The reason the Ministry is posting these Frequently Asked Questions on its website is to assist the public in understanding the general principles behind the establishment, administration and funding of public libraries as set out in the Public Libraries Act. The Ministry is not providing legal advice on any of the issues. For further questions relating to these questions or your particular circumstances, you must consult with your own legal advisors.
1. How can municipalities provide library service?
Under the Public Libraries Act municipalities may provide library service in a number of ways. They may establish a public library to serve their own municipality, or establish a union public library by agreement with one or more other municipalities, or when two-thirds of the municipalities in a county so request, a county may establish a county library to serve those municipalities. Instead of establishing a library board, a municipality may enter into an agreement whereby another library board will provide library service for that municipality.
2. How may a Local Services Board provide for library services in an unincorporated area?
Local Services Boards may provide library services by either establishing a library or contracting for library service with a public library board, union library board or county library board. The ability of Local Services Boards to establish libraries is provided for in the Schedule to the Northern Services Boards Act.
3. How are public libraries established?
Public libraries are established under Public Libraries Act subsection 3(1) by the passing of a by-law by municipal council. When the by-law is passed under subsection 3 (1), the clerk is required to promptly mail or deliver a copy of the by-law to the Minister.
4. How are public library boards composed? What proportion of their members can be municipal councillors?
A public library board is composed of at least five members appointed by municipal council. The number of council members on a public library board is limited to one less than a majority of the board.
5. How are union public libraries established?
Union public libraries are established by the councils of two or more municipalities making an agreement. The agreement specifies the proportion of the cost of the establishment, operation and maintenance of the union public library, including the cost of existing libraries, that will be paid by each municipality. When the agreement is made the public library boards established in the municipalities for which the union board is established are dissolved, and the assets and liabilities of those boards are vested in and assumed by the union board, unless the agreement provides otherwise.
6. What notification of the Ministry is required when a union public library is established?
When an agreement is made to establish a union public library, the clerk of the municipality that has the greatest population is required to promptly mail or deliver a copy of the agreement establishing the union public library to the Minister.
7. How are union public library boards composed? What proportion of their members can be municipal councillors?
A union board is composed of at least five members appointed by the councils of the affected municipalities in the proportions and in the manner specified in the agreement establishing the union public library. The number of council members on a union public library board is limited to one less than a majority of the board.
8. How is a county library established? Must all municipalities in the county take part?
A county library is established by county by-law. The resolutions of at least two-thirds of the municipalities forming part of a county are required for the establishment of a county library. When the county library system is established, the municipalities which do not wish to take part in that system are not required to do so.
9. How are county library boards composed? What proportion of their members can be municipal councillors?
A county library board is composed of at least five members appointed by the county council. The number of council members on county library board is limited to a bare majority of the board.
10. Can a municipality leave a county library system?
The Public Libraries Act is silent on this issue. Libraries are advised to seek legal advice should questions on this subject arise.
11. Does a county public library system continue to be legally constituted if the number of municipalities that take part in the county library drops beneath 2/3?
Subsection 7(1) of the Public Libraries Act allows a county to pass a by-law establishing a county library where 2/3 thirds of the municipalities forming part of the county for municipal purposes so request. This is a pre-condition for the passing of such a by-law, and for the by-law to be valid the precondition must be met. There is nothing in the Public Libraries Act setting out any continuing qualifications for such a by-law. It is valid if at the time of its making the pre-condition was met, despite what may happen after the by-law is made.
12. Under what circumstances may a county library close a branch?
Section 21 of the Public Libraries Act requires a county library board to operate a branch library in each local municipality that operated a public library before that municipality became part of the county library system, unless the county council and the council of the municipality concerned agree otherwise.
13. May a municipality provide for library service if it does not establish a library?
Yes, under Public Libraries Act subsection 29 (1), a municipality may enter into a contract for library service with a public library board, union board or county library board, instead of establishing its own library.
14. May a library charge a fee to residents of a municipality that contract with them for library service?
No. The prescribed conditions for library operating funding do not permit a library to charge fees to residents of contracting municipalities. See subsection 30(2) of the Public Libraries Act and Regulation 976.
15. May a municipality that has contracted for library service charge its residents a fee for that service?
No. Municipalities that contract for library service receive operating funding from the province. The prescribed conditions of that funding preclude a municipality's charging residents a fee for library service.
16. What legislation applies to a public library board?
Municipalities are given the power under the Public Libraries Act to establish public library boards. If established, public library boards are governed specifically by the Public Libraries Act. But since public library boards are both local boards of a municipality and are corporations, the general legislation that applies to those entities also applies to public library boards. A number of statutes affect public libraries other than the Public Libraries Act; however, if there were an inconsistency between a provision of the general legislation and a provision of the specific legislation, the Public Libraries Act provision would take precedence with respect to a public library board. This is the case, unless the general legislation indicates otherwise, e.g. where the legislation states that it operates "despite any other Act".
17. How are libraries governed?
Public libraries are governed by public library boards which are corporations established under the Public Libraries Act.
18. Can a library be governed by a committee of council?
The Public Libraries Act does not provide for committee of council governance for libraries. A library may be governed by a committee of council only if a Private Statute has been enacted that allows for governance by a committee of the particular council.
19. When are library board appointments made?
Board appointments are made at the first meeting of council in each term. If the council fails to make the appointments at its first meeting, it must do so at any regular or special meeting held within sixty days after its first meeting. The existing library board continues until the new appointments are made.
20. What are the qualifications for appointment to a library board?
The following individuals are qualified for appointment to a library board under the Public Libraries Act:
21. May the mayor have ex-officio status on a library board, and does this restrict his or her abilities?
An “ex officio” member of a board is one who is a member by virtue of his or her office. For example, if the mayor had ex officio status on a library board, the person who filled the office of mayor each term would automatically be a member of that board. An ex officio board member has full board member privileges such as the right to vote and is also subject to all the duties and liabilities of a board member unless otherwise restricted by way of the corporate articles or by-laws or by an applicable statute.
22. Under what circumstances would a library board member be disqualified?
A library board member is disqualified under Public Libraries Act section 13 if he or she:
23. May library board members receive honorariums?
The Public Libraries Act is silent on the receipt of honorariums. However, section 18 of the Act does provide for the following remuneration of board members' expenses:
A board may reimburse its members for proper travelling and other expenses incurred in carrying out their duties as members. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.44, s. 18.
Library boards seeking guidance on the issue of honorariums may wish to consult with their own legal counsel.
24. How is resident defined?
The Public Libraries Act does not define "resident" and therefore the word resident is to be interpreted according to its ordinary and normal meaning. That is, a resident is someone who normally resides in the jurisdiction in question.
25. Under which circumstances may a non-resident be appointed to a library board?
A non-resident may be appointed to a library board if he or she is:
26. Can someone who owns a business in the area, but is not a resident, be appointed to a library board?
No, residency is required.
27. Can the spouse of a library employee sit on a library board, or would that constitute a conflict of interest?
A board member's being married to a library employee is not in itself a conflict of interest. However, the board member would have to declare a conflict should a matter arise that would have an impact on the employee or board member. For example, if the library board member was the Library CEO's spouse, and the board was deciding whether to increase the CEO's salary, the board member would have to declare himself/herself in a conflict of interest, and withdraw from any discussion of or vote on the matter.
28. Is there a reporting relationship between a library board member whose appointment was recommended to council by a school board and the school board that made the recommendation?
The Public Libraries Act is silent on this matter, however, once a library board member is appointed, his or her role is as member of the library board not a spokesperson for the school board.
29. Must a library have a Chief Executive Officer?
Yes. Appointment of a CEO is required under subsection 15(2) of the Public Libraries Act. The CEO has general supervision over and direction of the operations of the public library and its staff, attends all board meetings and has other powers and duties that the board assigns to him or her from time to time.
30. May a library provide for such administrative functions as payroll, by entering into an agreement with its municipality?
Yes. A number of library boards and their municipalities already carry out administrative functions in this way. However, where such administrative financial agreements exist, directions regarding the disbursement of library funds remain the prerogative of the library board.
31. May a library have a reserve fund?
The Public Libraries Act is silent on the subject of reserve funds. While it is common practice for municipalities to hold library reserve funds, library boards do have authority to have reserve funds under the Municipal Act.
32. What is the library estimates or budget process?
Library boards submit estimates to their appointing council or councils annually. The estimates are submitted in the form required by the council or councils and they must include all amounts required during the year for the purposes of the board. If there is more than one appointing council the estimates are required to include a statement on the proportion of the estimates to be charged to each of the municipalities. Council may, in the approval of the board's estimates or at any time at the board's request, authorize the board to apply a specified amount or percentage of the money paid to it otherwise than in accordance with the estimates as approved.
33. Who conducts the library audit?
The Municipal Act, 2001, section 296 requires municipalities to appoint an auditor licensed under the Public Accountancy Act to annually audit the accounts and transactions of the municipality and its local boards and to express an opinion on the financial statements of these bodies based on the audit. Please see the Municipal Act, 2001, for more detailed information on the municipal auditor.
34. May the library audit be included in the municipal audit?
Both public library boards and First Nation Bands, Local Services Boards and municipalities that contract for library service, receive library funding under PLA s. 30. It is a condition of PLA Regulation 976 1(b) that recipients of library funding under PLA s. 30 supply the audited financial statements and information to the Minister that are required under. It is acceptable for a library board to supply its financial information in a consolidated audited financial statement as noted in Municipal Act, 2001, s. 296 (11), provided that the financial information on the library board is identified. One way to do this would be in a separate schedule or appendix of the consolidated municipal financial statement.
35. Is a library board required to have its own bank account?
Yes. PLA s. 15 (4) requires the appointment of a library board Treasurer, who receives and accounts for all the board's money; opens an account or accounts in the name of the board in a chartered bank, trust company or credit union approved by the board; deposits all money received on the board's behalf to the credit of that account or accounts; and disburses the money as the board directs.
36. What services are free under the Public Libraries Act?
Any of the following services provided by a library must be provided to residents free of charge (Public Libraries Act subsections 23(1) and (2)):
*The following materials are specified in Public Libraries Act Regulation 976 section (2):
37. May a library charge a fee for service to people who are not residents?
A library may charge non-residents a fee for service, providing their municipality, Local Services Board or Indian band council has not contracted for service with the library.
38. May a library charge its users a fee to borrow materials on interlibrary loan?
The Public Libraries Act precludes libraries from charging their users for materials borrowed on interlibrary loan, if the materials borrowed fall within the classes of materials prescribed in Regulation 976.
39. May one library charge another to borrow materials on interlibrary loan?
The Act is silent on the issue of one library charging another to borrow materials on interlibrary loan.
40. If one library charges another library a fee to borrow materials on interlibrary loan, including an administrative fee, can the borrowing library pass the fee on to the person who requested the materials?
No. The Public Libraries Act precludes libraries from charging their users for materials borrowed on interlibrary loan. Therefore libraries are not permitted to pass any interlibrary loan fee on to their users, including the passing on of any administrative interlibrary loan fee that the lending library has charged them.
41. Where is provincial funding for libraries addressed in the Public Libraries Act and who is eligible?
Library operating funding is addressed in section 30 of the Public Libraries Act. The following organizations are eligible for library operating funding:
42. What are the conditions for library operating funding?
Organizations must comply with the Public Libraries Act and its Regulation to be eligible for provincial public library operating funding. Libraries and organizations that contract for library service must complete and submit an Annual Survey of Public Libraries. Refer to the Grants Ontario Public Library Operating, Pay Equity, and First Nation Salary Supplement grants Program and Application Guidelines for library grant program requirements. Every organization that contracts for library service must also send a copy of that contract to the Ministry. The Annual Survey of Public Libraries and all library grant program requirements must be submitted in an accurate and timely fashion by Ministry deadlines.
43. Does the French Language Services Act apply to libraries?
44. Are French language services required under the Public Libraries Act?
Section 20 (b) of the Public Libraries Act requires libraries to provide services in the French language, where appropriate.