2016 Trustee Handbook

2016 Trustee Handbook


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For Printed Copies

of the 2015 edition of the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State please contact your regional public library system.

Individual copies are also available for sale from the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. The cost of the Handbook is $5.00 per copy including shipping. Please send your orders to:

Suffolk Cooperative Library System
627 N. Sunrise Service Rd.
P.O. Box 9000
Bellport, New York 11713
Attn: Roger Reyes
(631) 286-1600


Handbook Highlight – New addition: The Role of the Public Library Treasurer

The Role of the Public Library Treasurer Background Information and FAQs

A Supplement to the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State

Though there have been recent efforts to clarify the role of the “Treasurer” in New York State public libraries much confusion still exists. This document is intended to assist public library boards to comply with the law, understand “best practices” and adhere to established accounting standards in order to protect their public funds.

Please Note: This document is for advisory purposes only and should not be considered as legal or accounting advice. As always, consult with your Library attorney and independent auditor to determine the best policies and practices for your particular institution.

Background Information

The Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State; 2015 Edition states:

“The office of Treasurer varies greatly, depending upon the library’s legal structure. School district and most special legislative district libraries must appoint (hire) an independent Treasurer who is not a member of the Board. Under the provisions of Education Law § 259 (1) (a) this independent officer reports to the board and is responsible for the receipt and disbursement of tax monies after Board approval.

 

Special legislative district libraries should refer to their enabling legislation for clarification. In the case of school district libraries, the school district treasurer is required to act in this capacity unless the library board appoints its own Treasurer.

 

Municipal libraries that exercise their right under Education Law § 259 (1) (a) to request their tax appropriations be paid over to the library are strongly advised to appoint an independent Treasurer. In the case of municipal libraries where tax funds are held, and invoices are paid by the municipality, the Treasurer of the municipality serves in this capacity.

 

The State Comptroller has repeatedly opined that the doctrine of ‘incompatibility of office’ applies to school district, municipal and special legislative district libraries (according to their enabling legislation). This is often applied to the appointment of a board member to the office of Treasurer.

 

In such cases it is considered a best practice to appoint (hire) an independent Treasurer and appoint a trustee as the board’s ‘Finance Officer’ who would oversee the regular audit of claims, chair the board budget committee and otherwise serve in such a capacity.

 

Association libraries are not governed by these restrictions and may appoint a trustee as Treasurer to oversee the receipt and disbursement of library funds, report to the board and otherwise fulfill the duties of Treasurer.” (P.23-24.)
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In recent audits that focused on the functions of the Treasurer, the Office of the State Comptroller noted:

A school district public library board of trustees has the power to appoint library officers and employees, including a library treasurer. The treasurer is responsible for depositing and disbursing library funds, maintaining appropriate accounting records and providing a monthly treasurer’s report to the board. Because the typical duties of a library treasurer include the custody and disbursement of public funds, they carry with them a high degree of public trust.

 

New York State Public Officers Law requires public officers to take and file an oath of office prior to performing their official duties. [Middle County Public Library; 2016]

 

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Bank reconciliations should be prepared by an employee or official who is independent3 of the Library’s accounting functions and does not have access to cash. Where it is not possible to segregate these duties, a supervisor, or a designated Board member, should review accounting entries and bank reconciliations on a monthly basis.

 

3 An employee or official who is independent of the Library’s accounting functions does not have the ability to record receipts, disbursements or journal entries in the financial system.

 

The Board should:

  1.  Ensure that bank reconciliations are performed by someone who is independent of the accounting functions.
  2.  Designate a Board member or Library official who is independent of the accounting function to review bank reconciliations.
  3. Require the Treasurer to provide bank reconciliations and supporting documentation with the Treasurer’s monthly report to the Board. [Shelter Rock Public Library; 2015]

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the typical duties of a public library Treasurer?
The Treasurer is a separate officer of a public library corporation and is appointed by the Board of Trustees. They are required to take an Oath of Office and perform their duties as defined in state law. Association Libraries are not covered by this law.

The public library Treasurer is responsible for depositing and disbursing library funds, maintaining appropriate accounting records and providing a monthly Treasurer’s report to the board. Typical duties include:

  • Reconciliation of bank statements
  • Preparation of Monthly Report to the Board of Receipts & Disbursements
  • Signing checks for payment after Board approval
  • Oversight of Investments

What duties should the Treasurer not perform?
The Treasurer should be independent of the Library’s accounting functions and should not have the ability to record receipts, disbursements or journal entries in the financial system.

May a Board member serve as library Treasurer?
Only Association Libraries may allow a Library Trustee to perform the duties of a Treasurer. Public (i.e. Municipal, School District and Special District) libraries must appoint an independent Treasurer to oversee the receipt and disbursement of the public library’s funds.

Public library boards are still required to provide fiscal oversight of the Library. Though a trustee may not serve as Treasurer it is still best practice to designate a board member as “Finance Officer” or such similar title, to thoroughly review all the library financial statements and expenditures prior to the Board meeting. At every Board meeting all trustees should review the monthly financial reports and expenditures, including the warrants/vouchers. Remember, every member of the board has a fiduciary responsibility to the community.

Is a public library Board required to appoint a Treasurer?

School district libraries- The Treasurer of the local school district is required to serve as Treasurer of the school district library. However, the school district library is authorized by law to appoint their own Treasurer, should they desire. (Education Law § 259.1a)

 

Special district library- Generally Special District Libraries are required to appoint a Treasurer unless otherwise specified in their enabling legislation.

 

Municipal library- In many cases the Treasurer of the municipality serves as the Library Treasurer. This would be typical of a municipal Library where the municipality (Village, City, Town or County) maintains control of the expenditure of Library funds. In cases where the municipality transfers control of such funds to the Library, the Board should appoint an independent Treasurer in order to fulfill its fiduciary responsibilities. (www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/libraries/2015/walworthseely.htm)

 

Can the Board appoint a staff member to the position of Treasurer?
Yes, however, in order to comply with the accounting principle of “segregation of incompatible duties”1 such a staff member may not:

  • Have access to cash
  • Record receipts or disbursements
  • Record journal entries in the financial system.

What is the relationship between the Treasurer and the Director?
The Board appoints the Treasurer, as they do the Library Director. As an “officer of the Board,” the Treasurer answers directly to the Board of Trustees and serves at their pleasure. Therefore, to avoid conflict, it is “best practice” not to call on a library staff member for this function but to use a community member with expertise in finance and bookkeeping practices. Generally this is a paid position but there is no stipulation against using a community volunteer. As a Board Officer this position is not covered by the classified/competitive sections of New York State Civil Service Law.

Who typically serves as an independent Library Treasurer? How much work is involved? Many municipalities and special districts in New York State require a separate Treasurer. Quite often libraries utilize the services of qualified individuals who serve in this capacity for their local fire district, water district, school district or other municipality. The job generally requires a few hours two or three days per month. The Treasurer must prepare a report of receipts and disbursements along with statement of bank account reconciliations. The Treasurer is not required to attend the Board meeting, but certainly may do so at the pleasure of the Board.

For detailed explanation of this concept see: Office of the New York State Comptroller. The Practice of Internal Controls. 2010. p.3: http://osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/lgmg/practiceinternalcontrols.pdf

Can the Board appoint an independent accounting firm or CPA?
According to the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) the Library Board has the power to appoint the Treasurer, who serves as an officer of the library corporation. Recent audits have stated that the Treasurer must be an individual appointed by the Board who takes an Oath of Office. (www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/libraries2016/middlecountry.htm. p.4). It appears therefore, in order to comply with current OSC opinions it would be necessary to appoint a specific member of the selected firm to serve in the capacity of Library Treasurer.

Is an Oath of Office required for the Treasurer?
Yes. The Treasurer is an Officer of the Library Corporation and is therefore required to take an Oath of Office. (Public Officers Law §10.)

Can anyone else sign checks?
Yes. The Board may appoint an Assistant Treasurer. Please note: It is also common practice that two Board members are designated as check signers. Though we have found no specific guidance from OSC, this practice certainly complies with the principle of “segregation of incompatible duties”, unless of course, the individual Trustees are the recipients of any such checks.

What should the Treasurer’s Report contain?
The Treasurer’s monthly Report to the Library Board should show the reconciliation of all bank statements and report actual revenues and expenditures compared to the Library budget. This summary report should not be confused with the detailed monthly line item financial report from the Library’s business office.

The Treasurer prepares a monthly report on bank reconciliations and overall revenues and expenditures. Can the Library staff prepare the detailed monthly budget report?
Yes. Under the direction of the Library Director the Library’s business staff should prepare a monthly report on the revenues and expenditures on a line item (detailed) basis as compared with the Library’s annual budget and year-to-date expenditures and encumbrances for Board review. This should reconcile with the independent Treasurer’s summary report to the Board.

Who should open the bank statements?
The Library Treasurer must have access to the original bank statements in order to prepare the monthly Board report. This function may be delegated to staff or an independent accounting firm who do not have access to cash nor the ability to record receipts, disbursements or journal entries in the financial system (www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/libraries/2015/shelterrock.htm p.2).

However, it is the Treasurer’s responsibility to oversee this process and prepare the Board report.

Must the Treasurer attend Board meetings?
No, unless required to do so by the Board. However, a Treasurer’s Report must be presented at the meeting and reviewed by the Board.

Is the treasurer a voting member of the board?
No.

Must the Treasurer physically deposit, transfer and invest funds? Or may they “oversee” this function?
The Treasurer is “responsible” for such actions. Though they may not personally perform such transactions they must be aware and oversee the process. The principle of “segregation of incompatible duties” should always be considered in the handling of library assets.

Should the Treasurer be bonded?
Yes! As should other staff with the responsibility for handling public and private funds on behalf of the Library.

We are a very small library with limited staff and resources. We simply cannot afford to hire the additional staff to fully meet these requirements. What should we do?
As custodians of public funds it is the library board’s responsibility to provide fiscal oversight of the Library. Every reasonable effort should be made to comply with the guidelines provided by OSC. Where full compliance is not practical the Board is advised to closely follow the accounting principles of “segregation of incompatible duties” in the handling and reporting of the Library’s assets. The advice of an independent Certified Public Accountant (CPA) should be sought to assist the Board in such a situation.

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For further information:

Office of the New York State Comptroller. Local Government Links: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/listacctg.htm#ic

The Practice of Internal Controls:
http://osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/lgmg/practiceinternalcontrols.pdf 

Bank Reconciliations:
http://osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/techbull/0403.pdf

Investing and Protecting Public Funds:
http://osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/lgmg/investingpublicfunds.pdf

Handbook Highlight: Public Library Glossary

Public Library Glossary


This glossary presents a brief list of words and acronyms commonly used in public libraries in New York State.

3 R’s: New York’s nine Reference and Research Library Resources Systems.

Chapter 414 of the Laws of 1995: (municipal ballot option): State law that allows for voter funding initiatives for both association and public libraries. [Education Law §259 (1)(b)].

Chapter 917 of the Laws of 1990: State legislation providing for changes to Education Law provisions regarding State funding for libraries and library systems.

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act): The ADA is considered to be the most comprehensive civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation and telecommunications. [Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Pub. L. No. 101-336]

ALA: American Library Association.

BIBFRAME (Bibliographic Framework): This is a data model for bibliographic description designed to replace the MARC standard.

BOCES: Boards of Cooperative Education Services.

Broadband: A general term referring to high speed telecommunications connections regardless of the medium (fiber optic, wire, cable or wireless) utilized.

CBA: Central (Library) Book Aid.

Capital Funds: Funds for the acquisition of, or addition to, fixed assets such as buildings or major equipment.  Often kept separate from annual operating funds.

Cataloging: The process of describing an item in a library collection and assigning it a classification (call) number.

Charter: The document of incorporation granted to a public library by the New York State Board of Regents.

CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act): A federal law governing Internet access in schools and libraries.  Compliance with CIPA is mandatory for eligibility for most e-rate subsidies and LSTA funding. [Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-554]

Circulation: The process of lending library materials.

DLD (Division of Library Development): DLD is the division of the New York State Library within the State Education Department responsible for the oversight of library funding and compliance with related State laws and Commissioner’s Regulations.

DPLA: Digital Public Library of America.

DRM (Digital Rights Management): DRM technology is used by hardware and software manufacturers, publishers and copyright holders with the intent to control the use of digitalcontent and devices.

e-book: The electronic version of a print book or a book that is only available online.

Education Law 259.1State law that determines tax support for libraries. 

E-Rate: Federal program that provides discounts to libraries and schools for commercially available telecommunications services, Internet connectivity and internal connections.

Empire State Library Network: State organization for the Reference and Research Library Resources Councils, dedicated to promote cooperation and development among the state’s academic and special libraries. Formerly known as the New York Three Rs Association.

 

Free Direct Access: The ability to borrow library materials in person from a public library outside your community.

Friends of Libraries Section (FLS): Section of the New York Library Association that supports library Friends Groups.

ILL (Interlibrary Loan): Interlibrary Loan is when one library lends materials to another library for its patron’s use.

IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services): An independent federal grant-making agency dedicated to creating and sustaining a nation of learners by helping libraries and museums serve their communities.

ILS (Integrated Library System) ILP (Integrated Library Platform): Integrated library (automation) systems provide libraries with a variety of integrated computerized functions – cataloging, circulation, online catalog, acquisitions, serials control and electronic resource management.

ISBN: International Standard Book Number.

ISSN: International Standard Serial Number.

LC (Library of Congress): The national library of the United States.

LTA (Library Trustees Association of New York State): New York’s statewide association for library boards and trustees.

LLSA (Local Library Services Aid): The New York State aid program for local public libraries.  Funds are distributed through the public library systems.

LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act): A long standing federal library aid program for libraries.  Funds are used to support national initiatives through support of state programs and grants to libraries and library systems on a competitive basis.

MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging): MARC is a format for storing the bibliographic description of a book, serial, video, etc. on a computer.  The MARC format is an international standard used by most libraries and library computer software vendors.

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS): A federal program through the Library of Congress that provides recorded digital books for the blind and those with physical disabilities.

NOVELNY (New York Online Virtual Electronic Library): A statewide program of the New York State Library that provides free public access to commercial databases and other electronic resources.

NY3Rs: State organization for the Reference and Research Library Resources Councils, dedicated to promote cooperation and development among the state’s academic and special libraries. Now known as the Empire State Library Network.

NYLA (New York Library Association): 
New York’s statewide library association.

NYALS (New York Alliance of Library Systems): A coalition of public, school and 3Rs Systems in New York.

NYLINE: New York’s Libraries Information Network listserv operated by the New York State Library. All are welcomed to join.

NYLTO: New York Libraries Trustees Online.

NYSL: New York State Library.

OCLC: OCLC is a bibliographic utility used by nearly 27,000 libraries, archives and museums in 86 countries.

OGS (Office of General Services (NYS): Administers state procurement contracts for goods, services and technology.

OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog): A computerized catalog, which can be searched, edited and updated online.  Many OPACS are now simply one module of an integrated library system.

PLA (Public Library Association): A division of the American Library Association.

PLS: Public Library System or Public Library Section of the New York Library Association.

Provisional Charter: The initial incorporation document granted to a public library by the Board of Regents.  Provisional charters are issued for five years.  A library with a provisional charter may apply for an absolute (permanent) charter after meeting state standards and fulfilling registration requirements.

PULISDO (Public Library System Directors Organization of New York State): The statewide association of Public Library System Directors.

RBDB (Regional Bibliographic Data Bases Program): State funds that may be used for a variety of purposes to benefit regional resource sharing technology in each NY3Rs region.

RAC (Regents Advisory Council): A standing advisory committee appointed by the Regents to review and advise the Board of Regents on library issues and concerns.

RFID (Radio-frequency Identification): A technology used to automate the handling of library materials.

Registration: The process by which libraries demonstrate compliance with Commissioner’s Regulation 90.2. (Minimum Standards).  A library must maintain its registration to collect local and state funds.

SED (State Education Department): The state agency responsible for educational services, including libraries.

SLS (School Library Systems): Similar to public library cooperatives, these organizations exist to promote resource sharing and library development in school libraries.

SLSA (School Library Systems Association, Inc.): The statewide organization for School Library Systems.

STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (aka STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art & math).

TDD/TTY: Telecommunications devices for the hearing impaired.

Union Catalog / County Catalog: Public library systems are mandated by the state to provide a “locator file” of the book holdings of the public libraries in their service area.

United For Libraries: A division of the American Library Association that provides support and networking for Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations.

Unserved Area: Refers to regions of the state without a chartered and registered public library.

USA PATRIOT ACT / USA FREEDOM ACT: Federal legislation that, among many other provisions, governs access to library records in certain circumstances by law enforcement agencies.

Last Updated: January 7, 2016

Oath of Office Required

New York’s Libraries Information Network <NYLINE@LISTSERV.NYSED.GOV>; on behalf of; DLD DLD@NYSED.GOV
Thu 12/17/2015 5:01 PM


IMPORTANT REMINDER:
STATE LAW REQUIRES EVERY PUBLIC LIBRARY TRUSTEE TO TAKE AN OATH OF OFFICE

January 1 is just around the corner!  Many library trustee terms begin on January 1. This is an important reminder that New York State Public Officer’s Law §10 requires all public library trustees (but not association library trustees) to take an oath of office within 30 days of beginning their term of office. Public library trustees are public officers and the oath of office is required to officially undertake and perform the duties of a public library trustee.   If a public library trustee does not properly complete and file an oath of office, the trustee’s position may be deemed vacant. See Public Officer’s Law §30(1)(h).

For more information about how and why the oath of office is administered, and where to properly file an oath of office, please see the “Oaths of Office FAQ” on the New York State Library website: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/pltrust/oath.htm

Not sure whether your library is legally a public library or an association library? Library type information is listed for every public and association library in New York State on the “Find Your Public Library” web page at: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/libs/publibs/index.html

Questions about the legal requirement for oaths of office or about library types should be directed to your public library system director.  Questions about this email reminder or the FAQ on the State Library’s website may be directed to Karen Balsen, Team Leader, Outreach, Networking and Regional Advisory Services Team, Division of Library Development, New York State Library at Karen.Balsen@nysed.gov .

 

2015 Handbook Highlight: Library Laws and Regulations

 

Library Laws and Regulations

As New York State 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 their public library system and seek the advice 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.

Public libraries in New York State receive a charter from the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York and are registered with the Education Department. The charter gives the library a corporate existence. 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. A library’s “registration” demonstrates compliance with Education Department Regulations (8 New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR) § 90.2 (Minimum Standards). A library must maintain its registration to receive local and state public funding.

Other pertinent New York State Education Laws and Regulations include:

All public libraries are subject to various parts of the Education LawPublic Officers Law and Not for Profit Corporation Law(including select portions of the Non-Profit Revitalization Act), as well as numerous other New York State laws governing the conduct of corporations, both public and private; acompelling reason for the Library to retain knowledgeable legal counsel.

Public libraries, those considered to be municipal, school district or special legislative district libraries, are also subject to several additional laws, regulations and policies designed to protect the public interest.  Most notable of these include:

  • Civil Service Law  (Job titles, examinations, due process)
  • General Municipal Law (Bidding and Procurement; Conflicts of Interest)
  • Labor Law (Hour & Wage, Safety and “Wicks Law”)
  • Public Officers Law  (Indemnification, Open Meetings, Oath of Office & FOIL)
  • NY State Comptroller’s Policies and Procedures (Accounting standards, investments, etc.)

An excellent compilation of the laws, regulations and pertinent legal opinions affecting public libraries in our State

The New York State Library provides an up-to-date summary of Excerpts from New York State Law and Regulations of the Commissioner of Education pertaining to libraries, library systems, trustees and librarians

Legal Structure

There are four types of public libraries in New York State: association, municipal, school district, and special legislative district. Trustees and community leaders are quite often confused about the legal structure of their community library and the laws that govern them. Considering the fact that each of these library types has several variations, it is critical for all associated with the governance of the library to clearly understand their particular configuration.

A detailed comparison chart

An association library is a private corporation established by the members of the association. It contracts with a unit of local government to provide library service to the residents of that jurisdiction. In legal terms, this contract may be written, oral or implied; but it always exists. Though association libraries are private not-for-profit education corporations and not subject to some of the laws and restrictions of true public libraries, they are generally supported by public funds and must always keep transparency and accountability in mind as they make decisions. In addition to Education Law such libraries are subject to some aspects of the New York State Not-for-Profit Corporation Law.

municipal library is formed either by a vote of the governing body of a municipality (village, town, city, or county) or by a public referendum to serve the residents of the municipality. The library is an independent corporate entity and not dependent upon the municipal government. However, the board of trustees is appointed by the municipality, which is responsible for the appropriate funding of the library. The library is subject to all the laws applicable to public institutions in the state.

school district public library is organized to serve the residents who live within the boundaries of a given school district (hence the name). Typically the library board is elected by the district residents. The library and the library board are independent of the school district and the school board. However, the school district is responsible for the collection of taxes and for the issuance of municipal bonds for construction on the library’s behalf.

The separation of powers between local boards of education and school district library boards is detailed in Education Law Section 260 (7)-(11).

special legislative district library is created by a special act of the State Legislature and a local public vote to serve all or part of one or more municipalities or districts as defined by its enabling legislation. Each of these libraries is somewhat unique but all are considered “public” insofar as adherence to state law.

Tax exempt status: Every association library should obtain federal tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This exemption allows the library to avoid federal tax liability and also to be eligible to receive tax-deductible gifts. A library that has such an exemption is required to file Form 990external link opens in a new windowannually with the Internal Revenue Service.external link opens in a new window

The Form 990 functions in place of a federal income tax return for the exempt organization, and there are large financial penalties for late filing or failure to file. Failure to file three years in a row will result in the revocation of the library’s 501(c)(3) status. Federal law requires that the library’s completed Form 990 must be on file at the library and available for public inspection upon request. In addition to the federal tax exemption, each library should also obtain a state sales tax exemption certificate.

Public libraries (municipal, school district and special legislative district) are, by definition, a government entity under IRS code, and therefore tax exempt and not 501(c)(3) corporations.  However, public libraries may receive a confirmation of tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service to use with grant makers and businesses. SEE: Tax Exempt Status.

Transparency: As noted in the chapter on Board Organization, each library board is required by the Open Meetings Lawexternal link opens in a new window and Education Law §260a to conduct its business in public with only a few very limited exceptions.  All municipal, school district and special legislative district libraries must also conform to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).external link opens in a new window

Although association libraries do not fall under the provisions of this law, they are wise to consider such a policy since they are generally supported by public funds and are often subject to public scrutiny.

Every library board is also required to approve and file an annual State Report with the New York State Library detailing library activities and finances. Compliance with the state established minimum standards is also reviewed in this annual report. Failure to file such a report in a timely fashion can lead to the loss of state and local funding and ultimately to the closing of the library.

By Education Department Regulations (8 NYCRR) § 90.2, the Commissioner of Education has established minimum standards for public and association libraries. A public library is required to have:

  • Written bylaws;
  • A board-approved, written long range plan of service;
  • An annual report to the community;
  • Written policies for the operation of the library;
  • A written budget proposal for presentation to funding agencies;
  • Printed information describing the library’s rules, hours, services, location, and phone number.

In addition, a public library is required to:

  • Periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the library’s collection and services;
  • Maintain hours of service according to a schedule based on population served;
  • Maintain a facility which meets community needs;
  • Provide equipment and electronic connections to meet community needs;
  • Employ a paid director with qualifications based on population served.

The minimum education qualifications for library director as established in Commissioner’s Regulation § 90.8 are as follows:

Chartered Population

Education Qualification

2,500-4,999

Two years of college study

5,000-7,499

Bachelor’s degree

7,500+

Master’s degree in Library Science (MLS) and NYS public librarian’s professional certificate

A library in New York State must meet these Minimum Standards in order to be registered to receive public funds. The library board is ultimately responsible for ensuring these minimum standards are met. A practical explanation of these standards

In addition, NYS General Municipal Law § 30 requires each public library to file an annual report of financial transactions with the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC).

Resources:

Handbook Highlight – PLANNING AND EVALUATION

Every public and association library in New York is required to have a written long-range plan of service. There are many excellent publications on planning. Some, such as the Public Library Association’s Planning for Results series, are specifically library oriented (http://www.alastore.ala.org/detail.aspx?ID=61).

The conscious decision to engage in planning is far more important than the planning tool used. Though planning may be required, it is simply a smart way to inform decisions about budgeting, personnel, capital improvements, library services and community involvement.
Every trustee must be prepared to ask difficult, searching questions about the library’s goals and objectives, programs and services and about the board itself. What are the objectives of this library? Have they been accomplished? Are they appropriate? Is the community well served? How do we define good service? Does the director manage the library properly? Is the board functioning effectively? What do we want our library to look like in the future?

Long range planning prepares for the future. Strategic planning is based on the premise that change is necessary to survive and thrive in the future. Strategic planning answers the question, “What do we have to do now in order to improve our ability to operate five years in the future?” If the planning time frame is shorter it involves operational planning. Operational planning focuses on the improvement of things the library already does and is primarily concerned with the allocation of resources.
Creating a plan involves answering questions:

  • What does the community need?
  • What is to be done?
  • Who is responsible and who should be involved? How will it be done?
  •  What is the timetable?
  •  What resources (people, money, materials, etc.) are available?
  • Who are the stakeholders in the process?
  • What is to be reported to whom, and when?
  • What options are available?
  •  How is success measured?

A practical planning process is outlined in the Appendices.

Every plan has the same general components. The mission is a short, carefully crafted statement that tells the world why the library exists. Many libraries capture their mission in a single sentence. Goals are broad statements of program intent that support the mission statement. They are measurable only to the extent that they provide targets toward which to strive. There is always more to do to reach a goal! Objectives are specific, measurable, tasks or projects in support of a goal, usually stated in terms of outcomes. Action steps or activities are the specific assignments that must be completed in order to reach an objective. (A useful illustration of a library long range plan may be found at: http://potsdamlibrary.org/Policies/longrange.shtm. Check with your library system for other examples.) Finally, every good plan should come full circle with an evaluation process.

Evaluation looks at the past in order to plan for the future. It is an assessment and a measurement of activities that have already occurred and it provides a foundation for moving forward. Objective measurement, supplemented by subjective, anecdotal information, can help the board decide if its objectives have been met. However, it is important to determine the appropriate measurements upfront and to measure the right things. Conversely, it is a waste of time to measure things that don’t matter.

For example, library circulation is a traditional measure of library use, but it is only a small part of the activity in a library and is often misleading if not presented as trend data over the past few years. What other measurements can be used to get an accurate picture of how the public uses and benefits from the library? This might include a combination of metrics and outcomes.

Examples of metrics could include: in-house use of materials; Internet use; database searches; program attendance; engagement on the library’s Facebook Page and so on. Outcomes are the changes, benefits, learning or other effects that happen as a result of your library’s efforts – how you are improving your community. Your evaluation should be appropriate for the service package your library offers to the community.

Significant projects, like planning, may exceed the board’s collective skill and experience, making it advisable to call on the library system or outside consultants for assistance.

As a steward of the library your planning process should work to create a library for your community that will not just survive, but thrive. Public library services are too important to leave to chance. Planning for the future should incorporate the core value of sustainability. Choices the board makes should be made with an eye towards creating an enduring institution and facility that will be viable, vital and visible for generations to come.

Resources:

Handbook Highlight: Ethics and Conflicts of Interest

In today’s political environment accountability and ethics are critical ingredients for any public organization. As public libraries continue to develop and expand and rely to a far greater extent on the support of local taxpayers it is essential for every library board to have in place a policy clearly stating the ethical principles upon which they work. In every decision trustees should be sensitive to even the appearance of impropriety.

In this context trustees or their families may not enter into a business relationship with the library, even if they are providing a service below cost. (Sample policyexternal link opens in a new window)

Conflicts of interest are defined in General Municipal Law Section 800. Though trustees of association libraries are generally not considered “public officers,” the State Comptroller has held that “the common law rule (regarding conflicts of interest) is not limited to public officers and municipalities; it also applies to private positions of trust…and is applicable to trustees of a free association library.” [3 OP State Compt 485, 1947].

The Comptroller further states: “…it is wise to have a ‘conflicts of interest policy’ that clearly states the procedures to be followed if a board member’s personal or financial interest may be advanced by an action of the board.
…The organization should also have a code of ethics addressing such issues as transparency, disclosure in fundraising solicitations, integrity in governance and diversity.” [Internal Controls and Financial Accountability for Not-for-Profit Boardsexternal link opens in a new window]

In a similar fashion, library boards are strongly encouraged to adopt anti-nepotism policies to address the management and public relations issues surrounding the employment of both trustees’ and staff family members.

Though not necessarily an ethical or legal issue, “appropriate and professional” behavior by board members is every trustee’s concern and responsibility. You reflect the library to the community. The most successful boards have a positive culture of mutual respect and understanding. When any member acts in a manner that is not in the best interests of the library or in the cooperative nature of the board, the Board President should discuss the issue with the trustee in a direct and constructive manner.

Handbook Highlight: Public Relations and Advocacy

As the summer ends and boards get back together, take time to review this important activity for all Boards of Trustees.

Public Relations and Advocacy

As the citizen control over the public library, the board of trustees has a responsibility for telling the library’s story to the taxpayers, donors and funding bodies that support it. Even the best programs and services are of limited value if people don’t know about them. Conversely, people are more likely to support programs they understand, value and use.

There are numerous ways to reach the public. One essential tool is a web site that broadcasts the library’s message and provides access to library services twenty-four hours a day.  Many libraries now maintain a presence on MySpaceor Facebook and keep their patrons up to date with library blogs and Twitter accounts.  Some even maintain virtual libraries in virtual worlds like Second Life.

More traditional publicity avenues include newsletters, public service announcements and feature stories on radio, television and newspapers. Personal communication is always the most effective way to get the library’s message across in a meaningful fashion. Trustees are leaders in the community and must be prepared to discuss the importance of the library at every opportunity.

Public relations also involve partnerships. Trustees should look for ways to form networks and coalitions of library advocates. Many other organizations, such as the school district, service clubs, the chamber of commerce and local social service agencies have a vested interest in a strong and vital community library.

A critical aspect of public relations is legislative advocacy. Elected officials want to be invited to public events at the library and they should be on the mailing list for all library publications.  Dynamic boards and trustees write, call and visit their elected officials frequently. Trustees are in a unique position to be effective in the governmental arena because they are citizen volunteers with no direct financial stake in library funding decisions. Trustees keep the library’s financial needs in front of elected officials. Of course there are many other non-financial issues at the local, state, and federal level that affect libraries. Zoning ordinances, labor law, copyright, telecommunications rules, environmental regulations, censorship and many other issues can have an impact on libraries and trustees must ensure that the library’s interests are well represented.

Many trustees support library lobbying through their active membership in the Library Trustees Association of New York Stateexternal link opens in a new windowNYLAexternal link opens in a new window  and New Yorkers for Better Libraries PACexternal link opens in a new window.

Handbook Highlight: Library Board Organization

Library Board Organization

Public libraries are required by the Regulations of Commissioner of Education of New York State (CR 90.2) to operate under written by-laws. By-laws are “the set of rules adopted by an organization defining its structure and governing its functions.” (Sturgis, The Standard Handbook of Parliamentary Procedure; third edition, new and revised, p. 257)

By-laws may not conflict with federal or state law and regulations; such law and regulation is the highest authority governing the library’s affairs.

A board will probably find the need to tailor its by-laws to local needs and situations. The by-laws should be reviewed periodically and amended when necessary to maintain flexibility and relevance. All by-laws should include the following provisions:

  • Name of Organization, purpose, objectives and area served;
  • Board terms and composition;
  • Procedure for election, appointment and removal of trustees;
  • Procedure for filling an unexpired term;
  • Duties and powers of board officers;
  • Schedule of meetings;
  • Procedure for special meetings;
  • Attendance requirements;
  • Quorum requirements;
  • Summary of the director’s duties;
  • Standing and special committees;
  • Order of business for board meetings;
  • Parliamentary authority;
  • Procedure for amendment of the by-laws.

Trustees of municipal, school district, and special district libraries, and trustees of cooperative library systems are required to file the oath of office specified in the State Constitution:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of New York, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of trustee of the _________ Library, according to the best of my ability.

The oath may be given by any officer of the court (judge, attorney, notary public) and must be filed in the local county clerk’s office. Failure to do so will vacate the position.

See: Public Library, Public Library System, and Reference and Research Library System Trustees and Oaths of Office

It is also good practice for the board to request a formal letter or certificate of appointment or election for each new trustee from the body that made the appointment or conducted the election, such as the town or village board or school district clerk. This document should state the term of office.

Collective Authority

Under New York State law, a library board has broad authority to manage the affairs of the library, but it is a collectiveauthority.  Individual trustees, regardless of their position on the board, do not have the power to command the services of a library staff member, nor to speak or act on behalf of the library unless they have been specifically granted that authority by a vote of the board.

An important corollary to this concept of collective authority is the need for the board to speak with one voice once a decision has been made. Debate, discussion, and even disagreement over an issue are an important part of policy development and the decision making process. However, every trustee has an ethical obligation to publicly support an adopted board decision.

The First Amendment protects the rights of a trustee who disagrees so strongly with a board decision that he or she must speak out publicly against it.  However, in such instances the individual must make it clear to all concerned that they do not represent the library and, indeed, may wish to seriously consider resigning from the board if such action interferes with their ability to effectively fulfill their responsibilities as a trustee.

Handbook Highlight – The Library Network in New York State

Libraries and library trustees in New York State are supported by one of the most extensive and comprehensive library networks in the country. This network is both institutional and digital.

Public libraries are chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, one part of our vast statewide educational system. The Regents’ responsibilities include oversight of all educational and cultural institutions, including more than 750 public libraries.

The Regents appoint the Commissioner of Education, who is the chief executive officer of the State Education Department. Among the divisions of the Education Department is the Office of Cultural Education (OCE), comprised of the State Archives, Library and Museum and the Office of Public Broadcasting. The Assistant Commissioner for Libraries and State Librarian is responsible for the activities of the New York State Library and the Division of Library Development. The Division of Library Development coordinates and administers state aid programs as well as the rules and regulations that govern public libraries and library systems. The Division of Library Development also helps to develop new statewide programs of library service and provides guidance on charter changes and other matters that must be referred to the Board of Regents.

Nearer to the local library, and its first source of assistance and resources, is the public library system. Virtually all of the public libraries in the state belong to one of the twenty-three public library systems. There are three types of public library systems: consolidated, federated and cooperative.  Each has a different legal structure and relationship with its members or, in the case of consolidated systems, its branches.

A thorough comparison of the three different types of public library systems

Each public library system develops its own long range plan of service as required by Education Law, reflecting the needs of the libraries in the area the system serves. Local governance and control allows library systems to offer programs and services that vary greatly from one region to another. Nevertheless, all public library systems share the same common purpose and responsibility for the development and improvement of their member libraries. The systems are also responsible for providing library service in those areas without public libraries and coordinating resource sharing among member libraries.
Finally, each system is required to designate a central library or co-central libraries whose purpose is to house and offer resources in greater numbers and depth than usually found in local libraries.

Public library system services may include the following:

  • Online union catalogs of member library materials;
  • Interlibrary loan and delivery of materials;
  • Administration of computer networks and integrated library automation systems, including circulation, online public catalogs (OPACS) acquisitions and other sophisticated software modules;
  • Cooperative purchase and support of electronic databases, Internet access and telecommunications services;
  • Continuing education seminars, workshops and training for library staff and trustees;
  • Consultation on library administration, programs and services;
  • Specialized support for Young Adult and Children’s Services;
  • Centralized purchasing, ordering and processing of library materials;
  • Assistance in materials selection and collection development;
  • Materials cataloging services and advice;
  • Web page design and maintenance; printing and other duplication services;
  • Service to correctional facilities, nursing homes, and other institutions;
  • Outreach services to special populations and consultation on accessibility issues;
  • Assistance in, and administration of, state and federal grant programs;
  • Services to unchartered areas including contract library services, bookmobiles or other extension services.

New York State also supports two other types of library systems that work with the public library systems to broaden the variety of resources available to all residents of the state. Reference and Research library Resources systems (3Rs councils) were established to enhance resource sharing and to meet specialized reference needs. The 3Rs councils serve primarily as the systems for academic and special libraries but their membership also includes library systems, hospital libraries, and specialized libraries of all types. Individual public and school libraries may also join. The state is also served by forty-one school library systems sponsored by the BOCES and Big Five City School Districts. The school library systems provide support services, consultation, and assistance to both public and non-public school libraries.

See also: A thorough comparison of the three different types of public library systems

The statewide library network also has an important digital component. All public library systems and the State Library offer online catalogs, access to databases and locally developed digital resources that are available on the World Wide Web. Using the Web and various software products to link systems and databases, the State Library, the Library Systems and New York’s local libraries offer a seamless virtual library with access to library and information resources within the state and worldwide. This same resource also provides unprecedented opportunities for communication. Through electronic mail, listservs, and online discussion groups, trustees and others concerned with the development of public library service have a fast, easy, inexpensive way to communicate to every corner of our state and beyond.

Working together, the State Library, the public library systems, school library systems and the 3Rs councils offer the local public library and its patrons’ access to a vast array of services and resources from around the state and all over the world.

In addition to these resources library trustees have several statewide and national associations available to help them fulfill their mission.  Membership and active participation in these organizations not only provides assistance on the local level, but also adds significantly to the collective strength and wisdom of library trustees throughout the State and the nation.

The Library Trustees Association of New York State (formerly NYSALB) is an important source of support and information for local libraries. It is the state organization for library trustees, offering a range of valuable services. It advocates on behalf of library interests at the state level and offers training and workshops of interest to trustees through its Annual Trustee Institute and website: www.librarytrustees.orgexternal link opens in a new window

The New York Library Associationexternal link opens in a new window (NYLA) is the statewide organization of library professionals, support staff and advocates. It is dedicated to advancing the interests of all types of libraries and library service in New York State. By representing the library community before the State Legislature, it provides important planning and support in the development of library-related legislation and offers extensive continuing education opportunities through its annual conference and other programs.

Since many issues affecting libraries originate on the federal level there are also two national associations that work to inform and support libraries, their trustees and their advocates. The Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundationsexternal link opens in a new window (ALTAFF) is the division of the American Library Association dedicated specifically to library trustees and their particular concerns. The American Library Associationexternal link opens in a new window is the national association for library professionals, trustees, advocates and support staff and is also an invaluable resource for information and assistance.

Each public library is part of this national and statewide library community. An informed trustee is familiar with the members and components of this community and uses the information and opportunities available to improve the programs and services of their local library.