Consulting

Library Law - Agreements

Creating an agreement between the library and local government officials

Attorney General Opinion 54, Number 7, issued in June 2012, has changed our understanding of the power library boards have over the bottom line. The Opinion states that boards have complete authority over individual line items within the budget, but that the local governing body has full authority over the overall amount the library receives. The BEST protection for a library’s funding is a good relationship with their local governing body and their community.

The second best measure of protection MIGHT be an agreement that documents how library services are funded. An agreement may be able to offer a degree of protection if, through specific language, it prevents the contract from being dissolved for political or capricious reasons.

An agreement might give you some peace of mind since it spells out the financial obligations of the local governing body as well as what services the library will provide in return for the financial investment. However an agreement doesn’t guarantee that library funding is protected. It is a contract but there are always clauses about dissolution in contracts. That’s why nothing replaces having a good relationship with your local government officials.

This document will try to help you determine what kind of agreement you need and what types of things you need to include within that agreement. Please remember that Montana State Library staff are not attorneys. We can only give suggestions. You should take any agreement you create to an attorney and ask him/her to review it.

Definitions

Interlocal Agreement – is an official contract between multiple governing bodies. This contract must contain all of the items required in MCA 7-11-101 through 7-11-108. According to MCA 7-11-104 the contract must be signed by the governing body of each party to the contract. These parties may include municipalities, counties, school districts, and any agency or department of the state of Montana. A library board does not sign this contract; rather, the participating local governing bodies of each party would sign.

Service Agreement – an official document that spells out what funding the local governing body will give the library in return for library services. Service agreements do not have to include all of the requirements of MCA 7-11-105. However it is in the best interests of the library if the contract is as specific as possible, so it may be best to use MCA 7-11-105 as a guide for this type of agreement. Be aware that the local governing body does not have to enter into a contract with you if it does not wish to do so. This is true with respect to typical libraries created under MCA 22-1-303. In the case of a city library offering services to county residents (MCA 22-1-315) the library board and the county commissioners must enter into an agreement. This is an agreement the library board can create and sign.

Do you have good relations with your city or county?

  • If yes, how do you maintain these relations? What specifically is contributing to that relationship? In other words what do you want to continue doing to ensure that you have a good relationship with your local governing body?
  • If no, how can you build and/or improve that relationship? The best protection is that the library director, board, and local government officials have good relationships. If that’s not the case is there anything that you can do to create that relationship?

How was your library created?

  • Resolution of the city council or county commissioners
  • Interlocal agreement between the city and county. You might be a city-county library or a multi-jursidictional service district library. In both cases you should have a document between the city and county that spells out the duties and financial obligations of the city and county as well as the powers of the library board. Is the document up-to-date? How often is it reviewed?
  • Interlocal agreement between the school board and a city or county. You might also have an agreement between the library board and the school board, but in most cases school/public libraries were officially created by an agreement between the school and the local governing body. Is the document up-to-date? How often is it reviewed?
  • Vote of the people for an independent public library district – per MCA 22-1-703

Where does your funding come from?

  • City only – this can come from either a dedicated levy or a general levy
  • County only – this can come from either a dedicated levy or a general levy
  • School only
  • Combination of the above
  • Levy for a multi-jurisdictional district area (See MCA 7-11-1102)
  • Levy for an independent public library district (See MCA 22-1-703)

Which agreement is right for you?

The links under this section will take you to information about the relevant type of agreement for how your library is formed and funded.

  • Libraries under the following scenarios can use service agreements:
    • City libraries  who maintain their city status, but are receiving at least some county funding (MCA 22-1-315) <
    • City libraries receiving only city funding
    • County libraries receiving only county funding
    • County libraries receiving city and county funding
    • Independent Public Library Districts created under Title 22
  • Libraries under the following scenarios can use interlocal agreements:
    • School/public combination libraries
    • Multi-jurisdictional service district libraries (See MCA 7-11-1102)
    • City/county libraries formed under MCA 22-1-316