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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

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


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.

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.

NYS Education Law

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

All libraries, regardless of type, are required to comply with Open Meetings Law. Two major aspects to be aware of are:

Public Notice

Executive Session

For more on Open Meetings Law, check out the Committee on Open Government, which also provides information about Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).