Resources: Q&A with Ron at Wadsworth Library in Geneseo on April 27, 2023

Where can I watch the Recording of this Session?

There were some issues with the recording, so I recreated it as best I could. You can listen to it by visiting -

How Should We Track Trustee Education Requirements?

Section 260-D of New York Education Law requires Trustees of any library type to complete two hours of training annually. "Each member shall demonstrate compliance with the requirements of this section by filing with the president of the board of trustees." You can use a "certificate of completion" or a "signed self-assurance of completion." Your library should have a policy to address the local procedures for filing.

Failure to complete the two hours of training should be addressed in your policy. In the sample policy below it reads, "Should a Trustee fail to submit evidence of completion by the above date, the Trustee will be suspended from duty until evidence of completion is filed. Should a Trustee in suspension fail to provide evidence of completion within 90 days, they will be assumed to have resigned from the board."

If you attended this session or if you listened to the recording, it counts towards your overall two hours of Trustee Education for the year.

When will the Updated Issue of the Trustee Handbook be Released?

The plan is to have the updated version of the Trustee Handbook ready by the end of 2023. An editorial board is reviewing all aspects of the current handbook to ensure accurate information. Until it is released, the 2018 version is the best resource for Trustees.

How can Boards Prepare for Increasing Pressure from Book Challenge Groups?

  1. Review and update your policies. Here is one that Public Library System Directors commissioned in 2022:
    1. CMPToolkit2__2022-07-11_1.docx
    2. CMPToolkit2__2022-07-11.pdf
  2. Keep an eye on book challenges at your local and surrounding school districts.
    1. Does the Public Library own the title?
    2. Has the Board or Director previously reviewed the title?
    3. Has OWWL Library System reviewed the title as part of the OverDrive collection?
  3. Consider reading, joining, and supporting ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom and Unite Against Book Bans.

Can an Officer of the Board also be an Officer of the Friends?

A Trustee serving as an officer of the Friends or as a member significantly involved with Friends' financial activities puts up several red flags. The Trustee Handbook states that the Friends are "independent organizations, separate and distinct from the library and the library board." Having crossover in the governance of both groups can be a significant conflict of interest. Each library in New York is required by law to have a Conflict of Interest Policy that Trustees and key employees (usually just the Director and staff member in charge of money) must file each year. A Trustee completing this annual form must disclose their relationship with the Friends of the Library.

Even though this conflict has no personal financial gain, it poses an ethical dilemma at Board Meetings. Trustees must exercise the Duty of Loyalty to the Library during a Board Meeting, not another organization. This can be difficult for them AND other Trustees if the conflict exists. While some Conflicts of Interest may be deemed acceptable by the board (only after following the procedure in the policy), it is best to avoid such conflicts. This includes any relationship a Trustee may have with an agency other than the library (i.e., personal business, School Board, Town Board, or other community organization that conducts business or has a relationship with the library).

The Board is welcome to appoint a Trustee to liaison with the Friends Board and attend their meetings. A Friends member is also welcome to attend Library Board Meetings as a liaison from the Friends.
Friends of the Library groups are independent organizations, separate and distinct from the library and the library board. While their purpose is support of the library, the “Friends” have a separate corporate existence. They should have a separate federal tax exemption and their funds should not be mingled with the library’s operating funds…

Trustees provide citizen control and governance of the library as required by law. The library director manages the operations of the library. The Friends of the Library provides an opportunity for interested citizens to assist in developing the library in ways identified in consultation with the board and the director.

Trustee Handbook, pg. 74

The Library should be independent of all other organizations.

Are Libraries Allowed (or should they) Charge for Programming?

Charging for programs creates a financial barrier to library service in your community. Even if a library views a $5 charge as negligible, consider the poverty level of your community. How many people are unable to attend that program because of the fee associated with it? If a library would like to host a program with a cost, they should build it into their budget.

The OWWL Library System takes a hard stance on recommending that libraries avoid charging for programs. We drafted a resolution discussing this issue based on the American Library Association's Resolution on Monetary Library Fines as a Form of Social Inequity. We have also added in other policies that the OWWL Library System does not promote or support programs that have a charge associated with them.
OWWL Library System does not promote nor provide support for programs or services that charge fees, required or suggested, to library patrons. Source: OWWL Library System Resolution on Library Fines and Fees as a Form of Social Inequity

Does the Board need to Approve Reinvesting CDs when they Come Due?

Yes. Or, they can authorize someone to do so in their investment policy. Public Libraries have a few limited ways they are allowed to invest funds. Of them, "Certificates of deposit issued by a bank or trust company located and authorized to do business in New York State" is the most popular. Your Library needs to have an investment policy that governs these investments. The Office of the State Comptroller says…
The chief fiscal officer or other officer having custody of moneys may temporarily invest moneys not required for immediate expenditure if authorized by the governing board of the local government in a manner consistent with its investment policy. Essentially, any officer who holds and is responsible for local government moneys is a custodian of moneys and can be authorized to invest such money. Although the law permits multiple officers to have the authority to invest, we strongly encourage governing boards to delegate this responsibility to one officer, preferably the chief fiscal officer. Consolidation of the investment function in one office will enhance accountability and investment results. Source: Local Government Management Guide Investing and Protecting Public Funds

Do you have sample documents for Board and Director Evaluations?

Yes, I do.

Also, check out:

How should Trustees Interreact with Library Staff?

They should not. The Board governs the library; the Director oversees day-to-day operations, including the staff. A Trustee should only interact with staff (aside from being a library patron) if a complaint or issue cannot be brought to the Director. In this case, your Personnel Handbook should have a straightforward procedure for handling these situations.
Trustees and Staff

The day-to-day management of the library, including the management of staff, is the library director's responsibility. The director is the only employee overseen by the board. The director is responsible for the management and supervision of all other library employees. Trustees have a responsibility to know staff at a friendly but professional distance, to be cordial and supportive and to promote good will. But they must approach staff relationships with a degree of caution.

Usurping the administrative prerogatives of the library director can only undermine that person's position and authority and ultimately lead to misunderstanding and conflict. Trustee Handbook, pg. 43

Can my Library Accept/Solicit Donations from Patrons?

Association Libraries, yes.

Public Libraries may accept donations, but you cannot use public dollars to solicit donations. This is an activity best left to the Friends of the Library. A recent legal opinion says there are limited activities you might be able to engage in. Still, I would carefully read the attorney's advice before implementing new activities.

Libraries that rely on fundraising for salaries, building maintenance, and utilities are inviting a crisis to their organization. Libraries can be funded by tax dollars, the most sustainable and transparent way to fund the library. The board should focus on securing 90% of the overall budget with sustainable tax dollars through a 259 or 414 levy.

If Boards are interested in utilizing fundraising dollars, they should work to identify projects that would be appropriate to fund this way.

Can Library Staff Volunteer at Library Programs?

According to the New York Department of Labor, "A person who is a paid employee of such an organization may volunteer for that organization. However, the type of work they do as a volunteer must be completely different from the type of work they do as an employee...*" (Source: * In libraries, since there is a significant amount of overlap in responsibilities, this negates a lot of staff volunteer opportunities.

For example, if you would like staff volunteers to support the Friends Book Sale in the Library and they are sorting and setting up books, that is too similar to their basic job functions and would most likely be considered a non-allowable activity.

A good thing to do to avoid any legal issues with staff and the Department of Labor is to pay staff when they are in the library performing a job function. If you would like to set up volunteer opportunities at your library, you should have a Volunteer Handbook as a companion piece for your Personnel Handbook that clearly states what activities are allowable.

How are Libraries Different from Other Community Groups and Organizations?

The Board of Regents charters all New York State Libraries. This is a significant distinction from other community groups in your area. Libraries are held to certain sections of Education Law, Non-Profit Law, Municipal Law, Civil Service, Office of the State Comptroller Regulations, Open Meetings Law, Labor Law, Civil Practice Law, and a wide variety of other laws and regulations (for an introductory list, take a look at the Key Laws & Regulations for Libraries Training from March 10, 2023).

Library Trustees take on an incredible responsibility and many liabilities when elected or appointed to the Library Board. Taking the Oath of Office (or simply accepting an appointment for Association Libraries) means you accept all the responsibilities, duties, and risks associated with governing a community asset and spending public funds.

Can the Library Collect Money for the Friends of the Library?

It's not a good idea. The library should not handle another entity's money, affairs, or transactions, even the Friends.

Suppose the limited capacity of the Friends means the library must help with cash handling (facilitating sales, accepting donations, and forwarding the money to the Friends). In that case, both organizations should have a policy addressing this approach.

I reached out to our attorney on this one, and she put together the start of a sample policy:
Fiscal Controls When Collaborating with Another Entity

To reduce costs and avoid risk, whenever possible, the Library will not serve as the agent for collecting donations or revenue for another entity it is jointly providing programming with.

However, from time to time, the Library may jointly help present an event that requires the coordinated payment, acceptance, and transfer of money or in-kind donations between the Library and the collaborating party. When that is the case, to ensure adherence to all relevant laws, regulations, and policies, every such event shall be governed by written, signed terms for the handling of such moneys. Such written, singed terms shall be tailored to the specific circumstances of the event and shall set out the manner in which the parties will abide by all relevant policies, including but not limited to:
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Fiscal Controls (including those governing cash handling, acceptance of payment, payments, approved credit card use, acceptance of credit cards/PCI compliance, deposit, remission of funds)
  • Bar on political activity
  • Relevant tax considerations

The written agreement shall be reviewed and approved by the Treasurer before being signed by the Director, no less than two weeks before the event.

For entities that frequently collaborate with the Library (local charities, Friends, etc) a standing agreement reviewed once per year by the respective organizations may be used, so long as it contemplates all forms of accepting and remitting money, and confirms the process for the sharing or remission of same.

There may be more information to come on this question.

Can The State Comptroller Audit Libraries?

Yes. The Office of the State Comptroller has audited many Public Libraries in New York. Association Libraries may be audited for their Tax Cap Filing compliance.

The Office of the State Comptroller keeps an ongoing, searchable list of opinions, audits, and rulings. You can find of list of library-related audits by visiting

The most frequent findings in library audits include the following:
  1. Claims Audit Process -
    • The full board is responsible for the "audit and approval" of each claim (a.k.a. bill) before payment.
    • Each claim needs to be documented with a voucher, purchase order (where applicable), and itemized receipt/invoice.
    • Some payments can receive prior authorization by the board like public utilities and postage.
  2. Cash Handling
    • Segregated duties around cash (the same person should not be receiving cash, then counting, then depositing).
    • Each library should have a cash register.
    • Daily bank deposits.
    • Regularly monitor any cash taken in by the library.
  3. Procurement
    • General Municipal Law on competitive bidding
      • Purchase contracts over $20,000
      • Public works contracts over $35,000
    • Procurement policy should define how purchasing is done below the GML threshold.
  4. Credit Card Policy
    • Who is authorized to use the credit card?
    • Dollar limits for purchases.
    • Description of allowable purchases.
    • Describe the documentation requirement.
  5. IT
    • Account access.
    • Password management.
    • Electronic transfers of funds.
    • Cyber liability coverage.
    • Business Continuity Plan.
New audits come out every week, and when I read them, it triggers some investigation into how our libraries handle things. So when you see policy changes or procedure amendments, typically they have a lot to do with these audits.

Are Committee Meetings Subject to Open Meetings Law?

Yes, Public Library Committee meetings must follow all the rules required of your Board Meetings in Open Meetings Law. This includes posting the meeting notices, taking minutes for any action taken by the committee, allowing public viewing (or public participation depending on your local policy), and following all other rules associated with Open Meetings Law.

From an Open Meetings Law Opinion:
"First, the Open Meetings Law is applicable to meetings of public bodies, and ยง102(2) defines the phrase "public body" to mean:

"...any entity for which a quorum is required in order to conduct public business and which consists of two or more members, performing a governmental function for the state or for an agency or department thereof, or for a public corporation as defined in section sixty-six of the general construction law, or committee or subcommittee or other similar body of such public body."

Can Libraries Hire Independent Contractors?

Yes. However, you must ensure they are a proper independent contractor rather than an "employee," as the Department of Labor defines.

The New York Department of Labor defines the "Employer-Employee Relationship" and the "Independent Contractor Relationship" on their information page, Independent Contractors.
Independent contractors are free from:
  • Supervision
  • Direction and
  • Control in the performance of their duties.

They are in business for themselves, offering their services to the general public.

Signs of independent contractor status include a person who:
  • Has an established business
  • Advertises in the electronic and/or print media
  • Buys an ad in the Yellow Pages
  • Uses business cards, stationery, and billheads
  • Carries insurance
  • Keeps a place of business and invests in facilities, equipment, and supplies
  • Pays their own expenses
  • Assumes risk for profit or loss
  • Sets their own schedule
  • Sets or negotiates their own pay rate
  • Offers services to other businesses (competitive or non-competitive)
  • Is free to refuse work offers
  • May choose to hire help

If you hire an individual who does not pass the Department of Labor's "Independent Contractor" check, they will most likely be considered an employee with all the benefits outlined in your Personnel Handbook.

What is the Current Salary Threshold for an Exempt Director?

For your Director to be considered an exempt employee (exempt from overtime pay), they must make $1,064.25/week, which equals $55,341/year.

If an employee makes less than $55,341/year, they must be considered hourly employees and paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week.
Will the minimum weekly salary for overtime exempt administrative and executive employees increase on December 31, 2022?

Yes. Each time the New York State minimum wage increases, the state’s minimum salary required for executive and administrative employees will increase proportionately. On December 31, 2022, the state minimum weekly salary for administrative and executive employees will range from $1064.25 per week for employees in New York State, to $1,125.00 per week for employees who work in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties and in New York City for any size employer and Fast Food Establishments.

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