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.

This website is not intended as legal advice. It is not a comprehensive list of all district responsibilities. Cited resources (links) should be consulted to validate information which may have changed.


WELCOME!

As Library District Boards and Directors, we have been entrusted with public funds and a significant community asset. It is incumbent upon us to understand the laws and responsibilities required of us to protect the library and ensure that it continues to thrive.

Library districts meet twice yearly (usually in the Austin area and on Zoom) to share information and trainings. Contact Westbank or Benbrook (see List of Texas Library Districts) for the next date and location.


What do Board Trustees do? This can vary between districts depending on the size of staff. In general,

  • Trustees attend Board meetings (usually monthly) which are conducted according to the Open Meetings Act and Roberts Rules of Order, with particular attention to
    • proper handling of public testimony,
    • proper use of Executive Session, and
    • proper understanding of quorum restrictions.
  • Boards oversee the funds of the district:
    • review and approve annual budgets, capital budgets, quarterly investment reports, and investment policy,
    • review monthly financial statements,
    • see that an audit is completed in the first 120 days of the fiscal year,
    • approve contracts and large expenditures according to policy,
    • if possible, set aside funds for emergencies and future capital projects,
    • participate in securing additional funding as needed (grants, donation drives, fundraising efforts).
  • Boards approve library policies which may be brought by the Director.
  • Boards approve the Strategic Plan which may be brought by the Director.
  • Boards hire, work with, and evaluate the Library Director.
    • Boards hire a Director to manage library operations, staff, and administrative functions of the district. Boards do not get involved in the management of staff except through the grievance procedure.
    • The Director reports to the Board monthly, and is generally responsible for bringing forward items that need approval.
    • Boards should speak as one when delegating or giving direction to the Director.
    • An annual review may include a checklist of Director responsibilities (sample) and a self-evaluation prepared by the Director.
  • Boards advocate for the library by attending library events, speaking with members of the public, helping to recruit potential Board candidates, and speaking to Legislators if needed.

What does the Director do? This can vary between districts depending on the size of staff. The Director, in conjunction with staff:

  • hires and manages staff,
  • develops and executes policy,
  • develops and executes the strategic plan,
  • develops and oversees the budget, and may help oversee investments,
  • oversees and assesses operations (collections, facilities, technology, public services, programs, PR),
  • oversees administration (HR, finance, elections, records),
  • acts as library ambassador, and
  • stays abreast of current library, management, leadership, and technology topics.

Information that should be part of your orientation besides this website:

  • The district’s history; district boundaries
  • Mission statement and Strategic Plan
  • The most recent annual report
  • The current budget and staff size
  • Board bylaws and any policies relating to Board actions
  • Sample Board meeting agenda and packet
  • Role of the Friends and volunteers
  • Date and time of next Board meeting; what to expect at a meeting

What should a new Board Trustee do first? Suggested 3-month To Do List:

  • Complete Open Meetings Act and Public Information Act trainings (see Open Government tab).
  • Sign up for the library newsletter and follow the library’s social media.
  • Read through all the documents in your Board packet ahead of each Board meeting.
  • Read through this website and any orientation information you’ve received for an overview of what is ahead for you.
  • Reach out to other districts with any questions.

What should a new Director do first? Suggested compliance priorities for the first 6 months:

  • Complete Open Meetings Act and Public Information Act trainings (see Open Government tab).
  • Start an administrative calendar to track all recurring district responsibilities and organize this volume of information (see tab for sample).
  • Review the most recent Board packet so you have an idea of what you will need to produce each month. Review agendas from the prior year to get an idea of what you might need to present in other months.
  • Read through this website and any orientation information you’ve received for an overview of what is ahead for you.
  • Prepare for an election. (See election tab.)
    • Build an election calendar to make sure that required notices and orders are approved at Board meetings ahead of deadlines.
    • Produce drafts for required Notices and Orders.
    • Contact your county to see what is required if you want to contract with them for your election.
  • Reach out to other districts with any questions.


OPEN GOVERNMENT provides transparency to the taxpayer by requiring open meetings, open records, budget transparency, website and newspaper postings, and annual reports.


OPEN MEETINGS & OPEN RECORDS  Library districts must comply with Open Meeting Act (AOM), the Public Information Act (PIA), and other transparency laws.

  • Required trainings  All new Board members and Directors must complete Open Meetings and Open Records trainings in their first 90 days. Completion certificates may be filed with the district.
  • Very helpful handbooks are available on the Attorney General’s website for both Open Meetings and Public Information.
  • Government Code 551 Open Meetings  – Board meetings must be held in public, provide sufficient advance notice of content, allow for public testimony, and follow rules with regard to quorums. A recording or minutes must be kept of each meeting indicating each vote, order, decision, or action taken.
  • Government Code 552 Public Information  – The public may inspect or copy governmental records. A posted PIA poster explains rights of requestors, responsibilities of the district, and general procedures including the right to a prompt response.

POST ON WEBSITE

  • Meeting agendas – may post minutes as well
  • Public information (FOIA) instructions –  how to make a request (email address, physical address)
  • Board contact info – a library-maintained email address monitored by the Board President ensures records retention
  • Candidate & election information –  required by SOS
  • RFQ and RFP – postings for library projects (also posted in newspapers)

TRANSPARENCY

  • Special Purpose District Public Information Database and Debt Report – submitted annually and posted by the Comptroller
  • Budget transparency –  line items are required for public notice expenditures and lobbying
  • See Records Retention.


SALES TAX REVENUE  


PUBLIC FUNDS INVESTMENT ACT governs the investment of tax revenues. Library districts must have a policy for public funds investment and may invest non-tax revenues under a separate policy.


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.

  • Local Government Code, Title 4, Finances  – covers budgeting for cities and counties only.
  • In practice, library district budgets
    • generally show three years of history,
    • may retain revenues for future capital projects,
    • maintain a ratio of personnel expense to total expense (65% or less) that assures sufficient funds for operational, technology, and facilities needs and averts the need for layoffs if there is an unanticipated reduction in revenues, are approved by the Board before the start of the fiscal year.
  • Budget line items are required for newspaper notices and legislative consulting/lobbying.

FINANCIAL PROCEDURES AND POLICIES  Suggested:

  • 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

OTHER REVENUES


REMITTING SALES TAX on sales revenue for books, coffee, prepared foods, copies, T-shirts or similar, or delivery services:

  • 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.
  • Sales tax notice should be posted if sales include sales tax.


PURCHASING AND CONTRACTING



ANNUAL ELECTIONS The 5 elected Board members serve 2-year staggered terms. Either two or three Board positions are up for re-election each year. Boards should plan their meeting dates and agendas to take action on required notices and orders in a timely fashion each year. Election Code


SECRETARY OF STATE publishes the election calendar, forms, and other election and election training information. Check the SOS website to make sure you have the most recent information. Refer any election questions you have to the Secretary of State or the County with which you are contracting (if applicable).


CONTRACTING WITH A COUNTY FOR ELECTION SERVICES

  • 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.

CALENDAR Before the election calendar is published, you can calculate dates using Excel or a date calculator (DBE = Days before election; use calendar days, not business days). Boards should plan their meeting dates and agendas to take action on required notices and orders in a timely fashion.

  • Filing Period/Order of Election
  • Election (more candidates than open positions)
    • Submit candidate names to county – 78 DBE
    • Mail notice of ballot drawing – 75 DBE
    • Date of ballot drawing (recommended) ~ 70 DBE
    • Submit ballot order ~ 63 DBE
    • Complete jurisdictional boundary review ~ 63 DBE
    • Ballot proofing ~ 56 DBE
    • Post Notice of Election – 21 DBE
    • Last day to Canvass the election – 13 DAE – Only requires 2 Board members
  • No election (unopposed candidates)
  • After election/ canvassing period
    • Swear in Board members at next Board meeting after election; Board elects officers (per bylaws)
    • Update election register – an internal document tracking the district’s history of elections (even uncontested ones)  Election Code 67.006
    • Update candidacy information on website
  • Fill vacancies outside of elections by appointment per Local Government Code 326.044 (the Board should adopt a procedure for this)

APPLICANTS



NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT  Public libraries are voter registration agencies in Texas.

  • General Provisions – most public libraries must
    • offer voter registration applications whenever someone is applying for or renewing their library card,
    • provide assistance in completing voter registration paperwork (including bilingual assistance),
    • deliver completed voter registration cards to the county registrar within 5 days if given to us (most people take them away to fill in and mail),
    • file an NVRA implementation plan of required voter registration procedures with the Secretary of State (Elections@sos.texas.gov) (and update it if it changes), and
    • train all public service staff.
  • More information and trainings
  • Order Voter Registration cards


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.

Records Retention

  • Districts should retain documents according to schedules that have been developed by TSLAC, and it is recommended that such documents be labeled according to the schedules.
  • All unnecessary records should be destroyed once they cease to be administratively valuable. An annual purging of files may be practical.

Tips:

  • 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 email folders 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 or will expire 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.


RETENTION SCHEDULES (TSLAC)  Administrative staff should review the schedules and create an abbreviated schedule of just the types of documents that apply to the district to use for training staff. Most retained documents are administrative rather than operational.

Records Retention Law Local Government Code

Examples of documents that may require retention: board meeting records, public comment forms, incident reports, complaints, contracts, policy discussions, some correspondence, real estate records, legal opinions, PIA requests, publications, HR and payroll records, surveys, audit, banking, budgets, financial reports, grants, accounting, bids, POs, construction, elections and more



ESPECIALLY FOR TEXAS EMPLOYERS  Another Very Helpful Handbook. It’s online or may be ordered in print for free from the Texas Wrkforce Commission (TWC).

  • 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.
  • TWC also hosts employer conferences across the state.

OTHER RESOURCES



LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE 326 Library Districts  General provisions:

  • Provides a pathway for a community to vote to spend a percentage of sales tax dollars to create a library district

to establish, equip, and maintain one or more public libraries for the dissemination of general information relating to the arts, sciences, and literature.

  • Creates a 5 member elected Board serving staggered 2-year terms.
    • Elect officers among themselves (President, VP and Secretary are required).
    • Disclose conflicts of interest.
    • May hire a library director to administer library operations according to Board policy.
    • May create bylaws.
    • May fill vacancies by appointment.
  • The Library District
    • Must call an election each year as either two or three Board member terms expire.
    • Must invest tax revenues according to PFIA; non-tax revenues in separate ccording to policy.
    • Must conduct financial audit in first 120 days of fiscal year.
    • May use tax revenues as collateral.
    • May charge fines and fees, and may ban people for breaking established rules.
    • Must be named geographically.

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



OTHER LEGISLATION TO KNOW (not a comprehensive list)


TEXAS LEGISLATIVE SESSION

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

  • changes in existing legislation that may affect them as library districts or local governments, including Local Government Code, Election Code, and Tax Code, and
  • for new bills that could affect how they operate, including the Labor Code, Penal Code, and Governmnet Code.

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 or utilize RSS feed for new filings.
  • Review enrolled bills at end of session (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.


AN ADMINISTRATIVE CALENDAR is useful for tracking recurring obligations and organizing myriad administrative responsibilities in a way that is manageable. The list below is an example and would work best in calendaring software.

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. Some items are required and other suggested.

MONTHLY

  • 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
  • Staff meeting suggested for larger staffs to share departmental information and do short trainings

QUARTERLY

  • Quarterly Investment Report – required by PFIA; must be approved by Board

ANNUALLY

  • Accounting audit – delivered to Board by 120th day after fiscal year end; LGC 326.069
  • Annual report – by March 31; apply for accreditation; TSLAC
  • Anti-harassment policy  – review with staff; sign acknowledgment
  • Budget – Board approved before start of fiscal year; salary and insurance reviews
  • Collection inventory
  • Continuing Education – 10 hours for Director
  • Cybersecurity training  – annually for staff and Board; Govt Code 2054.5191
  • Debt and transparency report – by 180th day after fiscal year end; Comptroller; file report here by April 1; debt reporting spreadsheet to fill out and upload
  • District meetings – January and August
  • e-Rate filing – optional technology funding; USAC
  • Elections – Multiple dates – see election tab. Update election register and website candidate info.
  • Emergency contact information – for staff and volunteers
  • ILL –  reimbursement; TSLAC
  • Investment Policy – review and approval; PFIA 2256.005e
  • Labor posters  – printable – must be kept up-to-date
  • National Voters Registration Act (NVRA) Implementation Planupdate if changed, review with staff
  • PFIA training – 10 hours every 2 years for designated Investment Officer
  • Prohibited Technologies – update list annually (DIR)
  • Records retentionfiles marked; old files purged
  • Safety trainings – review with staff – emergencies, first aid, utility shut-off, incidents
  • TexShare – statistics; TSLAC

MULTI-YEAR

  • Banking contracts – periodic review
  • Contract renewals
  • Facilities management – fire extinguishers, AEDs, carpet and upholstery cleaning, gutter cleaning, etc.
  • Legislative session – watch for changes in relevant laws (Jan-May in odd years); Texas Legislature Online
  • eview and update job descriptions & policies
  • Strategic Plan – Board approved every 5 years


Local Government Code 326 governs the establishment of new library districts and outlines the steps. The 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 to see if sales tax is available in proposed areas.

2.  Preparation

  • Identify library patrons, voters, and sales tax revenue sources in the proposed area.
  • 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 and 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


There are currently 15 library districts in Texas


Westbank Community Library District Map