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What's My Job: A Guide To Being a Library Trustee: Library Laws and Regulations

Library Laws and Regulations

What you need to know...

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.

Library Regulatory Structure

Minimum Standards

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.

Library Charter

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.

Types of Public Libraries in NYS

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

•Funding varies

Municipal Library  (198/26%)

•Appointed Trustees

•Principal funding by municipality

School District Public Library  (161 /21%)

•Elected Trustees

•Funding by public vote

Special Legislative District Library  (51/7%)

•Elected Trustees

•Funding by public vote



NYS Education Law & Commissioner's Regulations

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.

Open Meetings Law

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:

  • Adopt a resolution authorizing remote attendance and adopt procedures that they determine to be ‘extraordinary circumstances'.
  • Conduct a public hearing before adopting the resolution.

When hosting a meeting where a library board member is attending remotely, the meeting must:

  • Have a quorum of trustees physically present at the public meeting location.  Members attending remotely can vote only if there is a quorum of the trustees physically present.
  • Grant remote access to the public to view and participate (public comment).
  • Record meeting minutes reflecting who attended in person and who attended remotely.
  • Record and post the meeting on the library’s website within five business days and let it remain for a minimum of five years. Recordings shall be transcribed upon request.

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).