DISTRICT LIBRARY FAQ
What is a District Library?
A district library would be a new option in state law, in addition to municipal, county joint or association libraries. Library Districts can be made of single or multiple communities and have all the benefits and responsibilities of completely independent government entities. Library District millage rates are set by the voters.
Why become a library district?
Library funding has come under attack in recent years as local governments look for ways to close budget holes and remain under the 2% tax levy cap. Ratables, the basis of library funding, have been on the decline in recent years making for shrinking library budgets. Urban libraries are hit especially hard in an economic downturn. Laws allowing municipalities to take back excess funds from libraries have recently been passed. Legislators do not always see the benefits of a library in their communities and don’t always support the effort to bring library services to those in need.
Maybe the fight for adequate funding for your library has become so difficult every year that services are being slashed and standards are being reduced.
A district library:
- Puts the funding issue to a vote of the people.
- Is completely independent with control of all funds, buildings and personnel.
- Trustees will be trained in their roles and responsibilities
- Libraries from surrounding municipalities can combine to form a district
- The members of the district library benefit from their shared services
How is a Library District established?
Establishment of a Library District would be initiated by Library Board(s) or local Council(s). A letter is filed with the State Librarian to pursue District status. A Planning Committee is required and must follow an established process overseen and certified by the State Librarian, including the creation of an Operational Plan. Once the Operational Plan is approved by the State Librarian, local authorities by resolution or ordinance set a referendum to establish the District structure. Voter referendum is the last step to establish a Library District. The referendum must include the dissolution of the original Library Board(s) and the setting of the initial millage rate.
What is the Planning Committee?
A Planning Committee is a required element to bring about the conversion to a District Library. The Planning Committee is responsible for creating the Operational Plan for the Library District. The Committee is comprised of 4-6 members per participating community, with each community to include at minimum a library Trustee, library Director or designee, a representative of the Mayor or Council and one citizen.
What is the Operational Plan?
The Operational Plan, created by the Planning Committee, outlines how Library District services would be provided. The plan must be approved by the State Librarian. The plan can not reduce current services and specifies when the District would take over from existing libraries. The plan establishes the Board of Trustees and must also include a dissolution clause and a process for changing to a different status in the future.
Who Governs the Library District?
Library Districts will still be governed by a Board of Trustees. Trustees may be elected or appointed, as per the Operational Plan. The make-up of the Board will also be defined in the Operational Plan. There will be mandatory training requirements for Board members with automatic removal if not completed. Comparable training standards for Boards of Education and Planning Boards will be used.
How is the District Library Funded?
A range of millage will be offered in the law, based on equalized assessed valuation. The range will account for possible increased expenses as full autonomy is realized. Buildings etc will be transferred from municipal control to district control for minimal amounts. Districts will contract their own insurance, health benefits etc or may join or form consortia purchasing agreements. Districts will be eligible to participate in SHBP, PERS,etc.
What Standards will be followed?
Existing standards will remain for all libraries. New standards for District Libraries will be aspirational to encourage continuous improvement. Current services can not be reduced as a result of the establishment of a Library District.