Public library trustees in New York State must deal with challenging issues at every board meeting, and they need access to a wide range of information to make informed decisions. The information they need is almost always available somewhere. However, it has not always been easy to find. This topic brings together information on library laws, library advocacy, changes affecting public libraries, library trustee associations, and publications and web sites of interest to public library trustees. If you know of additional resources that you think would be of use to other trustees, please tell your system consultant. Additional resources will be added as they are identified. There are six sections in this topic. You can scroll down to see each section or you can click on the links below to go directly to a specific section.

Section 1

Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State, 2015 Edition  This handbook provides New York library trustees “with a readable and concise reference to assist them in the performance of their duties.” References to the handbook can be found throughout the NYLTO site. You can access the entire handbook in three formats below.

A print version of the handbook is available for sale from the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. The cost of the handbook is $5.00 per copy including shipping. Please check with your local public library system first, prior to ordering.
Suffolk Cooperative Library System
627 N. Sunrise Service Rd.
P.O. Box 9000
Bellport, New York 11713
Attn: Attn: Roger Reyes

Section 2

New York Library Laws and Regulations “As education corporations, libraries are subject to a wide range of federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations. While trustees cannot be expected to understand all the details of every pertinent law, they should be familiar enough with the major legal issues to be assured that their library is always in compliance. Boards are strongly advised to solicit the assistance of legal counsel well versed in education and municipal law. It is important however, for every trustee to understand the legal foundation of their library and the extent and limitations of the Board of Trustees’ authority.” [from the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State, 2010 edition]

Legislation Relating to Libraries

Summary of New York State Library Laws and Regulations

This summary of library laws and regulations is from the Handbook for Library Trustees of the State of New York, 2010 edition: The basic powers and duties of all  library boards of trustees are defined in Education Law Section 226. This law  provides fundamental rules of conduct for the Board and details important  powers such as the right to hold and control property and hire staff.  Other pertinent N.Y. State Education Laws and Regulations include:

Other Laws that Affect New York Public Libaries

New York State Open Meetings Law
On September 15, 2014 the Committee on Open Government  issued an important opinion stating that the Open Meetings Law takes precedence over the Non-Profit Revitalization Act.  All public library systems, cooperative library systems, public libraries and association libraries are subject to Open Meetings Law under the provisions of Education Law 260-a Meetings of board of trustees.

Additional Information About New York Library Laws

The New York State Library provides links to excerpts from New York State Law and Regulations of the Commissioner of Education pertaining to libraries, library systems, trustees and librarians and information about new library laws from 2001-2011.

Public Library Law in New York State revised 2006: This is a PDF file of a book by Robert Allan Carter.  The book is a compilation of statutes and regulations in New York State that pertain to public libraries.  

Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) Audits of Public Libraries
OSC is stepping up efforts to audit public libraries in New York State.  Audits can happen at any time to three or four types of libraries: Special District public libraries, School District public libraries and Municipal public libraries. Association libraries may only be audited by OSC related to the Tax Camp, not for internal fiscal control reasons.

OSC Common Audit Findings, by Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Coordinator for Library Sustainability

Tax Cap Audits

“The tax cap legislation (S.5856/A.8518), which was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor on 6/24/11 (Chapter 97 Part A), even though it does not specifically mentions libraries, was intended by the Legislature and Governor to cover libraries.”  For more information on Tax Cap Audits, please refer to this resource created by the New York Library Association (NYLA). 

Auditors will be visiting libraries, fire districts, and town governments to review tax cap compliance on a 3-year rotation. Recently, representatives from the Regional Offices of State Comptroller’s Office have visited some libraries in the state.


If a representative from the Regional Office of the State Comptroller’s Office calls your library to schedule an audit of compliance review of the 2% property tax cap law, the auditor will ask to see:

  • 2012 library budget
  • 2013 library budget
  • Funding propositions proposed to voters
  • Results of the proposition vote
  • 2011 and 2012 Board resolutions to override the tax cap

If your library is not audited this year, you can expect an audit in the next two years, so please be prepared and have a tax override resolution passed once a year by your board of trustees. Click here to see a sample tax override resolution prepared by NYLA.
If the funding for your library is provided by the city or town, that municipality is responsible for tax cap compliance. If an auditor calls you, refer him or her to municipal financial officer.

Property Tax Freeze Credit
New York State implemented a two-year program designed to encourage school districts to stay below the state’s property tax cap by providing a tax credit to homeowners within school districts that comply. 

Property Tax Freeze Credit Guidance (NYS Department of Taxation and Finance)

Notices of Claim
Recently enacted amendments to the General Municipal Law provisions pertaining to the filing of Notices of Claim against municipal and governmental entities, including public libraries, now authorize such filing with the Secretary of State, rather than with the Library.  The legislation has a revenue component in that persons filing a Notice of Claim against governmental entities with the Secretary of State must pay a State a filing fee of $250, of which the sum of $125 is then forwarded to the governmental entity.

Inasmuch as the State Legislature has devised yet another means of increasing State revenues, it is now necessary that all public entities, including public libraries, file electronically with the Office of the Secretary of State a “Certificate of Designation for Service of Notice of Claim“, designating the name, title and address of the Library’s designated agent to receive a duplicate of a Notice of Claim filed with the Secretary of State.

Questions and Answers: A pdf. document created by the Nassau Library System; asked of the NLS attorney by the NLS Director with responses (August 20, 2013)

Section 3

2010 New York State Public and Association and Public Library Standards “All public and association libraries in New York State must meet 11 minimum standards of service. The standards support improved library services for the people of New York by helping libraries:

  • provide better quality service to their community,
  • advocate better for the funds needed to provide quality library service, and
  • be more accountable to the community paying for library services.

“Developed by a 1988 statewide Committee on Minimum Public Library Standards, the standards were adopted by the Board of Regents as Section 90.2 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. “Communities applying for a library charter or registration must meet all of the minimum standards at the time of application. Education Law requires that a library be chartered and registered to receive local and State public funds.” From the Library Development, New York State Library

2010 New York State Public and Association Library Standards: This link will take you to the New York State Library’s web page that includes the complete standards. There is a link on the web page to download the standards as a PDF file.

Helpful Information for Meeting Minimum Public Library Standards: The Library Development/Public Library System Directors Organization Minimum Standards Task Force created these suggestions to help public libraries to meet the standards.

Section 4

Advocating for Public Libraries in New York State
One of your major responsibilities as a public library trustee is to act as an advocate for the library.  The Oxford Dictionaries define advocate as “a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.” You are uniquely suited to support your library as a vocal and informed advocate.  You are a representative of the public and not a paid library employee. As a public library trustee you understand the value and importance of the library.  You can provide clear, accurate, and timely information about your library to local, state and national decision makers.  These resources will help you to hone your advocacy skills.

New York State Library Advocacy Resources

Advocating for Libraries in New York State: The New York Library Association (NYLA) provides a variety of tools and resources to support local library advocacy efforts.  NYLA hosts an “Online Advocacy Center Center, where advocates can send emails/faxes to their state and local legislators on library issues.”  NYLA also sponsors Library Advocacy Day each year in Albany.

Contact Your Elected Officials: This resource is maintained by the New York Library Association.  You can find the contact information for all New York State and federal elected officials here.

New Yorkers for Better Libraries PAC: “The New Yorkers for Better Libraries Political Action Committee was established in 2003 by library leaders who believe that there is a need to supplement the library community’s advocacy efforts with campaign contributions and other activities directed toward those in Albany who can really help libraries.”

National Library Advocacy Resources

Turning the Page 2.0:  “Turning the Page 2.0 is a free advocacy training course developed and presented by the Public Library Association (PLA) with generous support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

American Library Association (ALA) Office for Library Advocacy: “The Office for Library Advocacy (OLA) supports the efforts of advocates seeking to improve libraries of all types by developing resources, a peer-to-peer advocacy network, and training for advocates at the local, state and national level.”

Section 5

Libraries and Change Peter Drucker says “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” There is no question that we are in a time of turbulence for public libraries. The challenge is to be sure that we do not continue to act with yesterday’s logic. You and your fellow trustees need to stay aware of changes that are affecting the library. These resources will help you to understand the changes we are dealing with now and new resources will be added as new challenges arise.

 A Vision for the Future of New York Libraries

Creating the Future: a 2020 Vision Plan for Library Service in New York State: “The Regents Advisory Council Vision 2020 Plan presents strategic directions for New York’s libraries and library systems. Developed in partnership with the state’s library community, the Vision 2020 Plan affirms the ongoing value of libraries and provides a clear vision of what excellent libraries should look like. The Plan offers models of success that may be emulated by libraries throughout New York, and makes 60 inter-related strategic recommendations for libraries, library systems, the New York State Library, and the Board of Regents.

Creating the Future web page: The New York State Library has launched a Creating the Future web page.  Information about implementation activities, events and strategies will be posted on theCreating the Future web page and shared broadly with the library community and other stakeholders.   

How Are Things Changing?
These resources will provide you with an excellent introduction to the kinds of changes that are happening in today’s world and possible impact those changes will have on public libraries.

Shift Happens: Did You Know?: This YouTube video uses a series of statistics and examples to illustrate the accelerating pace of change in our world. The video has a musical soundtrack but no narration. If you wish, you can mute the soundtrack.

Which Future for Libraries? Based on a futures workshop of expert librarians and library stakeholders, four futures of the library and librarians are explored: “The Lean, Information Machine,” “Co-location for Community Capacity Building,” “Knowledge Navigator,” and “Dinosaurs of the Digital Knowledge Era.”

IFLA Trend Report: IFLA is the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. It serves as a “global voice of libraries and the information profession.” The latest “Insights Document” identifies five high level trends and considers possible future “collision points” between trends affecting the role and identity of libraries. Please use this “Insights Document” as a conversation starter for your library and your Board of Trustees. Also view the Trend Report, as it provides insights on how information trends are shaping your public library.

Aspen Institute Rising to the Challenge Report: The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries is a multi-stakeholder forum to explore and champion new thinking on U.S. public libraries, with the goal of fostering concrete actions to support and transform public libraries for a more diverse, mobile and connected society. It focuses on the impact of the digital revolution on access to information, knowledge and the conduct of daily life. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, the Dialogue seeks to shape and advance a renewed national vision for public libraries in the 21st century.

OCLC Reports: OCLC is a “nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public for purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing information costs.” OCLC initiatives include the publishing of in-depth studies and topical surveys that let you understand issues and trends that affect librarianship and help you plan for the future.

US Public Libraries: A Snapshot of Priorities & Perspectives (2011) – This new report details findings from a study OCLC conducted with libraries in mid-2011 to learn about their priorities, initiatives, thoughts on the future of their service points and the sources they use to keep up with developments in the library field.

Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community (2010): The new report provides updated information and new insights into information consumers and their online habits, preferences, and perceptions. Particular attention was paid to how the current economic downturn has affected the information-seeking behaviors and how those changes are reflected in the use and perception of libraries.

From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support in America (2008): OCLC was awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to explore attitudes and perceptions about library funding and to evaluate the potential of a large-scale marketing and advocacy campaign to increase public library funding in the U.S.

Pew Internet & American Life Project: The Pew Internet & American Life Project is an initiative of the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world. The Pew Internet Project explores the impact of the internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care and civic/political life. The Project is nonpartisan and takes no position on policy issues. Support for the Project is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.” The Pew Internet & American Life Project has done extensive research about the use of public libraries in the US. You can find links to several recent reports below.

Libraries at the Crossroads (published September 15, 2015) “American libraries are buffeted by cross currents. Citizens believe that libraries are important community institutions and profess interest in libraries offering a range of new program possibilities. Yet, even as the public expresses interest in additional library services, there are signs that the share of Americans visiting libraries has edged downward over the past three years, although it is too soon to know whether or not this is a trend.”

Public Libraries and Hispanics  (published March 17, 2015) “The Pew Research library survey finds that among library users, that is, those who have ever used a public library, Hispanics are less likely than whites or blacks to know about the services offered by their local library. Six-in-ten (62%) Hispanic library users say they know about at least some of the library services their local public library offers. By comparison, 71% of white and 74% of black library users say the same about their public libraries.”

Older Adults and Technology Use
 (published April 2, 2014) “Summary of findings: 59% of seniors report they go online, a six-percentage point increase in the course of a year – and 47% say they have a high-speed broadband connection at home.  In addition, 77% of older adults have a cell phone, up from 69% in April 2012.”

Section 6

Creating the Future: A 2020 Vision and Plan for Library Service in New York State “The Regents Advisory Council Vision 2020 Plan presents strategic directions for New York’s libraries and library systems. Developed in partnership with the state’s library community, the Vision 2020 Plan affirms the ongoing value of libraries and provides a clear vision of what excellent libraries should look like. The Plan offers models of success that may be emulated by libraries throughout New York, and makes 60 inter-related strategic recommendations for libraries, library systems, the New York State Library, and the Board of Regents.” – New York State Library.

Key Recommendations New York Library Association: “The Regents Advisory Council on Libraries presented a program during the 2012 NYLA Conference centered around Creating the Future implementation. Over 120 members of the library community attended this program. Attendees were separated into groups to discuss the plan’s 60 recommendations by library type. Groups determined the key recommendations, which will be given priority in implementation.” — New York State Library

Click here to review the key recommendations.

Section 7

Trustee Associations
There is one statewide association for library trustees in New York and there is also a national library trustee association. Membership in one or more of these associations will provide you with a number of benefits. First and foremost, associations are a great place to meet your peers and share ideas and challenges. Associations provide a variety of training opportunities for their members including webinars, in-person training programs, and conferences. Library trustee associations are strong advocates for libraries and provide a framework for working together to build and sustain support for libraries.

New York State Trustee Association
Library Trustees Association of New York State: LTA is a statewide organization which has been proudly representing, assisting and educating trustees since it was chartered by the New York State Board of Regents in 1949, and is New York’s only chartered trustee association.  Some of LTA’s activities and benefits include: annual Trustee Institute; printed quarterly newsletter (also posted online and searchable by keyword); policy database (which includes over 3000 policies shared by peers throughout the state, searchable by multiple criteria); monthy website features, news and articles (searchable by topic and keyword); monthly e-mail to keep “Trustees In-The-Know;” and trustee representation and advocacy on both state and local levels.  Memberships can be purchased on an organizational or individual level.  

National Trustee Associations
United for Libraries (formerly ALTAFF) : United for Libraries is a division of the American Library Association. “United for Libraries is a national network of enthusiastic library supporters who believe in the importance of libraries as the social and intellectual centers of communities and campuses. No one has a stronger voice for libraries than those who use them, raise money for them, and govern them. By uniting these voices, library supporters everywhere will become a real force to be reckoned with at the local, state, and national levels.” You will need to join the American Library Association to join United for Libraries. You can join as an individual or as an organization.

New York State Library Association
New York Library Association: “The New York Library Association is the Voice of the Library Community in New York. NYLA, established by Melvil Dewey in 1890, is the oldest state library association in the country and represents school, academic, special and public libraries and library staff from around the state.” You can purchase an individual membership or an organizational membership. “Organizational membership entitles all trustees of the library and library system to become non-voting members of NYLA and each will receive our weekly News You Can Use email newsletter and Legislative Alerts as well as discounts to attend conference and workshops.”