Association Library District Model

This model is available to libraries currently chartered as Association Libraries that do not want to relinquish their “private” status by re-chartering as a School District Public Library or a Special Legislative District Public Library. Although an Association Library District is not a public entity, the library can emulate the basic characteristics of a public library district by providing a process for: (a) public election of its trustees; (b) the library to secure 60 percent or more of its operating revenue through a public budget vote; and (c) the library to ensure financial accountability by presenting annually to appropriate funding agencies, and the public, a written budget which would enable the library to meet or exceed the minimum standards (see 90.2) and to carry out its long-range plan of service.

a. Trustee Elections

Association Library bylaws should be amended by the board of trustees to ensure that all eligible voters within the library’s service area can “join” the library association and participate in annual elections to select library trustees. It is usually best to hold the annual trustee election at the time of the vote on the library’s budget.

b. Budget Votes

Association Libraries should provide the public with an opportunity to vote on a funding proposition that will generate a substantial portion (at least 60 percent) of the library’s operating revenue. Libraries have the following two options for raising funds through a public vote:

School District Ballot: New York State Education Law Section 259(1)(a) provides public libraries in New York State (including Association Libraries) with the ability to place a funding proposition on a school district ballot. The library board must pass a resolution and notify the school board that it wants to place a funding proposition on the ballot for the upcoming school district election. In some cases, a school district may require that a petition be submitted in support of the proposition. Be sure to comply with the school district’s procedures and deadlines, and to word the proposition properly to ensure that the library tax is an annual allocation.

With a properly worded ballot, the amount collected by the library will continue from year to year until the library board requests another proposition to increase the amount. It is important to note that the school district cannot deny the library’s request. If the proposition passes, the school district must collect the taxes and pay them to the library. If there is more than one public library within the school district, it may be possible to have one proposition, with amounts specified for each library, or a separate proposition for each library. The school district ballot is a straightforward process available to any public library in the State.

Municipal Ballot: Chapter 414 of the New York State Laws of 1995 amended Section 259 of Education Law to provide public libraries (including Association Libraries) with the ability to place a funding proposition on a municipal ballot. The library must obtain signatures from eligible voters on a petition requesting that a library-funding proposition be placed before the voters at the next municipal election. Those within the municipality who sign the petition must equal 10 percent of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. If the petitions are properly executed and filed, the municipality must comply. If the proposition passes, the municipality must collect the taxes and pay them to the library.

Placing funding propositions on municipal and school district ballots

Advantages of the Association Library District Model

  • It does not require re-chartering the library. Trustees can pass a resolution to amend the library’s bylaws to provide for trustee elections.
  • The library can remain a non-profit entity and avoid having to comply with civil service and public procurement laws and regulations.
  • The library may pursue a public vote on its budget through municipal ballot or school district ballot. Once a budget to fund an Association Library District is passed by voters within a municipality or a school district, funding will remain at the same level until a subsequent vote changes the amount. This results in much more stable funding for the library.

Points to consider about the Association Library District Model

  • The process does not address unchartered service areas within New York State.
  • The library is not authorized to place bonding propositions for capital projects on the ballot. This limits the library’s ability to raise tax money for library expansion and renovation.
  • Public support for a library-funding proposition may be hindered by the voters’ perception that because the library will remain a private association, it is not a true public entity.
  • Trustees of Association Library Districts are subject to an open election process.
  • The effort to seek public support to create and fund a library requires a firm commitment on the part of the library board and the director as well as a strong education & advocacy campaign.

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Last Updated: July 22, 2009 -- asm [created January 27, 2005]; for questions or comments, contact us