Steps for Creating a Special Legislative District Public Library

Prior to embarking on the process to create a Special Legislative Public Library District, it is strongly recommended that the library board or interested parties contact the library system and/or the New York State Library Division of Library Development for assistance and guidance. In addition, it is also recommended that a library retain legal counsel and carefully review the "Where to Start" file within this "how-to" guide.
  1. If the new library district will replace an existing library, the existing library board defines the desired service area of the new library, based on the residence of library users. This may involve one or more of the following: analyzing registration and/or usage patterns; developing alternatives for allocating costs among constituent municipalities; contacting neighboring libraries, the public library system, and the New York State Library’s Division of Library Development for help and support; or communicating with affected municipalities.
  2. The library board discusses the potential charter change with local municipal officials to inform them of the library’s intentions and to seek their support. It is important to do this early on in the process to ensure that the officials first hear about the process from the library and not from other sources. Because the library may eventually need a “message of home rule” and possibly bridge funding from local municipalities at some point in the process, it is best to move forward in partnership with local municipalities. Also, if the vote to create the Special Legislative District Public Library fails, the library will need to rely on continued appropriations from its supporting municipalities. In addition, if the title to the library building is held by the municipality, the library board should clarify the terms under which the facility could continue to be used by the new special legislative public library district after the new district is formed.
  3. The library board formally votes to proceed with the process and develops a timetable and a budget for the first year of operation.
  4. The library board approaches a local State Legislator (Assembly or Senate representative) and requests that he or she draft a bill to authorize a local vote to create the new library. In drafting the bill, it is important to consult current Education Law and other bills for Special Legislative District Public Libraries for ideas about what to include in the legislation. Click here for sample legislation.
  5. Before the State Legislator introduces the bill into the State Legislature, he/she may ask the library to obtain a “home rule message” from affected municipalities. A “home rule message” is the “sign-off” from the local municipality that it does not oppose the creation of the new library district. Though this “sign-off” is not required, many Legislators will ask the library to contact the affected municipalities for a “letter of home rule” before agreeing to sponsor the legislation.
  6. Once the bill is drafted, it must be introduced and passed by both houses of the State Legislature. The primary sponsor normally solicits co-sponsors and support from other Legislators. However, it is important that representatives from the library meet with all local Assembly and Senate representatives to explain the rationale for the legislation.
  7. When the bill passes both houses of the State Legislature, the Governor must sign it into law as “Chapter XXX, Laws of 200_.” It then becomes the enabling legislation authorizing a referendum to create the library district, as specified in the bill. The legislation does not create the district; nor does it charter the library. These are separate actions that need to be taken.
  8. The local election to create the district is then scheduled according to specifications in the legislation and local election requirements. If a date for the referendum was not included in the enabling legislation, it must be set by the library board of trustees of the existing library.
  9. Each candidate interested in serving on the new library board of trustees must file a nominating petition as specified in the state legislation. The ballot put before voters will specify the establishment of the district, an initial budget, and election of trustees. All relevant propositions must pass for the district to be established.
  10. Campaigns to educate the community and garner support for the proposition to establish and fund the library are coordinated by concerned citizens or by the library board of trustees if the new library is replacing an existing library. Public funds can be used to educate the community but not to advocate for the proposition. Separate and independent library advocacy groups, such as the Friends of the Library, may use private donations to advocate for the proposition. More information on educational and advocacy campaigns.
  11. If the vote is successful, several additional actions need to take place before the process is complete. Within one month after taking office, the new library board of trustees must submit an application to the Division of Library Development for a charter as a Special Legislative District Public Library. A copy of the library district's proposed budget, a certified copy of the election results, and a copy of the public notice announcing the election should accompany the charter application.
  12. After the new board of trustees takes this charter action, the board of trustees of the library it will be replacing must submit paperwork to the Division of Library Development to dissolve the charter of that library and transfer its assets to the newly formed Special Legislative District Public Library.
  13. Once the new Special Legislative District Public Library receives its charter, it must apply for registration, and trustees must take an oath of office.
  14. Taxes authorized by the budget vote to support the library are collected by the appropriate municipality(ies) and/or school district(s) and are paid to the library board. The municipality(ies) and/or school district(s)have no direct control over the operations of the library.

NOTE: More detailed information on chartering and dissolving educational organizations in New York State can be found in Law Pamphlet 9 external link; opens in a new window issued by the New York State Education Department.

See also After the Vote -- a checklist of actions.

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Last Updated: June 3, 2019 -- asm [created January 27, 2005]; for questions or comments, contact us