Laws and Governance

LawScales-of-justice1s and Governance

Libraries in New York State are considered education corporations and are subject to federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations.  The 2018 Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State provides an overview of the New York State Education Laws and Regulations that impact your library.  This section includes information about issues that libraries commonly face. Check our Staff Directory if your library needs assistance on any of these topics. Policy templates can also be found on our Policies Page.


Ask the Lawyer

Committee on Open Government

NYS Laws Pertaining to Libraries, Library Systems, Trustees, and Librarians

NYS Minimum Public Library Standards

Helpful Information for Meeting Minimum Public Library Standards

Abuse and Mandated ReportingBook Sales and TaxesCIPA | Copyright | Open Meetings Law | Patron Privacy |Photography |

Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and E-rate Funding

The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was enacted by Congress in 2000 to address concerns about children’s access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet. CIPA imposes certain requirements on schools or libraries that receive discounts for Internet access or internal connections through the E-rate program – a program that makes certain communications services and products more affordable for eligible schools and libraries. In early 2001, the FCC issued rules implementing CIPA and provided updates to those rules in 2011.

Copyright Law

Everyday copyright law affects the way libraries provide information to their users. The First Sale Doctrine enables libraries to lend books and other resources. Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Code allows libraries and archives, under certain circumstances, to make reproductions of copyrighted works. Libraries are permitted to make reproductions of copyrighted works for preservation and replacement purposes. And under copyright law, libraries can aid in the transformation and reproduction of copyrighted works for users with disabilities.

Fair Use allows for the use of copyrighted works for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, scholarship, or research.  As libraries advocate for user rights and access to information, it’s crucial to continue to address the emerging challenges posed at the intersection of technology, society, and law. (From:

Library Book Sales and Sales Tax

If your library has a shelf with books or other items for sale, those items are taxable. If your library chooses to put up a sign, asking for a donation, rather than listing the price of the items, the sale is still taxable because it is considered “tangible personal property”.  Only if the person makes the donation and leaves without the book or other item, then the donation is not taxable. Libraries are allowed to have two (2) tax free book sales a year. This is because you do not have an ongoing “Shop or Store” and are considered a literary or educational organization as outlined in Publication 750.

According to the 2022 NYS Annual Report Instructions:

11.15 Fund Raising – Record all money received through special/major fund raising
activities or events. Money received from sale of donated, obsolete or unneeded books,
including used book sales, withdrawn materials sales, etc., should be reported on question
11.18, Other.

Ask the Lawyer: Can Libraries Sell Things for Revenue?

Book Sale Resources from the Mid-Hudson Library System

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Patron Privacy, The Patriot Act and Requests from Law Enforcement

Patron privacy is a serious and legal matter.  For example, you, as a library worker, cannot use library tools to locate or identify someone suspected of a crime. If a patron returns an item with a questionable bookmark, borrows/places holds on materials that you do not agree with, etc.  you cannot use Polaris to find the last patron and call the police. Doing so will violate that patron’s right to privacy.

Registered sex offenders have a right to use the library just like everyone else. You cannot use any sex offender database to prohibit specific patrons from using the library. However, you can use a database in compliance with a background check outlined in your Volunteer Policy when patrons offer to do programming.

The Library Bill of Rights:
The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 23, 1996.

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Open Meetings Law and the New York State Committee on Open Government

The Open Meetings Law applies to “public bodies.” That term is defined to include entities consisting of two or more people that conduct public business and perform a governmental function for New York State, for an agency of the state, or for public corporations, such as cities, counties, towns, villages and school districts. ***All FLLS libraries must adhere to Open Meetings Law regardless of library type (association, public, school district, or special legislative district).***

Resources from the Trustee Handbook Book Club: Open Meetings Law with Kirsten O’Neill, Committee on Open Government (February 21, 2023)


You do not have to have a photo release form on file for every event. However, it is important to outline your library’s position on taking and posting photos. This can easily be included in your Social Media or Programming Policy and approved by your library board.  Once approved,  some form of the following should be announced at every program:

“SMILE! Your attendance at programs sponsored by the PUBLIC Library may be digitally recorded through photographs or video recordings. These images may be posted on our website, in our newsletter, by local newspapers or ultimately on the World Wide Web. If you do not wish your image to be published, please notify a member of the Library staff before or immediately after the program. No individual identification will be used unless the library has a signed parental consent photo release form for those under age 16.”

For more information on taking and posting photos:

Unattended Children and Mandated Reporters

Library staff or volunteers are not required by New York law to be mandated reporters of child abuse/neglect. Along with that they are not required to get training on recognizing the signs and how to report them. Which also means that they don’t have the same protections as those who are mandated to report. Library staff can not act in loco parentis. It is the parents/guardians/caregivers responsibility for a child in the library whether they are there with them or not and should be spelled out in your Unattended Children Policy. If you or a staff member feels an ethical or moral responsibility to report any of the above, they must do so on their own. Library staff cannot represent the library in any way or have used any otherwise nonpublic tools to report with (i.e. Polaris). Should the police wish to pursue your report, they would need a subpoena to access any library records.

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