You are here

Library Director's FAQ

SCLS has posted the most commonly asked library administration questions here to help you in your quest to run your library more efficiently.  If you have any you’d like added, please contact:  Tracie Miller at 

Statutory basis of a public library in Wisconsin

The 1872 law establishing public libraries has gone through many revisions in its history. It is now part of Chapter 43 of the Wisconsin Statutes, which also includes the statutes relating to the Division for Libraries and Technology and public library systems. As a public library director, it is extremely important that you become familiar with the provisions of Chapter 43 and that you assist your trustees in becoming familiar with Wisconsin's library law. It is here that the relationship of the library to local or county government is defined, that the powers of the library board are enunciated, and that the statutory mission of the library is prescribed. It is also here that your leadership role as the chief executive officer of the library is established.

Note: Because no one at SCLS is an attorney, the answers to the questions below should not be construed as legal advice, but rather administrative guidance on the topic at hand. For definitive legal advice, library directors and/or library boards should consult with their municipal attorney, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (when appropriate), or with private legal counsel.

Table of Contents

Board Information and Rules
Branch Libraries
Director Minimum Hour Requirement
Financial Information
Internet & Library Card Records – Parental Oversight & Privacy
Meeting Rooms

Glossary of Terms
Division for Libraries and Technology FAQ on Public Library Administration & Governance


Board Information and Rules

Board Composition

Can the county board appoint library board members?

Yes.  Here’s how it works:

43.60 (All articles are linked under this category and found under 43.60.) County appointments to municipal and joint public library boards.

43.60(3)(a)(a) A county chairperson, with the approval of the county board, may appoint from among the residents of the county additional members to the Library board of a public library of a municipality located in whole or in part in the county, for a term of 3 years from the May 1 following the appointment, and thereafter for a term of 3 years, as follows:

43.60(3)(a)1.1. If the annual sum appropriated by the county to the public library is equal to at least one-sixth, but less than one-third, of the annual sum appropriated to the public library by any municipality in which the public library is located during the preceding fiscal year, one additional member.

43.60(3)(a)2.2. If the annual sum appropriated by the county to the public library is equal to at least one-third, but less than one-half, of the annual sum appropriated to the public library by any municipality in which the public library is located, 2 additional members.

43.60(3)(a)3.3. If the annual sum appropriated by the county to the public library is equal to at least one-half, but less than two-thirds, of the annual sum appropriated to the public library by any municipality in which the public library is located, 3 additional members.

43.60(3)(a)4.4. If the annual sum appropriated by the county to the public library is equal to at least two-thirds, but less than the annual sum appropriated to the public library by any municipality in which the public library is located, 4 additional members.

43.60(3)(a)5.5. If the annual sum appropriated by the county to the public library is equal to at least the annual sum appropriated to the public library by any municipality in which the public library is located, 5 additional members.

43.60(3)(b)(b) For a joint public library of 2 or more municipalities, the "annual sum appropriated to the public library by any municipality in which the public library is located" under par. (a) Is the total sum appropriated by all of the municipalities participating in the joint library.

43.60(3)(c)(c) A county chairperson may appoint a county supervisor to serve as a member of a Library board of a public library of a municipality under par. (a), but no more than one county supervisor so appointed may serve on the Library board at the same time.

43.60(4)(4) If an additional member appointed to a Library board under sub. (3)(a) loses the status upon which the appointment was based, he or she ceases to be a member of the library board effective on the following May 1.

For more information see Trustee Essentials Chapter 18:

I am in a village, how many board members should the library have?

Villages should have 5 members on their library board with an option for an additional 2 members, making the total allowed for a village at a maximum of 7 library board members (this is without any additional county appointments - see above).  Even if the village decides not to add the additional 2 members and remains at 5, 2 members may be from outside the municipality (most of library board members would still be residents of the municipality.  

What is the term for board members?

The statutes do not specifically address this situation. The most logical process may be for the library board to work with the municipal board and follow the steps outlined for a newly-formed library board (s. 43.54(1)(b) to make certain the terms are staggered.  The municipal board would then need to appoint the library board members accordingly.  After that is in place, be certain to have a clear paper trail on the terms of the library board members and share this with the municipality so there is a clear path to refer to in the future.

Also, a library board's bylaws are the rules established by the library board to govern itself. By statute, appointments to the library board are made by the appointing authority of the governing municipality, municipalities, or county. Wisconsin statutes determine the number, requirements and qualifications of library board appointments. Library board bylaws have no effect on the legal authority provided in the statutes to make library board appointments.

If your library board believes that limited board terms are desirable, the recommendation can be made to the appointing authority that terms be limited to a certain number of consecutive terms. It is also acceptable for the Library board to make recommendations of possible good candidates for appointment to upcoming library board vacancies.

Your library board does have the authority to establish, via its bylaws, term limits for library board officers. Sample bylaw language to establish term limits for library board officers is: "No member shall be eligible to serve more than two consecutive terms in the same office."

Sample public library board bylaws are available at These sample bylaws can be customized for use by your library board.

Must a library have a county library board and if so, must it include a school district representative as a member?

A county library board is NOT required; in fact, many do not have them. If a county has one, it would be best to refer to their bylaws to see if a school district representative is required. Columbia County has that requirement.

Can a library board member be paid for their board service?

According to s. 43.54 (1) (d), library board trustees in WI cannot be paid for being trustees.  They can be reimbursed actual expenses and—if approved by the library board and municipality board—paid a per diem and mileage. 

May a library director serve on a County Board of Supervisors?

Yes. There needs to be "full disclosure" to the municipality and county as to the dual roles, and he/she should also let both the municipality and county know that they will recuse himself from any votes on library appropriations.

May a library director serve on the SCLS Board of Trustees?

No. (43.17(1))

Must a county library board have a strategic or long-range plan?

Yes. The DPI views county library boards as like a county library service therefore they must have a long-range plan. A county plan is a basic requirement for a county to be a member of a system. 43.15 (4) b1

Can a minor (i.e., someone who has not reached the age of 18 years) be appointed to a library board?

Yes. According to an FAQ by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities: “Nothing in state law prohibits minors from being appointed to serve on municipal committees, boards or commissions. A person must be a resident elector of the municipality in order to be eligible for election to a municipal office and only persons 18 years of age or older qualify as electors. See Wis. Stat. secs. 61.19 (village law), 62.09(2) (city law), and 6.02 (qualifications for electors). However, no similar eligibility requirements apply to persons serving in appointive municipal offices. The Division for Libraries and Technology concurs, but added that the final decision to appoint minors to the library board is up to the appointing authority (city council, village board, or town board).

Board Meetings

Must library board meetings be announced to the public?

Yes.  Currently, under the open meetings law, with certain exceptions, meetings of state and local governmental bodies must be preceded by public notice, must be held in places that are reasonably accessible to the public and must be open to the public always, although such meetings may convene in closed session for considering certain matters as specified by law.  Public notice of a meeting of a governmental body must contain the time, date, place, and subject matter of the meeting and must be given at least 24 hours before the start of the meeting, although shorter notice, but never less than two hours, may be given under limited circumstances. The notice must be given to news media that have filed a request to receive such a notice and the notice must appear in the governmental body's official newspaper or, if none exists, in a news medium likely to give notice in the area.

Must the library board president sign-off on library board minutes?

Nothing in the statutes require it.

Can a library board go into closed session to interview library director candidates?

Yes. Wisconsin Statute 19.85(1)(c) allows governmental bodies to use closed sessions to interview candidates for positions of employment, to consider promotions of particular employees, to consider the compensation of particular employees, and to conduct employee evaluations—each of which is a different reason that should be identified in the meeting notice and in the motion to convene into closed session. Discussing salary increases for a whole class of employees, or discussing strategy or procedures for hiring a new director are not eligible topics for closed session meetings. 

Proxy Voting

Can a board member vote by proxy?

While the state statute doesn’t prohibit email and/or proxy voting, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities has issued several statements that strongly recommend against voting by email or by proxy  and  In fact, the League states that Wisconsin courts have not definitively determined that participation by phone constitutes a quorum for meeting purposes.  We believe there is also a public perception problem with proxy voting because it isolates library board members from discussion that may, if they were present, change their mind on the issue.

Based on this information, SCLS does not recommend including provisions for electronic (email) or proxy voting in your library board bylaws.  This view was supported by the Division for Libraries and Technologies (DLT) in a note sent to the SRLAAW list: “If a library or system board makes a decision that is dependent on a proxy vote, I believe that decision would not be legal. It is one thing for a board member to say during discussion that an absent member leans one way or another on an issue, but another thing (and not a good one) to provide for absentee votes.”

As always, consulting with your city attorney on legal matters is recommended.


Branch Libraries


Can a branch library be my bookmobile?

No. A branch library must be a fixed location.

What are branch library requirements?

According to the DPI, the branch must adhere to the definition of a public library. This means that the branch must have a fixed location, a set collection, paid staff and regular hours.

Must a branch library have a set collection?

Yes.  A fixed location, set collection, paid staff and regular hours are requirements.



Digital Resource Rules

Can a library have electronic services available for their members only?

Yes.  DPI says that remote access to online resources can be restricted to one library’s card holders, but any individual who comes into the library must be granted access to the online resource.

“Developments in digital resources, such as downloadable E-books and digital media presented additional licensing issues that have been addressed in recent legislation by recently changing the reference to "electronic database" to "online resources" in 2015 Act 306. That bill provided a structure under which a tribal college library could serve as a public library for its county, and the change affords a means by which online resources licensed for its college students would not have to be made available to all residents of the library system.

That most recent change also provides a clearer mechanism for public libraries to license online digital resources that may be remotely available only to its own residents. Library boards, directors and staff should keep in mind, however, that the "same services" provision still requires that, should a non-resident from your system area ask to use those resources while visiting your library, you must provide a means for that access that fully meets the law--the "same services, on the same terms, that are provided to the residents of the municipality...."  So, if a local resident can, while in the library, access and use an online service on their own handheld device, others from the system area must similarly be provided access.” (WI DPI)


Director Minimum Hour Requirement

Personnel Questions

How many hours is the minimum a director must work? 

The requirement for the minimum number of hours a director must work each week is part of the statutory language that spells out system membership for Wisconsin public libraries. In other words, if a library board chooses not to be a member of a library system, then this would not be a requirement. The system membership requirements regarding hours are:

  • The library is open an average of at least 20 hours each week (with a few exceptions), per s. 43.15(4)(c)7
  • The director is appropriately certified and is present in the library at least 10 hours each week that the library is open to the public, per s. 43.15(4) (c)6 and Admin. Code. Sec. PI 6.03


Financial Information

Bank Accounts

Do libraries have statutory authority to retain funds unspent and carry them over to the next budget year?

Yes. A 2006 opinion by the Wisconsin Attorney General's office said: "...under Wis. Stat. 65.90, the library board's 'exclusive control' over appropriated funds means that once monies are appropriated for a library board, the library board may not give (or lapse) the funds back to the appropriating authority." The opinion further states that the authority of the library board to make budget transfers within the library budget and to carry forward unexpended funds is expressly granted under section 43.58(1), which provides that "[t]he library board shall have exclusive control of the expenditures of all moneys collected, donated or appropriated for the library fund..."

Should libraries have a separate EIN (Employer Identification Number) from their municipalities?

Most do not. The municipality usually sets up the bank account and any tax funds should be in that account.  The municipality needs to have access to pay library bills from that account. The Board of Trustees authorizes payment but the municipality writes checks. If any money is left over at the end of the year (tax money), it is best to designate the leftover funds for a specific project to ensure they are earmarked for the library. Create the paper trail.  Note left over money is for:  new carpet, or computers, etc.

Capital Expenditures

When making capital expenditures at your library are you subject to county library tax?

No.  They are exempt and should be accounted for separately.  They are not to be included in annual library operating costs since they are one-time purchases.

Closing a Library

If my library went out of business, how would I dispose of assets?

Chapter 43 of the Statutes does not specifically address this situation; however, because s.43.52 discusses the creation of municipal library ("any municipality may establish, equip and maintain a public library "), we can infer that the reverse would be true.  Any resources that came directly from the municipality (like a building, for example) would revert to that municipality.  Resources that were purchased with funds specifically allocated to a library (like furnishings, library materials, etc.) would most likely need to benefit another library in the county or system (items donated or sold to other libraries).

In the case of a library disbanding, any monies possessed by a Friends group or a library foundation would revert to the respective group.  The bylaws of the group should dictate how those funds would be dispersed.

For funds held by the library/village that are allocated for the library, if a library were to close its doors it might "run through" all available funds before closing.  But again, if the funds had been specifically earmarked for library service, then they most likely would need to be used for such.  A situation could exist where a library ceases to be a tax-supported entity and turns into a reading room run by volunteers and donations.


Who at my library can sign contracts?

There is not a specific statute that authorizes the ability or inability for others to sign contracts. Here are some relevant statutes and information from the Trustee Essentials on system boards that indicate staff can be hired and their duties can be prescribed to them. It would be like delegating active management of service or department where they are given responsibility for hiring staff or other decision-making authority. 

 43.17 (4)  System administration. Notwithstanding ss. 59.17 (2) (br) and 59.18 (2) (b), responsibility for administration of a public library system shall vest in a head librarian who shall be appointed by and directly responsible to the public library system board.

 43.58 (4) Notwithstanding ss. 59.17 (2) (br) and 59.18 (2) (b), the Library  board shall supervise the administration of the public library  and shall appoint a librarian, who shall appoint such other assistants and employees as the library  board deems necessary, and prescribe their duties and compensation.

 Trustee Essential #26

Legally it is ok to delegate to other staff, but a board policy would be appropriate.  Include parameters on the size of contracts and length of terms, or be based on approval of the board or other advisory/governing body.

County Reimbursement

How does my library receive county reimbursement for nonresident library users?

Chapter 43 is the starting point as it requires each county to reimburse public libraries for serving county residents who do not directly pay to support a public library in that county. Those are considered non-residents without a library.  For an example, a resident of Reedsburg, Baraboo, or any other municipality with a library would not be included, just those people that live outside communities with a library.

At the end of each year, using annual representative data, SCLS determines how many of those circulations each library had that year. We then divide your total expenditures (minus any federal funds) by your total circulation to calculate a cost per circulation. You then multiply this amount by the number of circulations to home county residents without a library. State law then requires that counties reimburse libraries for 70% of that cost. However, some counties like Sauk, choose to reimburse at a higher rate. In addition to this, some counties also provide other funding for technology or other uses, as examples.

Adjacent county circulation is calculated the same way, but as the name implies, you are only able to request that payment from a county adjacent to your library 's home county. State law also requires that adjacent counties reimburse eligible libraries at 70% of their actual circulation x the cost of circulation.


Example of Adjacent County Reimbursement

The calculation of reimbursement is easier if you think of it as three separate formulas, the first of which determines a Cost Per Circulation.

Let’s assume that we have a library with annual operating expenditures of $1,883,360, total circulation of 643,423, and adjacent county circulation of 6,888. The first part of the formula looks like this:

Annual Operational Expenses ÷ Total Circulation = Cost Per Circulation

For example, your 2019 reimbursement (from 2017 expenses and circulation) looks like this:

$1,883,360 ÷ 643,423 = $2.927

The second part of the formula to determine adjacent county reimbursement is to take this cost per circulation and multiply it by the number of circulations to county residents who live in areas that don’t support a library. That usually means rural residents, but can also be people who live in villages or cities that don’t have a library. This formula looks like this:

Cost Per Circulation x Non-Resident County Circulation = 100% Reimbursement

For example, for 2019 your Adjacent County reimbursement (again from 2017 numbers) looks like this:

$2.927 x 6,888 = $20,161.20

The third and part of the formula is to make a final determination of the county reimbursement. State Statute requires that counties reimburse libraries at 70% of this total reimbursement calculated above. The third part of the reimbursement formula looks like this:

100% Reimbursement x 0.7 = County Reimbursement

For 2019, your final Adjacent County Reimbursement (at 70%) looks like this:

$20,161.20 x 0.70 = $14,112.84

These calculations must be done for each adjacent county to which a library has circulation in a given year.

Note: The data for each reimbursement is from 2 years prior (2017 data for 2019 reimbursement, etc.).


Library Fundraising

Can patron email addresses from the library’s ILS be used by the library to make a fund-raising request?

Yes, with the Board’s approval.  Friends Organizations cannot use the email addresses as they are most likely separate 501(c)(3) organizations.

Should a third-party marketing service use the library ’s email/mailing list?

What some libraries have done in a situation like this is use their website to announce the new e-newsletter so the registration of patrons is totally optional.  If patron e-mails from the shared online catalog were to be used, then there should always be an opt-out option.

Paying Bills

Am I required to have the board secretary or treasurer sign every bill approved for payment?

The municipality must be the ones who write the checks for payment.  The only time that a library board can cut a check is if it is coming out of their donation account.  Expenditures that are being paid with tax monies require the library board have some way of indicating that it has approved the expenditure. 

More information:  The following basic library financial procedures are listed in Trustee Essential Chapter 9:  Trustee Essential 9:

  1. The library board approves the annual budget and any budget adjustments necessary during the year.
  2. The library director has delegated authority to make purchases within the budget and according to board-approved purchasing policies.
  3. The library director is responsible for representing vouchers for all expenditures, a monthly list of all library expenditures, and a monthly financial statement.
  4. At the monthly board meeting, the library board audits and approves payment of the expenditures, and reviews and approves the financial statement.
  5. The board secretary, or other designee of the board, signs the vouchers and they are forwarded to the municipal clerk for payment.
  6. Expenditures approved by the board for payment out of any library -held trust/gift fund accounts are made by the board treasurer or other designee of the board. It is recommended that Board policy or bylaws require two signatures (one being the Board Treasurer or President) for any payment or withdrawal from a library -held account.

Is a library director authorized to pay bills and enter into contracts?

According to Administrative Essential 14: Although the board-approved budget and policies should delegate authority to the Director and staff to make purchases of library materials and for regular operation of the library, the board has the responsibility to review all purchases and monitor the budget during the budget year.

Trustee Essential 9:  The library director has delegated authority to make purchases within the budget and according to Board-approved purchasing policies.

Could bills be paid early-- prior to the library board meeting?

No.  Bills should not be paid until they are approved by the library board. The exception is for regular wages, salaries and reoccurring bills like utilities, lease fees, and maintenance contracts.  This is based on WI Statute 43.58 (2) (b).

Sales Tax

Should I be charging sales tax?  If so, when?

While sales to public libraries are exempt from sales tax, sales by public libraries are generally not exempt.  Most public library sales, including sales of photocopies and computer printout charges are subject to the Wisconsin sales tax and any County and stadium sales taxes. Other library sales, such as sales of coffee or food items, withdrawn books, used equipment and used furniture also are subject to sales tax.  Public libraries must also charge sales tax for rentals of bestselling books and videos. Wisconsin Administrative Code Section Tax 11.05 details the sales tax rules for state and local government agencies. Public libraries fall under the same general rules that apply to other state and local government agencies.

Library fines, including charges for unreturned materials and duplicate library cards, are specifically exempt from sales tax. Photocopy and records search charges that result from an official public records request are also exempt.

This sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. To simplify the collection of sales tax at your library, you do not need to add the tax on top of your sales—you can consider sales tax as part of the price you charge. However, if you do this, you must notify customers by a sign and/or on receipts provided to the customer that state “prices include sales tax.” If your prices include sales tax, the tax due is simply calculated by dividing your total receipts by your tax rate.

Let’s compare the two methods. Consider this: your library users made 10,000 black/white printouts and photocopies at 10 cents apiece during the month of September, and your sales tax rate is 5%.

    If you choose to add sales tax to this, you would have to increase your page price to $0.105 (or a half-cent sales tax on each page). You would then collect a total of $1,050, and pay $50 in sales tax. That works fine when working with totals, but not great when an individual makes one copy.

    If you choose to include sales tax in your charges, you would take the $1,000 you collected and then divide that by your tax rate: $1,000/1.05= $952.38 in copies, and $47.62 collected in sales tax. This means that your actual charge per copy is .952 cents, but easier to charge by the copy this way.

Do I need a seller’s permit?

Yes.  If you collect sales tax, you need a seller’s permit from the WI Department of Revenue, this includes local governmental agencies.  However, the municipality must handle the necessary filing and tax submission under its seller’s permit, if it or any of its subunits (including the library) makes taxable sales.

If a library contracts with a private vendor who owns and has control over the photocopy machines in the library, then the vendor, not the library, is responsible for collecting sales tax. The same would be true for pay phones owned and controlled by a private vendor.

What about collecting sales tax at a Friend’s Book Sale?

These sales may be exempt from sales tax if they meet certain tests.  Sales by nonprofit organizations on fewer than 20 days per year, or with total taxable receipts of less than $25,000 per year, are exempt “occasional sales” if the sales event does not involve an admission charge or paid entertainment. A municipality also may qualify for the “occasional sales” exemption if it meets the same tests.

Can I avoid sales tax if I called the payments donations? 

Some organizations believe that if they call payments “donations” they can avoid the obligation to collect sales tax. To qualify as a donation, a payment must be completely voluntary, with no restrictions placed on people who do not make a payment. For example, if a library requests a $.10 donation per computer printout, the library cannot place any restriction on computer printouts made by people who do not make the donation. This means that you cannot provide a suggested donation amount, as that implies an expectation of pay. The Department of Revenue looks at the facts surrounding requests for donations to determine whether they are truly voluntary donations, or if they are sales subject to the sales tax.

How do I know if my library is tax exempt?

While many organizations want to apply to be a 501(c) (3) organization to get nonprofit tax-exempt status, local governments, including public libraries, are already considered nonprofit tax-exempt organizations under IRS regulations. Therefore, the IRS will not grant 501(c) (3) status to your library.

Donations to your library meet the IRS definition of a “charitable contribution” to a “qualified organization,” and they are tax-deductible. Better yet, no application is needed to get this status, per the IRS Publication 526 on Charitable Contributions. The publication defines one type of “qualifying organization” as any state or any of its subdivisions that perform substantial government functions. If your public library is established and operated according to Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 43, then your library clearly meets that definition.

If you have questions about sales tax, or any other public library administration topic, please contact Shannon Schultz of the DPI Public Library Development Team at 608-266-7270 or


Do I count downloads from electronic resources and eBooks into circulation statistics and financially impact reports?

Counties are under no legal obligation to include downloadable content in the county payments and libraries should exercise great caution before including them, unless it is agreed upon with the county, or else pushback against whole county payment law could result.

The reason the Overdrive and other virtual transactions cannot be counted as circulations is because the language of the statute refers to: "loans of material made by the library." Overdrive downloads are not "materials" and are not transactions conducted by the library (which, under s. 43.52 is a building with a director and staff). The transactions take place between the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium, the system, and individuals at home or work, not at the library. The DPI cannot arbitrarily change this. The library community went through a process in the 1990s to devise a process whereby counties pay libraries for their share of all the services libraries deliver. The library community decided that checkouts is the most reliable and consistently collected measure of the ratio of nonresident to total library use.

What are the Classes of Cities in Wisconsin (League of Wisconsin Municipalities)?

Wisconsin law divides cities into four classes for purposes relating to governmental administration and the exercise of corporate power. The division is based on population as determined by the last federal decennial census or a special interim census. Section 62.05(l), Stats. provides that the four classes of cities are as follows:

  • cities of 150,000 population and over constitute cities of the first class.
  • cities of 39,000 and less than 150,000 population constitute cities of the second class.
  • cities of 10,000 and less than 39,000 population constitute cities of the third class.
  • cities of less than 10,000 population constitute cities of the fourth class.

A city changes from one class of city to another only when all the following conditions are met:

  • a federal census shows that the city's population has reached the required population;
  • provisions for any necessary changes in government have been duly made; and
  • a proclamation by the mayor (manager), declaring the change, has been published under ch. 985. Sec. 62.05(2), Stats.

As of January 2006, the city of Milwaukee is the only first-class city in Wisconsin. There are 16 cities of the second class, 30 cities of the third class and 143 cities of the fourth class.

There are cities, such as Madison, whose populations would permit their inclusion in a higher or lower classification but which have not taken the two discretionary steps necessary to alter their official classification. Indeed, sec. 990.001(15), Stats., expressly provides that "[i]f a statute refers to a class of city specified under s. 62.05(1), such reference does not include any city with a population which makes the city eligible to be in that class unless the city has taken the actions necessary to pass into the class under s. 62.05(2)." Section 990.001(15), Stats., was enacted in response to City of Madison v. Town of Fitchburg, 112 Wis.2d 224, 332 N.W.2d 782 (1982), in which the court treated Madison as a first-class city even though it had not taken the steps to change its classification.

How do I calculate a library’s Extended Service Population?

The DPI calculates them as follows:

 Use the library ’s total circulation and divide that by the county’s total circulation. This is the percent of the county’s total circulation that is attributed to that library. Apply that percentage to the county’s nonresident population. This is the percentage of nonresident people that could be considered “belonging” to the library ’s service population. That number would then be added to the municipal population to give you the extended service population.

 Example: County X has a total circulation of 1,500,000 and a nonresident population of 20,000 people. Library Y has a total circulation of 200,000 and a municipal population of 10,000.

 200,000/1,500,000 = 0.13

 20,000 x 0.13 = 2,666

 10,000 + 2,666 = 12,666 (extended service population) 

 NOTE: For libraries on county borders, this same calculation can be performed using system data rather than county data.



Friends of the Library Policies

Should Friends of the Library groups have membership fees?

There are no hard and fast rules here.  Chapter 43 does not cover this topic but depending on your status with the IRS, there may be reporting rules if you do have dues.  ALA has some great guidelines:


Internet & Library Card Records – Parental Oversight & Privacy

Library Card Policies

Are libraries required to give out cards to other libraries’ delinquent customers?

No.  The WI DPI says that residents must follow all reasonable regulations and may adopt a circulation policy to exclude all that violate these regulations.

s. 43.15 (4) (c) (4) – Often referred to as the “same services” regulation requires that libraries who are members of one of the regional library systems “provide to any resident of the system area, the same library services, on the same terms, that are provided to the residents of the municipality or county that established the member library.”

 However, “same services” does not trump the “reasonable regulations” language contained in s. 43.52 (2): “Every public library shall be free for the use of the inhabitants of the municipality by which it is established and maintained, subject to such reasonable regulations as the library board prescribes to render its use most beneficial to the greatest number.  The library board may exclude from the use of the public library all persons who willfully violate such regulations.

Should libraries collect data like driver’s license for record keeping?

No. ILS policies for libraries that are members of LINKcat prohibit the collection of driver license information as part of the patron record.

Who owns the data in the shared ILS?

These statements were taken from the Agreement to Participate in SCLS Technology Services

  1. All data created and stored on the ILS shall remain the shared property of SCLS and the libraries receiving applicable ILS Services for the term of this Agreement.  Decisions regarding methods and standards for the creation, maintenance, purging, or archiving of data and/or the ability of member libraries to alter such data shall be made by SCLS, as advised by the ILS Committee, and shall be binding on all participating member libraries.  The Library shall have a right to a copy of its own data, provided it reimburses SCLS for the actual cost of extraction and duplication of the data. Upon request from the library, SCLS will provide an estimate of the cost of extraction and duplication of the data.  The library is responsible for backup of its own data and network/systems. 
  2. Except as specifically provided herein with respect to ILS data, SCLS shall have no responsibility or liability for or arising from any loss of data or by the library or arising from any library equipment, network, or system.


Must I release library records of a child under the age of 16 to a custodial parent?

Yes.  Please refer to this link:  Act 207 amends Wisconsin Statutes Section 43.30 to require that a library  that is in whole or part supported by public funds must disclose to a custodial parent or guardian of a child under the age of 16 any records relating to that child’s use of the library ’s documents, or other materials, resources or services.  This includes computer sign-up records and the internet.

Can a minor child request a library card without parental consent?

Yes. The decision to require parental sign-off on library card applications is a policy decision for the local library. Act 207 does not require that any policy be adopted for the library card application of a child.  Please see the following link:

Should custodians or parents have access to adult disabled children’s records?

No.  According to the DPI, the library should consult with an attorney to create a policy but it is not advised.


What should I consider in patron privacy about the internet and privacy policies?

Example:  In a local court case a man was given probation with a stipulation to stay off social media.  Apparently, the library is aware that he is accessing social media at the library.  The question the library asks is whether this falls under patron privacy?

Answer:  It depends. 

  • How do library staff know that the individual is on social media at the library?  This is of concern - make sure that decisions are made based on fact and not on assumptions. All library users need to be assured that library staff members are not monitoring use or circulation records.
  • Does the library have a court order that prohibits the individual from using public or personal computers or devices at the library?
  • Also, keep in mind that “observation” is not a record. If the library were to report that they believe the individual is using the library ’s internet and (if they feel it is likely) accessing social media, let law enforcement know and law enforcement can obtain a court order for the library to produce any records that may pertain to this matter. Be aware that the library may have staff policies placing ethical considerations above anything else in protecting patron privacy.
  • In all matters legal, we suggest that the library may wish to take this up with the county’s corporate counsel.

Does a library have to post signs notifying patrons of cameras?

No.  Notification of surveillance equipment is necessary when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, and a public facility such as a library does not meet that expectation. In addition, a library should have a privacy/confidentiality policy that indicates that such records are protected. That said, depending on the library ’s security/misbehavior situation, perhaps the posting of signs indicating that video surveillance is being recorded will help deter patrons from inappropriate behavior. If that happens, it should be a library board decision as there could be a negative response from the public. (WI DPI).



Medical Training

Is training required for employees for exposure to bloodborne pathogens?

While training is not required by Chapter 43 of the WI Library Legislative documents, Wisconsin public libraries should have a safety and health program. More information can be found here:   


Meeting Rooms

Meeting Room Policies

Can a library restrict access to public meeting rooms based on religious or political reasons? No.  If the rooms are open to the public than it must be “open” to all.  If the library has a policy restricting public access and only allows for library use, then yes.  Library policy can deny access if it breaks the room’s frequency of use policy or if it used for fundraising. Sample meeting room and behavior policies can be found on the SCLS website and the Division for Libraries & Technology website. If a public library allows use of its meeting room by the public, then it must allow use by religious groups as well as partisan political meetings.  The library can set limitations on the use of the meeting room that is open to everyone at no charge. This could include the days, times, frequency, etc. for the meeting room use.  A library cannot forbid partisan political groups from using its meeting room if they allow other non-profit groups to use it. 

In April, 2000, a U.S. District Judge ruled that the West Allis Public Library violated a man's First Amendment rights when it refused him permission to use the public library's meeting room for a program about creationism. (see FAQ from the Division for Libraries & Technology)

The American Library Association (ALA) addresses this issue on a page titled Meeting Rooms: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights




Matters with Police Intervention

May I answer police questions about a convicted sex offender in the library?

The DLT has said that the observations of library staff members are okay to share with police officers, if they don’t stray into protected areas of personal library use. These observations may confirm that the person was at the library, that children were present, and even that the person in question used the computers or checked out items. They can’t divulge what was checked out or viewed without a court order.

Must a library surrender surveillance footage to law enforcement if requested?

Chapter 43.30(5)(a) says: Upon the request of a law enforcement officer who is investigating criminal conduct alleged to have occurred at a library supported in whole or in part by public funds, the library shall disclose to the law enforcement officer all records pertinent to the alleged criminal conduct that were produced by a surveillance device under the control of the library. The library can ask for confirmation of an investigation, and it’s up to the library board to determine whether that confirmation should be verbal or written.  As always, make certain that the library has a board-approved policy in place.

What can be done when library staff is concerned about the safety of a child?

This sort of situation falls under patron privacy provided in Chapter 43.30 because the person in question was using the library. Library staff are not under the same legal requirements to report suspected child abuse as are doctors and teachers.

Yet, this is a very gray area. The library should have a policy that specifically addresses the issue at hand. In those cases, it is much easier to call the police in at the time the incident is taking place and not after the fact.

If reoccurring incidences occur, the library staff should document what happened, who was involved, and what library staff did so there is a paper trail in the event there are future situations with this patron.

Can the police department request and receive footage from the surveillance system without a court order?

In certain circumstances, yes. Senate Bill 214 was passed by the legislature late in 2006 and signed by Governor Doyle, and was published as 2007 Act 34 .  The bill was introduced by Senator Ellis and Representative Kaufert after a library patron was viewed committing a lewd act in the Neenah Public Library. The library, based on earlier advice from the Wisconsin Attorney General's office, declined to disclose surveillance video recordings showing the patron until a court order authorized the disclosure.

The law creates two exceptions to the general requirement that a court order be obtained before library records are disclosed that may indicate the identity of library users.

The first exception reads: "Upon the request of a law enforcement officer who is investigating criminal conduct alleged to have occurred at a library supported in whole or in part by public funds, the library shall disclose to the law enforcement officer all records pertinent to the alleged criminal conduct that were produced by a surveillance device under the control of the library."

This exception pertains to requests for surveillance recordings initiated by law enforcement officials, and requires disclosure only of surveillance video recordings pertinent to criminal conduct alleged to have occurred at the library.

The second exception reads: "If a library requests the assistance of a law enforcement officer and the director of the library determines that records produced by a surveillance device under the control of the library may assist the law enforcement officer to render the requested assistance, the library may disclose the records to the law enforcement officer."

This section makes it permissible, after the appropriate determination by the library director, for a library to disclose library video surveillance recordings to law enforcement officials in situations in which illegal activity or other dangerous or disruptive behavior may have been committed and recorded on a library video surveillance system.

The Stoughton Public Library has a well written policy on its website at Microsoft Word - Security Camera Policy Approved by Board 11-15-17.docx (


Glossary of Terms

Administrative Essentials - This handbook will provide you with some of the essential information that you need to succeed in your position as a public library director in Wisconsin.  This handbook can be particularly helpful to directors of small public libraries and those with limited prior administrative training and experience. At the same time, it will offer a valuable review for experienced library directors and can help focus thinking and suggest resources when dealing with particularly challenging or unique situations.

If you have not yet taken or are in the process of taking the courses required by the Department of Public Instruction for certification as a Grade 3 or Grade 2 public library administrator, it will serve as a valuable resource.  Here is a link to the handbook:

Chapter 43 - Statutory basis of a public library in Wisconsin

The 1872 law establishing public libraries has gone through many revisions in its history. It is now part of Chapter 43 of the Wisconsin Statutes. Chapter 43 also includes the statutes relating to the Division for Libraries and Technology and public library systems. As a public library director, it is extremely important that you become familiar with the provisions of Chapter 43 and that you assist your trustees in becoming familiar with Wisconsin's library law. It is here that the relationship of the library to local or county government is defined, that the powers of the library board are enunciated, and that the statutory mission of the library is prescribed. It is also here that your leadership role as the chief executive officer of the library is established.  This links to Chapter 43:

DPI (Department of Public Instruction) - The Department of Public Instruction is the state agency that advances public education and libraries in Wisconsin.  It is headed by the state superintendent of public instruction, a nonpartisan, constitutional officer elected every four years.

The agency was created in 1848, the year Wisconsin attained statehood, when the state constitution provided for the establishment of local school districts and a free education for all children in the state.  Here is a link to their homepage:

Trustee Essentials - This publication comprises many Trustee Essentials, along with additional appendices. As the name implies, these Trustee Essentials cover the basic, essential information needed by you, the trustee, to serve your community effectively.  Follow this link to the handbook:

For more information, contact: