School District Public Library Model

A School District Public Library is created by passage of a referendum placed on the school district ballot. A petition signed by 25 qualified voters within the school district is necessary to place the proposition for a vote. School District Public Libraries have service areas that coincide with the school districts in which they are located, and voters within the school district determine the library’s budget and trustees.

School District Public Libraries are totally independent of the school district. Once the library has been established, the library board has the authority to schedule a vote on a library budget each year. If the proposition to fund a School District Public Library passes, the school district must collect the tax money and pay the funds to the library. Because they are public entities, School District Public Libraries are subject to civil service and public procurement laws and regulations.

Creating a school district public library

Depending on library usage patterns, it may be appropriate for a School District Public Library to seek funding from neighboring unserved towns or other school districts. The mechanism for doing this may include seeking direct appropriations or placing a funding proposition before the voters of the neighboring municipalities and/or school district.

Placing funding propositions on municipal and school district ballots

In some cases, a School District Public Library may find it is more appropriate to expand its formal service area to include these adjacent towns or school district(s). In these cases, the library must re-charter as a Special Legislative District Public Library.

Advantages of the School District Public Library Model

  • By re-chartering as a School District Public Library, a library may be able to expand its service area, resulting in an expansion of its tax base. This may also reduce the number of unserved areas within the State.
  • This option provides an opportunity to develop equity in tax support for the library. This may address situations in which people who live within the library's chartered service area (a town or a village) are paying higher taxes to support the library than people who live just outside the chartered service area.
  • School District Public Libraries have the ability to raise funds for capital projects by directing the school board to place a bonding resolution on the ballot.
  • Although the school board determines the time and place for the initial election to create and fund a School District Public Library, the new library board has the authority to set the time and place for future elections. Most are held within the library.
  • Once an annual budget to fund a School District Public Library is approved by voters, funding will remain at the same level until the library board requests a change by placing a new proposition before the voters. There is no mechanism that would permit a proposition without library board approval to be placed on the ballot to reduce the amount of funding for the library.

Points to consider about the School District Public Library Model

  • School District Public Libraries must comply with civil service and public procurement laws and regulations. Although this may not cause great difficulties, Association Libraries considering the transition should be aware of these requirements.
  • If the transition to a School District Public Library results in an increase in the number of people served, the library may be required to meet a higher level of minimum State Standards for public libraries.
  • Because public library districts, including School District Public Libraries, are totally independent and separate from any municipal or school district, the library board of trustees must assume all responsibility for the library, and account for all associated expenses in running the library. Some of these expenses may have previously been paid by the library's municipality as in-kind support.
  • Trustees of School District Public Libraries 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.

Checklist of potential expenses in running a public library


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