us