Library Districts in Texas

Director Beth Fox watches as the Texas Legislature votes to create library districts in 1997.

Library districts in Texas may be created by the vote of community residents in areas without a municipal public library under provisions of Local Government Code 326 (SB 1674, 1997).

Library districts operate within defined geographical boundaries and are supported by a percentage of local sales and use tax. They are stand-alone governmental entities, political subdivisions of the state, and special purpose districts.

Library districts are governed by a five-member unpaid elected Board of Trustees who serve two-year staggered terms. Elections are called once a year, but they may be cancelled if candidates are unopposed. Most library districts have paid staff to run their libraries and a Director who oversees all aspects of operation.

Library districts are subject to the Open Meetings Act, the Public Information Act, the Public Funds Investment Act, and various other laws pertaining to ethics, elections, purchasing, and employment.

Westbank Community Library District, created in 1998, was the first library district in Texas. There are currently 15. Library districts meet twice per year to share information and undertake trainings.

Local Government Code 326 governs the establishment of new library districts and outlines the steps, and Election Code governs the election processes and requirements. These notes were culled from the notes of early library district election efforts. Steps may be somewhat different now as decades have passed and some processes may have changed. An attorney is essential to help with legal documents and navigating the election process.

1.  Identify a potential area of service

  • Contiguous and within a single county – you will need a legal description of metes and bounds
  • Not already receiving library service from a city (unless the city gives permission)
  • Has sales tax available – total local sales tax must be ≤ 2%
  • Use the Sales Tax Rate Locator to search for sales tax rates by address.

2.  Preparation

  • Identify library patrons, voters, and sales tax revenue sources.
  • Contact county judge, commissioners court, and the county commissioner whose precinct would include the library district.
  • Identify five initial library trustees.
  • Determine election costs and collect private funds. Local Government Code 326.024

3.  Messaging  (recommendations)

  • Poll to determine what the issues are for voters in the area; look for messages that resonate.
  • Train volunteers and signature gatherers.
  • Gather official endorsements – school board, Chamber of Commerce, school booster clubs, civic organizations.
  • Prepare handouts or bookmarks to give to prospective petition signers and voters.
  • Distribute yard signs; try for article placements in local papers.

4.  Petition

  • Prepare petition in English and Spanish that meets provisions in Local Government Code 326.023 and  Election Code 277.002.
  • Run a petition drive – requires 5% of the number of voters in proposed area who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election.
  • County Voter Registrar may help to validate the petitions, supply missing voter ID numbers.

5.  Filing of petition, hearing, ordering of election Local Government Code 326.025

  • Ask to get on the commissioners court agenda to file petition.
  • Submit petition, Order of Election (LGC 326.026), payment, map;  documents may require approvals (county attorney, SOS, DOJ – Voting Rights Act 1964).
  • Notice of Election (SOS forms) is posted.
  • Ballot wording – Local Government Code 326.028

6.  Campaign!!! 

7.  Election

8.  Hold first organizational meetings

  • Appoint officers. Local Government Code 326.045
  • Determine regular meetings and meeting place.
  • Adopt bylaws (sample bylaws from existing districts may serve as templates). LGC 326.047
  • Apply for IRS EID; open bank account for tax revenue deposits from the Comptroller.
  • Begin converting any prior assets to district assets.

9.  Hire a qualified director as soon as feasible

More reading

ANNUAL ELECTIONS KEY DATES   Counties and the Secretary of State will post a calendar (DBE = Days before election). Different counties’ dates may vary slightly. For planning purposes, you can calculate the dates yourself using Excel or a date calculator (use calendar days, not business days) before the calendars are published.



  • Contract – Requires Board approval; make a partial payment prior to the end of the filing period; can be canceled
  • Cost – dependent on how many entities are holding elections at the same time, how many polling places are needed, and prorated on size of population served. Large counties with county-wide voting may need more polling places.


  • Application only accepted during the 30 day filing window
  • Verify candidate eligibility – resided within the Library District for at least 6 months, 18 years of age before the election, registered to vote

TEXAS ETHICS COMMISSION  Campaign Finance Forms for Candidates

NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT  Public libraries are voter registration agencies.

  • Public libraries must offer voter registration applications to the public when applying for or renewing library services.
  • All libraries must provide the same degree of assistance in completing voter registration paperwork as the library would provide for assistance with library related documentation. This includes, but is not limited to, bilingual assistance.
  • They must also develop a plan for the implementation of all required voter registration procedures.
  • NVRA implementation plan – File by email to; update as needed
  • More information and trainings
  • Order Voter Registration cards

Open Records and Open Meeting trainings  –  required for all new Board members and Directors in their first 90 days.

Official PIA Poster – displayed prominently and plainly visible to requestors and to governmental employees who receive and respond to public information requests (printable letter size version).

Government Code 552 Public Information


  • Agendas and minutes – Board meetings
  • Public information (FOIA) request – instructions for requesting
  • Board contact info – a library-maintained email address monitored by the Board President ensures records retention
  • Candidate information –  required by SOS
  • RFQ and RFP – postings for library projects (also posted in newspapers)
  • Policies regarding use of the library


  • Special Purpose District Public Information DatabaseComptroller
  • Budget transparency –  line items for public notice expenditures and lobbying

The records created, received, used, and maintained by a library district are essential to its efficient and effective functioning. They provide evidence of the district’s activities and provide documentation of its organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and transactions. They are designed to furnish information to protect the financial and legal rights of the district and any person affected by the activities of the district.

Districts should maintain their documents according to schedules that have been developed by TSLAC, and it is recommended that such documents be labeled according to the schedules. Additionally, all unnecessary records should be destroyed once they cease to be administratively valuable. An annual cleaning out of files may be practical.


  • Choose how you will store documents in each department (digital or paper) and be consistent.
  • Duplicate copies kept for convenience should be labeled DC, so employees know it can be discarded when no longer needed.
  • You can label folders instead of individual files or documents.
  • All staff should have folders in their email for files with retention restrictions. Policy discussions, for example, must be saved for a period as well as complaints from the public.
  • Encourage staff to delete routine and transitory email as soon as it is dealt with.

Caution from TSLAC:

A state record whose retention period has expired may not be destroyed if any litigation, claim, negotiation, audit, public information request, administrative review, or other action involving the record is initiated; its destruction shall not occur until the completion of the action and the resolution of all issues that arise from it.

A state record whose retention period expires during any litigation, claim, negotiation, audit, public information request, administrative review, or other action involving the record may not be destroyed until the completion of the action and the resolution of all issues that arise from it.

Retention Schedules (TSLAC)

Records Retention Law Local Government Code

Inquiries and comments regarding the schedule should be directed to


BUDGETING  Besides expenses common to other public libraries (collections, programs, staffing), library districts are responsible for their own HR, accounting, facilities and grounds maintenance, and technology infrastructure.

If possible, they save a percentage of revenues for future capital projects and set aside a reserve for unexpected expenditures or interruptions in funding. They must invest those funds in accordance with the Public Funds Investment Act and an Investment Policy. Their finances are audited annually.

PUBLIC FUNDS INVESTMENT –  Government Code 2256

  • 256.005 (a) and (b) Training requirements
  • 2256.005 (d) Reporting requirements
  • 2256.005 (f) Defines Investment Officer
  • 2256.005 (n) Compliance audit

PFIA training – 10 hours every 2 years for designated Investment Officer



  • Financial calendar – what’s due when (payroll, payroll forms, insurances, sales tax, government filings, audit)
  • Processes and policies for inventory, banking, cash handling, investments, invoices, payroll, records retention, sales tax revenue, fraud prevention, grants, donations



When libraries sell books, coffee, prepared foods, copies, T-shirts or similar, or delivery services, they are required to collect and remit sales tax.

  • General information from the Comptroller
  • Sales tax permit  NAICS for libraries is 519120 (libraries and archives), and for Friends Groups it is usually 453310 (used merchandise sale)
  • Sales tax rate breakdown – enter the library’s address (point of sale) on the Comptroller’s website
  • Taxable items
  • Remit to the Comptroller on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.
  • A one-day tax-free sale of up to 48 hours is allowed per year.
  • Keep a record of gross receipts from taxable sales and sales tax.


Especially for Texas Employers Produced by the Texas Workforce Commission, this is THE go-to manual for almost all our employment questions. It covers both state and federal laws and best practices regarding hiring, policies and employee handbooks, unemployment claims, contractors, exempt v non-exempt, required documentation, FLSA, overtime, recordkeeping, harassment, pregnancy rights, work separation, and post-employment, and more. It includes sample policies and forms. READ THE WHOLE BOOK. Then read it again.

Helpful resources

LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE 326 Library Districts

Amendments and additions to original code – 1999 HB 1618, HB 3211, SB 691  2001  HB 440, HB 995SB 1125

Key provisions

  • Steps to create a library district
  • Board
    • 5 Trustees
    • Terms – 2 years, staggered
    • Elect officers amongst themselves
    • May hire a library director
    • Must disclose conflicts of interest
  • May charge fines and fees and ban for breaking established rules
  • Invest tax revenues in accordance with PFIA
  • May invest donations under a separate policy
  • Have accounts audited in the first 120 days of each fiscal year
  • Receive sales tax revenue of an allowable percentage



The Texas Legislature meets for the first 5 months in odd years. Library districts should watch the legislative process closely for

  • changes in existing legislation that may affect them
  • for new bills that could affect how they operate
  • for bills that alter the text of Local Government Code 326 or Tax Code 321.102i
  • for bills that alter the text of Election Code Chapter 2, Subchapter 2 regarding unopposed candidates

Recent legislative sessions have focused on transparency of special districts, sales tax collection changes, and library material content.

Tips Texas Legislature Online

  • Search bills for terms like: library, sales tax, (dis)annexation, local government, special (purpose) districts.
  • Set up Bill Lists and Alerts for bills you are watching.
  • Print a list of enrolled bills at end of session to review (most are easily dismissed as not relevant to library districts).
  • Follow coverage by the Texas Library Association and the Texas Tribune.
  • Understand how a bill becomes law.
  • Be aware of the Legislative Calendar.

Note: Library districts may operate on different fiscal calendars and election calendars. This list is designed to serve as a reminder to district of recurring responsibilities. It is not comprehensive or immutable.


Board meeting – generally once a month (in accordance with bylaws), open to the public, posted agenda 72 hours in advance, may include financial reports, report on operations, statistics


Quarterly Investment Report – approved by Board

ANNUALLY (required)


  • Strategic Plan – Board approved every 5 years
  • National Voters Registration Act (NVRA) Implementation Planupdate if changed
  • Legislative session – watch for changes in relevant laws (odd years); Texas Legislature Online
  • Banking contracts – periodic review

ANNUALLY (suggested)

  • Labor posters  – printable – must be kept up-to-date
  • Records retentionfiles marked
  • Library policies  – review and update
  • Insurance policies – evaluate
  • Procedures and job descriptions  – update
  • Anti-harassment policy  – review with staff; sign acknowledgment
  • Safety trainings – emergencies, first aid, utility shut-off, incidents
  • Emergency contact information – update
  • Collection inventory

There are currently 15 library districts in Texas

Westbank Community Library District Map