From the Desk of Bernard A. Margolis, State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries

As your State Librarian, I am deeply committed to improving library services for all New Yorkers. The State Library staff, particularly staff in our Division of Library Development, work with libraries, library systems, trustees and others in the library community on a daily basis to help assure equivalent levels of access to library services and resources throughout the State.

As we begin the New Year, I thought it might be appropriate to revisit the Minimum Standards for Public and Association Libraries.  Minimum standards are one important tool that library boards and directors have available to help local policymakers and the community better understand the important role of the public library in the local community.

What are the Minimum Standards?

All public and association libraries in New York State must meet 11 minimum standards of service according to Section 90.2 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.  These standards, approved by the Board of Regents, support improved public library services for the people of New York and are intended to:

• promote quality local public library service in all communities within New York State;

• empower libraries to strengthen community relations and promote public support for quality library services; and

• support a culture of transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement.

Library board members should be thoroughly familiar with the minimum standards as the board is responsible for ensuring that the library is in compliance.  I encourage board members to share these standards with your policymakers and your community and to find ways to continually demonstrate that your library is in good standing and that the library not only meets, but exceeds these minimal requirements.

Here are a few frequently asked questions that State Library staff receives about compliance with minimum standards:

When Must a Library Meet the Minimum Standards?

All of the minimum standards for public libraries must be met at the time of application for a library charter (incorporation) or registration (licensing).  Education Law requires that a library be chartered and registered in order to legally receive local and State public funds.

Once chartered and registered, libraries must maintain compliance going forward and are required to report on the library’s compliance with the minimum standards to the State Library every year in the board-approved Annual Report for Public and Association Libraries.

What if a Library Cannot Meet One or More of the Minimum Standards?

All but a few libraries in the State are in compliance with the 11 minimum standards.  However, if a library cannot comply with one or more of the minimum standards, the director or board president should immediately contact the library system director to discuss available options. Education Law and Commissioner’s Regulations provide a process for libraries that cannot meet a particular standard because of circumstances beyond the library board’s control.

Where can I find out more information about the Minimum Standards?

The Public Library System Directors Organization (PULISDO) and the New York State Library partnered together to develop Helpful Information for Meeting Minimum Public Library Standards, which is posted on the State Library’s website at http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/helpful.htm .  This document details the standards and provides helpful advice for library trustees and staff about what a library should do to achieve and maintain compliance.  It is intended as a guide for librarians, trustees, and system personnel in understanding the why, what and how of each standard.

The public library system can also provide assistance and guidance for the important ongoing work that your board and staff engages in all year related to keeping living documents such as the library’s bylaws, long-range plan, written policies and annual report to the community current, relevant and useful. The Library Trustees Association of New York State, the New York Library Association and the American Library Association all provide helpful resources for trustees and library staff about developing sound policies, effective long-range plans, adequate budgets and useful community needs assessment and evaluation tools. Sharing these items with your local policymakers and your community via the library’s website, face-book page, newsletter and other means are important ways of promoting the library and ensuring that oh-so-important culture of transparency and accountability.

New York’s 11 Minimum Standards for Public Libraries

(1) The library is governed by written bylaws which outline the responsibilities and procedures of the library board of trustees;

(2) The library has a board-approved, written long-range plan of service;

(3) The library presents an annual report to the community on the library’s progress in meeting its goals and objectives;

(4) The library has board-approved written policies for its operation;

(5) The library presents annually to appropriate funding agencies a written budget which would enable the library to meet or exceed these standards and to carry out its long-range plan of service;

(6) The library periodically evaluates the effectiveness of the library’s collection and services in meeting community needs;

(7) The library is open the following scheduled hours:

Population Minimum Weekly Hours Open

Up to 500 12

500 – 2,499 20

2,500 – 4,999 25

5,000 – 14,999 35

15,000 – 24,999 40

25,000 – 99,999 55

100,000 and above 60

(8) The library maintains a facility to meet community needs, including adequate space, lighting, shelving, seating, and restroom;

(9) The library provides equipment and connections to meet community needs including, but not limited to telephone, photocopier, telefacsimile capability, and microcomputer or terminal with printer to provide access to other library catalogs and other electronic information;

(10) The library distributes printed information listing the library’s hours open, borrowing rules, services, location and phone number;

(11) The library employs a paid director in accordance with the provisions of Section 90.8 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education:

Minimum Education Requirements

   

Population

Member of a Public Library System

Not a Member of a Public Library System

Below 2,500

No requirement

No requirement

2,500 to 4,999

2 academic years of study at an approved college or university

A bachelor’s degree from an approved college or university

5,000 to 7,499

A bachelor’s degree from an approved college or university

A public librarian’s professional or provisional certificate or a certificate of qualification

7,500 or more

A public librarian’s professional/ provisional certificate or a certificate of qualification

A public librarian’s professional or provisional certificate or a certificate of qualification