New Library Directors Handbook

Library Laws

Before we discuss what you should do on the first few days of the job we need to share some information about law with you. Hopefully you won't need an in depth understanding of various legal issues in order to work with your board and local government officials. However a basic understanding of the legal system in Montana as well as knowledge of some critical laws will be helpful when working with others. Here is a brief summary of the various pieces of law that are the backbone of the legal system in Montana.

The Montana Constitution, Montana Laws, and Administrative Rules of Montana as they pertain to public libraries.

  • Constitution-a document that guides many of the decisions of lawmakers and others who work with the law
  • Laws-the Montana Code Annotated is the collection of laws that you must follow. Generally these are more general than the administrative rules. Think of this as what you must do to comply with the law. The Montana Code Annotated is created by the state legislature.
  • Administrative Rules-these rules identify how to comply with the law. Think of them as spelling out the details within the Montana Code Annotated. State agencies create administrative rules.
  • Montana Library Laws and RulesThis document lists laws and rules that are pertinent to libraries.

Please review the following laws, since they are important to know and understand.

Open Meeting Law - Montana has a strong open meeting law where the public is given the right to attend meetings and learn about what their government agencies and departments are doing to provide better service for Montanans.

Powers & Duties of the Library Board of Trustees - this spells out what duties and powers a library has. If you are a district library please see MCA 22-1-707 for information about what your board is legally able and expected to do.

Library Records Confidentiality Act - Montana protects its citizens by making library records private. What people read, what websites they visit, and even what library programs they attend are protected by this law.

These three laws are very important, but there are other laws that may impact you. Montana Library Laws and Rules will give you a better understanding of the other laws. We will also talk about the financial laws in other chapters of this handbook. If you have a question about library law please contact your state library consultant.