Key Laws & Regulations for Libraries


Click here to view the recording of the March 10, 2023, Trustee Workshop on Key Laws and Regulations for Libraries .


When it comes to libraries, legal answers are rarely straightforward. This is because there are over 30 sections of laws that apply differently to the four different types of libraries in New York State.

Four Types of Libraries

  1. School District Public Library
  2. Municipal Public Library
  3. Association Library
  4. Special Legislative District Public Library
Differences are primarily in how libraries are established, governed, funded, and types of capital projects (Trustee Handbook, p. 9).

You can also take a look at the OWWL Docs page titled Four Library Types .

Education Law and Rules of the Board of Regents Relating to Education Corporations

Education Law §216 gives the Board of Regents broad authority to incorporate educational institutions. Other provisions of the Education Law, and the Rules of the Board of Regents, govern the purposes, creation, regulation and dissolution of education corporations. However, the Education Law does not provide definitive statutory guidance with respect to corporate operations. That body of statutory law is found in those provisions of the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law (NPCL) that are made applicable to education corporations by §216-a of the Education Law.


Conflicts Among Laws

If a provision of the not-for-profit corporation law conflicts with a provision of this chapter or of such special act by which an education corporation is formed, the provision of this chapter or of a special act shall prevail and the not-for-profit corporation law shall not apply in such case. If an applicable provision of this chapter or of such special act relates to a matter embraced in the not-for-profit corporation law but is not in conflict therewith, both provisions shall apply.

Source: NYS Education Law Section 216-a

Hierarchy of Laws

  • New York State Constitution
    • Laws (Federal, State)
      • Regulation (Federal, State)
        • Opinions (Office of the State Comptroller & NYS Attorney General)
          • Charter (Local)
            • Bylaws (Local)
              • Policies (Local)
                • Procedures (Local)
                  • Historic Practices "We've just always done it this way" (Local)
Many libraries focus on complying with Laws, Regulations, and Opinions but neglect to make sure they are in compliance with their own bylaws and policies.

Critical Documents

  1. Legislation (Trustee Handbook, p. 22)
  2. Provisional and Absolute Charter (Trustee Handbook, p. 7)
  3. Registration (Trustee Handbook, p. 7)
  4. Bylaws (Trustee Handbook, p. 90)
  5. Minutes of Board Meetings (Trustee Handbook, p. 31)
  6. Policies (Trustee Handbook, p. 114)
  7. Audits (Trustee Handbook p. 52)
  8. Annual Reports (to the State and Community) (Trustee Handbook p. 52)
  9. Long-Range Plans (Trustee Handbook, 59)
  10. Contracts and other Legal Documents

Critical Laws

Education Law

Commissioner's Regulations

  • 11.3 - Use of money (early conflict of interest)
  • 11.4 - Annual Reports
  • 90.2 - Minimum Standards
  • 90.3 - Free Direct Access
  • 90.7 - Certification of Public Librarians
  • 90.8 - Appointment of library personnel
  • 90.12 - State Aid for Public Library Construction Aid Program

Labor Law

Not-for-Profit Corporation

Public Officers Law

General Construction Law

  • §41 - Quorum and majority

Office of the State Comptroller

Civil Practice Law

Library records, which contain names or other personally identifying details regarding the users of public, free association, school, college and university libraries and library systems of this state, including but not limited to records related to the circulation of library materials, computer database searches, interlibrary loan transactions, reference queries, requests for photocopies of library materials, title reserve requests, or the use of audio-visual materials, films or records, shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed except that such records may be disclosed to the extent necessary for the proper operation of such library and shall be disclosed upon request or consent of the user or pursuant to subpoena, court order or where otherwise required by statute.


Civil Service

Other NYS Laws

Federal Laws

Board of Trustees

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