Special Legislative District Public Library Model

The vote to create a Special Legislative District Public Library is authorized by State legislation. A State Legislator introduces a bill specifying the service area of the library and authorizing a public vote to create the library, elect trustees, and establish a budget. Once the State legislation is passed, an election is scheduled within the municipality to select trustees and approve the initial library budget. Click here for sample legislation. The municipality collects taxes on behalf of the library and turns the funds over to the library board, which is completely autonomous. If the new Special Legislative District Public Library is replacing an existing library, the library going out of business transfers assets to the new library and surrenders its charter to the Board of Regents.

Creating a special legislative district public library

Advantages of the Special Legislative District Public Library Model

  • The service area of a Special Legislative District Public Library can be freely drawn to meet the specific needs of the library. This allows the library to obtain tax support from those people who most often use the library’s services. It also offers the best opportunity to eliminate unserved areas. New proposed service areas should be approved by the New York State Library's Division of Library Development in advance and should correspond to boundaries of full census blocks, municipalities or school districts.
  • The legislation that creates a Special Legislative District Public Library can provide the library with the ability to raise funds for capital projects by placing a bonding resolution on the ballot.
  • The time and place for the local election to create a Special Legislative District Public Library is specified in the State legislation. In most cases, these elections are scheduled to take place within the existing library.
  • Once a budget to fund a Special Legislative District Public Library is approved by voters, 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 Special Legislative District Public Library Model

  • The process for creating a Special Legislative District Public Library is more complex than the process for creating alternative models.
  • Special Legislative District Public Libraries must comply with Civil Service Law and General Municipal Law. Although this may not cause great difficulties, Association Libraries considering the transition should be aware of these requirements.
  • Because public library districts, including Special Legislative District Public Libraries, are totally independent and separate from any municipality 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. Many of these expenses may previously have been paid by the library’s municipality as in-kind support.
  • Trustees of Special Legislative 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 23, 2009 -- asm [created January 27, 2005]; for questions or comments, contact us