Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library Trustees

This is a place to share information and resources among CEFLS Library Trustees.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Trustee Forum Summary

Ewa Jankowska suggested that I write a brief summary of our Trustee Forums, so here it is. We held four basic sessions: two in Plattsburgh last fall, and, this spring, one each in Keene Valley and Malone. Responses were positive both during the sessions and in the written evaluations, so we are considering more sessions next year. There were specific requests for sessions focusing on how library boards can use the Web as well as on fund raising. And, of course, with these four sessions that served about 30 CEFLS trustees, there are still over 200 hundred other trustees who might be interested in basic or advanced forums in the future. If you or your board members are interested in these or any other Trustee Forums, please contact Ewa Jankowska at

Materials from the Trustee Forums as well as a number of other references are posted here at Feel free to share this resource with other CEFLS trustees.

Although each Trustee Forum was different, many issues came up at all of them. One of the most discussed topics was the structure and nomenclature of NY public libraries. I’ll summarize those discussions here.

The most important point to remember is that libraries in New York State date back many years—the first public library of which we know is the New York Society Library which was founded in 1754, well before the founding of the country. In part because libraries have preceded the organizational structure in New York State, that structure is somewhat complicated.

Basically, there are four types of public libraries in New York State:

Special district libraries are created by acts of the State legislature. Their boards and budgets are voted on by the special district’s voters.

School district libraries are created by a vote of a school district’s voters. Their boards are elected by the school district’s voters, who also vote on the budget. (In two cases, the school board is the library board, but neither of those is in CEFLS.)

Municipal libraries are created by a vote of a city, county, town, or village board. Their boards are appointed by the municipality, which also approves the library budget (although the municipal library board has much more control over its budget than other municipal departments that do not have boards).

Association libraries are created by an association which today is generally a non-profit corporation usually with 501(c)(3) status. Their boards are elected by the association, and their budgets are approved by the library board. The public can join the association and may vote for trustees.

All of these libraries are chartered by the Regents; their charters specify the area that they serve. They are all registered by the Education Department. which sets standards that the libraries must meet. All four types of libraries may petition taxpayers for funds (as in the Section 414 program).

Public libraries are usually members of a library system. This allows them to share resources such as inter-library loans, online cataloging and circulation systems. In addition, the State provides funding to library systems based on the population served by that system. The systems distribute local library support aid to member libraries. Libraries that are not part of a system do not receive this state aid.

There is one aspect of this structure that sometimes leads to confusion. Municipal, school district, and special district libraries are all established by government entities and are “owned” by the public. Association libraries are “owned” by the association. In some contexts, this distinction is reflected by referring to municipal, school district, and special district libraries as public libraries and association libraries merely as association libraries.

Notwithstanding this distinction, all four types of libraries are public libraries as we generally use the term. All are chartered by the regents and registered by the Department of Education. The State’s library laws and regulations apply to all four types of libraries, although there are some minor variations reflecting the different governing structures.