As New York State Education Corporations, libraries are subject to a wide range of federal, state and local laws, rules, and regulations. Trustees should be familiar enough with major legal issues to be assured their library is always in compliance.
NCLS staff will be able to guide you through some basic legal issues, but you can also find help...
We encourage our libraries to be aware of legal resources in your community in the event you need official counsel.
All public and association libraries in New York State must meet minimum standards of service according to Section 90.2 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. The current standards went into effect January 1, 2021.
All libraries are required to have - and share online - written bylaws, policies, budget, long-range plan of service, and annual report to the community.
Find the entire list of minimum standards for public libraries HERE
Find more information about meeting the minimum standards HERE.
Your library's charter is the official document that allows your library to legally exist. It is granted by the Board of Regents from the NYS Education Department. It's important that all trustees become familiar with the language that is stated in the charter. It's also crucial that the library's charter aligns with the board's governing Bylaws.
NCLS has an electronic copy of the charters for every library in the system. If you would like to request a copy, please contact your Consultant.
There are 756 public libraries in New York state. The following is a breakdown of the different types.
To learn more about each type and to see how they compare, visit NYS Department or Library Development's Types of Public Libraries: A Comparison.
Association Library (346/46%)
•Elected or Appointed Trustees
Municipal Library (198/26%)
•Principal funding by municipality
School District Public Library (161 /21%)
•Funding by public vote
Special Legislative District Library (51/7%)
•Funding by public vote
New York libraries are chartered by the Department of Education, and many fundamental rules, powers, and duties of the library board are included in NYS Education Law. Here are some important ones to know:
226 - Powers of trustees of institutions. Covers number of trustees, quorum, vacancies, removals, control of employees, property
259 - Library Taxes. Covers control of tax revenue, authority for school ballot municipal ballot vote, and library funds kept separate from municipality funds.
260 - Trustees. Covers powers of trustees, school district public library authority, appointment, election, and residency.
Committee on Open Government: Overview and Update (October 2022)
Under the newly amended Open Meetings Law, boards can meet virtually until June 8, 2022. After that, they must hold a public hearing and pass a resolution stating the procedures and specials circumstances for allowing members to attend remotely. This new law, section 103-a, gives library boards the option to expand remote/virtual access to individuals (not the entire board) in extraordinary circumstances only. You can find sample resolutions prepared by attorney Stephanie (Cole) Adams here.
Under the new law, if library boards want to permit individuals facing “extraordinary circumstances” (including disability, illness, caregiver responsibilities, and more) remote access to a meeting, the library board must:
When hosting a meeting where a library board member is attending remotely, the meeting must:
The law also states that the “in person” participation requirements of the Law shall not apply during a state disaster emergency declared by the governor.
All libraries, regardless of type, are required to comply with Open Meetings Law. For more on Open Meetings Law, check out the Committee on Open Government, which also provides information about Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).