A Visit to Plainview-Old Bethpage Library

Plainview-Old Bethpage Library

We want to share some information about our sponsor for the next LTA  TITK (Trustees in the Know) session on August 12, 2017.

999 Old Country Road, Plainview, NY 11803

Library History

Plainview-Old Bethpage welcome sign

The Plainview Library opened its doors on January 7, 1956 in the Jamaica Avenue School. In 1957, the Library relocated to rented space in the Morton Village Shopping Center. It remained in the Morton Village Shopping Center until the current building opened in 1963. In March of 1966, the library’s charter was amended and its named changed to the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library to accurately reflect the one school district and two communities the Library serves.

Plainview library - Lots of opportunities and an inviting look of the library

Plainview -Old Bethpage - Puppet theater created by the children for their puppet show- Curious George and friend

In 2005, the Library celebrated a building expansion which included a 236 seat auditorium and an expanded Family Center. With technological advances changing how we do almost everything, the Library continues to be the place to learn and to access information. Public computers, free WIFI, basic computer classes, CD’s and DVD’s, audiobooks, playaways, eBooks and eBook readers allow our community to keep up with new technology. The Library continues to be a community center, providing educational and entertainment programs for all ages and meeting room space for over 100 community groups.

Curious George and friend

In partnership with a vital community that values learning, the Library looks forward to meeting the challenges of the future with creativity and enthusiasm.

Gretchen Browne, director of the library shared “We have been designated a 5-Star Library by Library Journal for the past 7 years and our Children’s Dept. (Family Center) is very innovative and pro-active. The Library provides monthly book discussion groups, cultural and educational lecture series, a Wednesday film, exercise classes and a wide array of other topical programs from tax assistance to cooking and art classes. -We are extremely proud of the work we do.”

The library is the site for the next LTA TITK (Trustees in the Know) session on August 12.

We hope you will join us in Plainview on August 12 for our next TITK -Trustees in the Know – session.

Binghamton TITK Highlights

Registration & Welcome Table

Presenter Duane Shoen, CPA

A standing room only Trustee regional institute was held in Binghamton on May 6.  Ninety trustees and staff from ten public library systems attended Trustees in the Know to hear presentations on library spaces, financial reports and board/staff relationships and employment liability.  Sounds dry?  Anything but.  Our presenters offered lively and informative discussions, answered specific questions, and provided excellent handouts (to be found at “Binghamton Trustees in the Know”) for further study.

Presenters Carrie J. Pollak, Esq, (left) & Whitney Kummerow Esq. (right) with LTA Director Jean Curie (center)

Partners from the L2 Studio Architecture firm suggested some very helpful and detailed ways to plan major changes or renovations to your library.  Using their ideas as a checklist will mean you do not forget important issues that could lead to an oops in the middle of a project!

Duane Shoen, CPA

Duane Shoen, a CPA from Insero & Co. provided information on the kinds of financial reports you should expect and be responsible for as a library trustee for your type of library.  He also noted the new standards for nonprofits from the Financial Accounting Standards Board as well as the NYS Revitalization Act.

Attendees Networking

After a great lunch from the Old World Deli (a fixture in Binghamton!), Carrie Pollak, Esq. from Hancock Estabrook, gave us information in words we could understand, the duties of a board member especially as they relate to finances, conflicts of interest, and the relationship of the board and the director – noses in, fingers out!

Presenters from L2 Studio: Corey Layton Bob Costello, & Mick Lombardini

Whitney Kummerow, Esq. also from Hancock Estabrook offered practical and useful information on how libraries should comply with current labor and employment laws.  Her list of the information and documentation that a library should have related to employment is another extremely useful checklist.

Attendees "Deep in Thought" as they Watch Presentation

LTA thanks the three public library sponsors, Four County, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier Library Systems for their help and support and also Broome County Public Library for hosting this very successful trustee training.

Cassie Guthrie (right) -- Representing New Yorkers for Better Libraries

Ask Joe Eisner: Is a library board required to permit public participation at its open meetings?

LTA Members:Get Questions Answered
Do You Have a Library Question Which Requires an Answer?
Ask Joe Eisner (click to learn more)

As part of LTA’s expansion of service to aid and assist library trustees and directors, LTA offers members an opportunity to confer with Joe Eisner, free of charge.

Joe can be contacted toll-free at 1 (866) 720-8969 or by email at ltafaqjoe@librarytrustees.org. (Question are handled with discretion.)

For more information about Joe Eisner’s experience and background, please click on the “Ask Joe Eisner” tab under “Resources and Links” on LTA’s website.

Please note: The following should not be construed as legal advice, for which the services of counsel should be obtained:


The following should not be construed as legal advice, for which the services of counsel should be obtained.

Q. Is a library board required to permit public participation at its open meetings?

A. Both association and public libraries boards are required by Education Law s260-a to conduct their meetings in accordance with the provisions of the Open Meetings Law (OML). However, “…although the Open Meetings Law provides the public with the right ‘to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy’ (see Open Meetings Law s100), the Law is silent with respect to public participation. Consequently, by means of example, if a public body… does not want to answer questions or permit the public to speak or otherwise participate at its meetings, we do not believe that it would be obliged to do so.  On the other hand, a public body may choose to answer questions and permit public participation, and many do so. When a public body does permit the public to speak, we believe that it should do so based upon reasonable rules that treat the members of the public equally…. [T]he presiding officer has the authority to limit remarks from the public that are ‘repetitive’ and ‘offensive’…. [W]e note federal court decisions indicating that if commentary is permitted within a certain subject area,, negative commentary in the same area cannot be prohibited…. [A]ssuming that the Board of Trustees…  [or] the presiding officer permit those who wish to speak to do so for a particular period of time, each person who wishes to do so must, in our opinion, be given an equal opportunity to do so Similarly, if the Board…  permit[s  positive comments concerning the operation… we believe that they must offer an equal opportunity to enable those in attendance to offer negative or critical comments.  It would not be unreasonable, in our opinion, to limit repetitive comments in support of opinions expressed previously, as well as those that would be offensive to reasonable people  of ordinary sensibilities….” (Op COG OML 5296, June 12, 2015).  “In the context of a meeting of a public body or a public hearing, we believe that a court would determine that a public body may limit the amount of time allotted to person who wishes to speak, so long as the limitation is reasonable” Op COG OML 4141, February 24, 2006).

Q. May a library board require that a members of the public who wish to speak during public participation at an open meeting of the board be limited to residents of the political jurisdiction served by the library?

A. Bearing in mind that the purpose of the Open Meetings Law is to encourage transparency in government,  depending if the meeting is an open meeting of the library board, to impose such a limitation might be politically imprudent as well as ill-advised. In the following Committee on Open Government opinion, counsel distinguished between a “community forum meeting”, a meeting of a public body, stating that both are different from a public hearing:

“From our perspective, a ‘community forum meeting’ is different from a meeting of a public body, and both are different from a public hearing. A meeting is generally a gathering of a quorum of a public body for the purpose of discussion, deliberation, and potentially taking action within the scope of its powers and duties. A hearing is generally held pursuant to law to provide members of the public with an opportunity to express their views concerning a particular subject, such as a proposed budget, a local law or a matter involving land use. It is likely that a ‘community forum meeting’ is similar to a public hearing, due to its purpose, but unlike a public hearing, is not prescribed by law. Public hearings are often required to be preceded by the publication of a legal notice. In contrast, §104(3) of the Open Meetings Law specifies that notice of a meeting must merely be ‘given’ to the news media and posted. We note, too, that a meeting of a public body held in accordance with the Open Meetings Law can only occur with the presence of a quorum. A hearing or a community forum, on the other hand, can be conducted without a quorum present.

The following should not be construed as legal advice, for which the services of counsel should be obtained.

Q. Is a library board required to permit public participation at its open meetings?

A. Both association and public libraries boards are required by Education Law s260-a to conduct their meetings in accordance with the provisions of the Open Meetings Law (OML). However, “…although the Open Meetings Law provides the public with the right ‘to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy’ (see Open Meetings Law s100), the Law is silent with respect to public participation. Consequently, by means of example, if a public body… does not want to answer questions or permit the public to speak or otherwise participate at its meetings, we do not believe that it would be obliged to do so.  On the other hand, a public body may choose to answer questions and permit public participation, and many do so. When a public body does permit the public to speak, we believe that it should do so based upon reasonable rules that treat the members of the public equally…. [T]he presiding officer has the authority to limit remarks from the public that are ‘repetitive’ and ‘offensive’…. [W]e note federal court decisions indicating that if commentary is permitted within a certain subject area,, negative commentary in the same area cannot be prohibited…. [A]ssuming that the Board of Trustees…  [or] the presiding officer permit those who wish to speak to do so for a particular period of time, each person who wishes to do so must, in our opinion, be given an equal opportunity to do so Similarly, if the Board…  permit[s  positive comments concerning the operation… we believe that they must offer an equal opportunity to enable those in attendance to offer negative or critical comments.  It would not be unreasonable, in our opinion, to limit repetitive comments in support of opinions expressed previously, as well as those that would be offensive to reasonable people  of ordinary sensibilities….” (Op COG OML 5296, June 12, 2015).  “In the context of a meeting of a public body or a public hearing, we believe that a court would determine that a public body may limit the amount of time allotted to person who wishes to speak, so long as the limitation is reasonable” Op COG OML 4141, February 24, 2006).

Q. May a library board require that a members of the public who wish to speak during public participation at an open meeting of the board be limited to residents of the political jurisdiction served by the library?

A. Bearing in mind that the purpose of the Open Meetings Law is to encourage transparency in government,  depending if the meeting is an open meeting of the library board, to impose such a limitation might be politically imprudent as well as ill-advised. In the following Committee on Open Government opinion, counsel distinguished between a “community forum meeting”, a meeting of a public body, stating that both are different from a public hearing:

“From our perspective, a ‘community forum meeting’ is different from a meeting of a public body, and both are different from a public hearing. A meeting is generally a gathering of a quorum of a public body for the purpose of discussion, deliberation, and potentially taking action within the scope of its powers and duties. A hearing is generally held pursuant to law to provide members of the public with an opportunity to express their views concerning a particular subject, such as a proposed budget, a local law or a matter involving land use. It is likely that a ‘community forum meeting’ is similar to a public hearing, due to its purpose, but unlike a public hearing, is not prescribed by law. Public hearings are often required to be preceded by the publication of a legal notice. In contrast, §104(3) of the Open Meetings Law specifies that notice of a meeting must merely be ‘given’ to the news media and posted. We note, too, that a meeting of a public body held in accordance with the Open Meetings Law can only occur with the presence of a quorum. A hearing or a community forum, on the other hand, can be conducted without a quorum present.

“While we know of no judicial decisions concerning the ability of those to speak at either meetings or hearings, when a public body does permit the public to speak, we believe that it should do so based upon reasonable rules that treat members of the public equally.

“Legal notices for public hearings normally include the following indication: “at such hearing any person may be heard.” Neither the notice nor the statute requiring that the hearing be held distinguishes among those who might want to express their views. That being so, we do not believe that a public body could validly require that those who attend or seek to attend a hearing identify themselves by name, residence or interest. In short, it is our view that any member of the public has an equal opportunity to partake in a public hearing, and that an effort to distinguish among attendees by residence or any other qualifier would be inconsistent with the law and, therefore, unreasonable.

“Moreover, people other than residents, particularly those who own property or operate businesses in a community, may have a substantial interest in attending and expressing their views at hearings held by school boards and other public bodies. Prohibiting those people from speaking, even though they may have a significant tax burden, while permitting residents to do so, would, in our view, be unjustifiable. Further, it may be that a non-resident serves, in essence, as a resident’s representative, and that precluding the non-resident from speaking would be equivalent to prohibiting a resident from speaking. In short, it is unlikely that a public body could validly prohibit a non-resident from speaking at a public forum based upon residency” (Op COG OML 4141, February 24, 2006).

Thus, prudence would dictate that a library board should seek advice from counsel regarding the appropriate procedure to follow in regard to receiving questions from members of the public who attend library board meetings at which only routine business is discussed, or as in the case of school district public library or an association library which receive voter approved tax support, a meeting held in advance of that vote at which either a quorum of the board will be present to vote on presenting the budget for voter approval, or at which a quorum will not be present.

“Legal notices for public hearings normally include the following indication: “at such hearing any person may be heard.” Neither the notice nor the statute requiring that the hearing be held distinguishes among those who might want to express their views. That being so, we do not believe that a public body could validly require that those who attend or seek to attend a hearing identify themselves by name, residence or interest. In short, it is our view that any member of the public has an equal opportunity to partake in a public hearing, and that an effort to distinguish among attendees by residence or any other qualifier would be inconsistent with the law and, therefore, unreasonable.

“Moreover, people other than residents, particularly those who own property or operate businesses in a community, may have a substantial interest in attending and expressing their views at hearings held by school boards and other public bodies. Prohibiting those people from speaking, even though they may have a significant tax burden, while permitting residents to do so, would, in our view, be unjustifiable. Further, it may be that a non-resident serves, in essence, as a resident’s representative, and that precluding the non-resident from speaking would be equivalent to prohibiting a resident from speaking. In short, it is unlikely that a public body could validly prohibit a non-resident from speaking at a public forum based upon residency” (Op COG OML 4141, February 24, 2006).

Thus, prudence would dictate that a library board should seek advice from counsel regarding the appropriate procedure to follow in regard to receiving questions from members of the public who attend library board meetings at which only routine business is discussed, or as in the case of school district public library or an association library which receive voter approved tax support, a meeting held in advance of that vote at which either a quorum of the board will be present to vote on presenting the budget for voter approval, or at which a quorum will not be present.


Please note: If you have any additional questions about this topic, please contact Joe Eisner at the e-mail/phone above.

 

Helping All Trustees Succeed Curriculum Endorsed by Statewide Organizations

The Library Trustees Association of New York State, the New York Library Association and Public Library System Directors Promote Trustee Education

NEW YORK STATE, May 12, 2017– The Library Trustees Association of New York State (LTA) , the New York Library Association (NYLA) and the Public Library Systems Directors Organization of New York State (PULISDO) have all unanimously endorsed the use and promotion of the Helping All Trustees Succeed (HATS) Curriculum.

“Strong library boards build enduring libraries,” said Lauren Moore, PULISDO Chair. “ That’s why the public library systems of New York State have worked together to create a curriculum that will ensure that all library trustees have the skills they need to govern their libraries.”

The curriculum was developed by a team of Public Library System consultants with stakeholder input. Stakeholders included public library trustees, public library directors, the Library Trustees Association of New York State, the New York State Division of Library Development, the New York Library Association along with members of PULISDO. Thirteen percent of New York’s 6,000+ trustees responded to a survey to help shape the content of the curriculum.

“No one is born knowing how to be a public library trustee,” commented HATS Team Mentor and Mid-Hudson Library System’s Coordinator for Library Sustainability, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, “and with responsibilities for the governance, finances, facilities and retention of the public’s good will we need to give these honorable volunteers a fighting chance to do the best they can for the communities they serve. Library service is too important to leave to chance.”

The curriculum includes five modules to help Public Library Systems provide relevant, up-to-date continuing education opportunities for public library trustees. The module topics include an orientation, legal issues, financial and fiduciary responsibilities, planning and advocacy and the most common habits of highly effective boards.

“The Library Trustees Association (LTA) is the only NYS regents chartered association for trustees, founded in 1949. Our mission is to represent, assist, honor and educate trustees as providers of universal library service. We are pleased to have worked with the HATS team on the curriculum and to have partnered with them on presentations and the sharing of information,” said Tim Gavin, Executive Director of the Library Trustees
Association. “We encourage trustees throughout the state to attend HATS programs and we look forward to continuing to partner with the HATS team in future endeavors and as they refine their curriculum. The more education that trustees receive, the easier their roles will be, the stronger and more vibrant their libraries and communities will become, and the more recognition NY will receive as role models for the rest of our nation.”

Public library systems will each take the lead to customize the curriculum and offer regional workshops for local library trustees. PULISDO continues to create opportunities to support public library system staff in the implementation of the curriculum, ensuring that this curriculum continues to be relevant, accurate and a cornerstone for trustee education in New York State.

“NYLA is pleased to offer its endorsement of the HATS curriculum, and to support the goal of providing robust training opportunities to all those who serve as public library trustees across New York State, said Barbara Stripling, President of the New York Library Association, “The HATS program is a welcome positive step toward that goal.”

To learn more about upcoming trustee education offerings in your region please contact your public library system.

 

Team HATS:
Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Mid-Hudson Library System (Team Mentor)
Lisa Erickson, Nioga Library System
Jennifer Ferriss, Southern Adirondack Library System
Ron Kirsop, Pioneer Library System
Grace Riario, Ramapo Catskill Library System
Amanda Travis, Onondaga County Public Library System

Team HATS got their start thanks to the ILEAD USA Program offered through The New York State Library.


If you would like more information about this topic, please contact:
Lauren Moore, Chair, PULISDO
585.394.8260
lmoore@pls-net.org.

Using Social Media to Advocate for Libraries by Library Journal

Posted on  by CommunicationServices

When you’re putting together an advocacy program for your library, using social media is crucial—it’s one of the easiest ways to reach targeted audiences in or-der to build your base of support and a simple, cost-effective way to reach advocates where they al-ready are. Just about every library has a website and, at least, a Facebook page. Most also use Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and/or Instagram. It’s all about deciding which market you want to reach.

Social media is straightforward and allows you to create, post, and share content that is imperative to your advocacy effort. One of the best things about nearly any social media platform is that setting up a basic page is free. The second best thing is that advertising and targeting are effortless and inexpensive. Third, you can create library advocates while they are sitting their living rooms or offices.

According to 2015 statistics, Facebook has a 46.5 percent market share of social media users, YouTube is at 21 percent, and Twitter at 4.5 percent. If you want to reach adults, Facebook is key. If you want to reach people who like to watch videos, You-Tube is your best platform. For young moms, Pinterest works best. If you want to reach teens, it’s all about Instagram. Twitter is for news junkies and those who like their information and notes at 140 characters or less.

Getting Social
One of the first steps is establishing your page. A library Facebook page is not the same as a personal account. You must, however, have a personal account to set up a page for your advocacy effort. Click on the pull-down menu on the left side of your personal Facebook page, then choose “create a page.”  You’ll be walked through the rest.

The next step in social media advocacy is to determine who you want to reach. The first level is voters—anyone 18 or older. The next is voters who value the library. That could be young moms or dads (age 25–40), retired adults (over 55), families, and working adults (35–55). Knowing whom you’re targeting with specific messages will help you boost posts to specific audiences.

Next, designate one or two folks from your advocacy team to coordinate social media efforts. They should be enthusiastic library supporters as well as savvy social media users. They should know how to work the social media outlets and how best to take advantage of them. They should also be well versed in the advocacy campaign and its messaging and programs such as Adobe Spark that enable you to design great looking graphics for your posts.

One you’ve figured out which platforms you’ll use—I suggest Facebook and YouTube as the base—then it’s time to develop a social media calendar based on your campaign calendar. Figure out which messages will be promoted each week to support your advocacy efforts. Also, make sure that the Facebook page is not identified as “Acme Public Library” but something like “Acme Residents for Our Library.”

Strategic use of text, images, and videos is paramount to cut-ting through the message clutter and getting yours to stick. Text should be comprehensible and to the point. The images and/or graphics should generate an emotional response and enable people to feel connected to the advocacy strategy. You want to get them to like your page.

Employ graphics that are engaging and attractive. Create videos to support your campaign. For a short campaign that focuses on getting a local village board to approve a bond for a building (without going to the voters), we built the Facebook pageScarsdale Parents for an Improved Library. We used pictures of cute kids enjoying themselves at library pro-grams and schematic drawings for the proposed improvements. We posted the content of every bulk email sent out and created a video of graphics we used (a tool available on Facebook).

Once your posts or videos are done, spend a little money and boost them. Boosts are incredibly effective, reaching a targeted audience for a limited amount of time for a specific amount of money. Note that you can only boost posts or videos from a page, not from your personal account.

Just click on the boost button, and you’ll land on an interface that lets you set the geographic reach (your zip code or the name of your town), the gender and age of the people you want to reach, the time frame, and the budget. You can spend as little as $50 to connect with a specific audience for three days.

When you boost a post on Facebook, you can also boost the same post on Instagram if you have a page on that platform. You don’t need to advertise from YouTube—you can link your You-Tube page to your Facebook page or upload videos directly onto Facebook.

Whatever you do, don’t forget that social media isn’t just for fun—it’s a vital portion of your library’s advocacy plan.

For more information on how you can use social media for your library advocacy campaign, contact Libby Post, President/CEO of Communication Services

Trustees in the Know: Binghamton

A day to Learn, Participate and Renew for Library Trustees and Directors

Sponsored by the Four County Library System, the Southern Tier Library System, the Finger Lakes Library System and the Library Trustees Association

Hosted by the Four County Library System at the Broome County Public Library
185 Court Street, Binghamton, NY 13901
Saturday, May 6, 2017• 9:30 am to 3:00 pm


Registration Deadline – April 28, 2017
Sorry.  Registration has closed for this event.

If you have any questions, please contact Tim Gavin, Executive Director at tgavin@librarytrustees.org or 518-445-9505


Join fellow trustees and library staff to get a better understanding of these important topics:

9:30 Registration and coffee

10 – 11:15 RETHINKING LIBRARY SPACES: MAKING BETTER USE OF THE SPACE YOU ALREADY HAVE.

Presented by: Bob Costello, Corey Layton & Mick Lombardini of L2 Studios
For detailed bios of each of the presenters, please click here.

Bob Costello (L2 Studios)

Mick Lombardini (L2 Studios)

Corey Layton (L2 Studios)

11:15 – 12:30 WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FINANCIAL REPORTS

Presented by: Duane Shoen, CPA

Duane Shoen, CPA from Ciaschi,

Dietershagen, Little & Michelson in Ithaca, covering budgets and what information library boards should receive in regular financial reports and any potential red flags.

Duane Shoen is a partner in the accounting firm of Insero & Co, CPAs, LLP. Duane and the firm provide services to many non-profit agencies and governments in the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, and Central New York. Duane joined the firm in 1995, and has been a partner since 2000. Insero is the successor company to Ciaschi Dietershagen, Little and Mickelson

12:30 Lunch

1:15 – 2:30 LEGAL UPDATE: CONFLICT OF INTEREST, BOARD/STAFF RELATIONSHIPS, AND EMPLOYMENT LIABILITY.

Presented by: Carrie J. Pollak and Whitney Kummerow

Carrie J. Pollak is counsel in the Corporate, Real Estate, Tax and Health Care Practices. Her legal practice concentrates in the area of corporate governance. Ms. Pollak regularly advises long term health care providers, companies and other tax-exempt organizations on diverse legal issues, including formations, taxation and tax exempt issues, corporate governance, corporate restructurings, regulatory matters, and a variety of commercial ventures, contracts and transactions. She also regularly advises real estate developers on all stages of development, including contract negotiation and drafting, financing, leasing, buying and selling, real estate syndications, as well as wetlands mitigation, conservation and preservation.

She has represented clients before the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Fish and Wildlife Service; as well as the New York State Office of the Attorney General, Department of Taxation and Finance, Affordable Housing Corporation, and the Department of Environmental Protection. (Read Full Bio Here)

Whitney Kummerow

Whitney M. Kummerow is an associate in the Labor & Employment Practice and Startup & Emerging Business Practice. She represents and counsels employers in various aspects of labor and employment law.

As a member of the Startup & Emerging Business Practice, Ms. Kummerow also counsels entrepreneurs on various issues, including best hiring practices,employee handbook and policy creation, and initial wage and hour compliance for new businesses. (Read Full Bio Here) 


Ask Joe Eisner: Are municipal or school district public library boards solely responsible for arranging for insurance coverage on the library facility and its contents?

LTA Members:Get Questions Answered
Do You Have a Library Question Which Requires an Answer?
Ask Joe Eisner (click to learn more)

As part of LTA’s expansion of service to aid and assist library trustees and directors, LTA offers members an opportunity to confer with Joe Eisner, free of charge.

Joe can be contacted toll-free at 1 (866) 720-8969 or by email at ltafaqjoe@librarytrustees.org. (Question are handled with discretion.)

For more information about Joe Eisner’s experience and background, please click on the “Ask Joe Eisner” tab under “Resources and Links” on LTA’s website.

Please note: The following should not be construed as legal advice, for which the services of counsel should be obtained:


 

Q. Are municipal or school district public library boards solely responsible for arranging for insurance coverage on the library facility and its contents?

 A.  No. Regardless of type of  library, public library boards of trustees have a corporate entity entirely separate from  that of the municipality or, in the case of a school district public library, from the board of education.  Library trustees are public officers:

Public officers having by law the care and custody of the  public buildings and the other property of a municipal corporation, may insure the same at the expense of such corporation (General Municipal Law s79).

As such, they have the responsibility of exercising due diligence, particularly since it is well settled that they are independent entities.

The Comptroller has stated that General Municipal Law s79 is permissive: “It is simply authorization to contract for such insurance (59 St Dept Rep 363 (1938)… The Department believes that failure to obtain adequate fire insurance coverage… may be imprudent” (15 Op State Compt 49, 1969).Thus, public library trustees  have the responsibility of exercising due diligence.

In the case of a municipal public library, the library board should discuss with the municipal governing authority whether the municipality’s property and contents insurance cover the library. If not it would be incumbent on the library board to reach an agreement with the governing board as to whether the library should independently arrange for such coverage, at least on contents,  and whether the premium will be reflected in the library’s budget. The strategy outlined below in the Education Department’s Law Division’s and the Comptroller’s  opinions may have some application when  municipal public library boards discuss the issue of property and liability insurance coverage with the municipal governing authority.

Similarly, a school district public library (SDPL) board should consult with the board of education to determine whether the district’s property and contents insurance cover the library, and in what amounts. Where the SDPL is occupying a building whose construction or acquisition was funded by a school district bond issue, the Education Department’s Law Division has stated that where title to a library building lies with the school district, insurance should run to the school district as owner: “If the insurance in the building and contents is to be carried in one policy it would appear that noting… the board of education and the library  ‘as interest may appear’ would be proper to protect the interest of both parties” (ltr, June 30, 1954). “The cost of the insurance on the building would not technically be part of the library’s budget” (ltr, September 9, 1955).

Where a school district board of education and the public library trustees contemplated entering into an agreement to allow the public library use of a district-owned building, the Comptroller stated: “…[A]s a practical matter, since the school district would stand to lose if the library building were destroyed, it would be in the best interest of the school district to pay the property insurance premiums out of the school district budget. However, if the school district were that its interests would be properly protected if the premiums were paid by the library, we found no legal barrier to such an arrangement. It is our opinion that the same conclusion would apply to the manner in which liability insurance premiums were handled. Therefore, an agreement which places responsibility for liability and property insurance upon the library would be proper if the school district felt its interests would be properly protected….” (Op State Compt 77-823, 1977 (unreported)).

Despite the independence  of both types of public libraries, there appears to be a joint responsibility on the part of both the municipal governing body, the school district board of education, and the applicable type of library to determine that each board is acting in a manner which, in case of a loss,  will protect the interest of the taxpayers who support each type of library. It would also be prudent to come to an agreement whereby at regular intervals (perhaps every two years) a mechanism exists where the coverages are reviewed by both boards and necessary adjustments are made in the then existing coverage amounts.


Please note: If you have any additional questions about this topic, please contact Joe Eisner at the e-mail/phone above.