Indiana Public Library Standards – ensuring the best possible library service for Hoosiers

Did you know that every public library in Indiana is expected to have the following things?

  • A licensed director and staff.
  • Separate collections and spaces for adults, young adults and children.
  • Weekend hours.
  • A collection development policy.
  • Free public computers, and the ability to print or make copies.
  • A resource sharing service, or lending arrangement with at least one other library in the state.

These rules, and more, are known as the Indiana Public Library Standards. This law is found in Title 590, Article 6, of the Indiana Administrative Code, and serves as a list of requirements that libraries must meet to get access to Indiana State Library services, as well as receive state and federal funding.

The standards rules vary based on the size of a library’s population area. For example, large libraries that serve more people are required to be open for longer hours. Smaller libraries serving smaller or rural communities have some relaxed requirements, including education and work experience needed for their director.

The Indiana State Library’s Library Development Office determines which libraries are meeting standards annually by reviewing libraries’ policies and plans along with the self-reported responses to the Indiana Public Libraries Annual Report surveys. Most libraries have no problem meeting the requirement annually. For libraries with standards issues, Indiana State Library staff will follow up with the library and assist them in correcting their issues, if possible. Following this correspondence, the Indiana Library and Historical Board reviews standards issues and may find libraries not meeting the requirements to be “out of standards.” Libraries found out of standards can lose access to state-sponsored services, as well as funding opportunities.

The standards rules have evolved over the years and are evaluated every few years by Indiana State Library staff and a panel of volunteer library staff from public libraries around the state. The most recent review occurred in 2021 but did not result in any recommended changes to the legislation.

This blog post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office director, Indiana State Library. She can be reached via email.

Why Are We Doing This Anyway?! – The Public Library Annual Report

Every January, Indiana public library directors (or their unlucky designees!) let out a collective sigh as they complete the Indiana public libraries annual report. The survey is lengthy, containing between 600-800 questions (depending on the size of the library), and takes a great deal of time and preparation to complete. However, once the answers are submitted, little is thought about it until it rolls around again the following year. We’d like to share several examples of how the information collected through the report is used the following year and beyond:

Statistics – The resulting Public Library statistics (including the new 2014 statistics) provide data that staff, trustees, and researchers can use to evaluate libraries and make informed decisions. The stats can be used for local or statewide comparisons, or even to compare libraries of similar size/populations (e.g. What’s the average Director salary at Class B libraries? How much are the other libraries in my county circulating?). Our website contains data for the past 20 years.

National Public Libraries Survey – One hundred questions on the survey feed directly to the Public Libraries in the United States Survey. This annual survey gleans information from 9,000 library systems nationwide about their staffing, collections, circulation, revenue and expenditures. The resulting data is used by researchers, journalists, the public, and policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels.

Standards – One of the primary uses for the survey in Indiana is to evaluate Indiana Public Library Standards For example, does the library have enough computers available for the public? Is the library open for a sufficient number of hours? Are they hosting enough programs throughout the year? After this review, Statewide Services staff follow up with the ‘out of standards’ libraries and offer assistance, with the goal of ensuring Hoosiers have sufficient access to library services wherever they live in the state.

Planning – The statistics can be helpful for projections and planning, for example, in budgeting, technology planning, strategic planning, grant writing, or planned expansions. Statistics can help determine the costs of operating per capita, and help libraries to establish their non-resident fees. The statistics are also a great way of finding out what other libraries are up to. For example, in 2014, we asked libraries to report if they have adopted any non-traditional classification systems, or if they have a makerspace.

Directories – The Annual Reports are used to compile and maintain the Public Library Directory, trustee directories, branch directories, Friends and Foundation directories, and interlibrary loan staff directories.

Historical research – Since the Annual Report has been collected for a century, there are decades of data and stories to be told by the old surveys. They list former library locations, expenditures, collection sizes, librarian and trustee names, and more. Through the old reports, you can follow a library as it evolves from its inception, to their Carnegie building, and possibly on to an entire municipal system.

 Indy PL 1914 AR preview1914 Indianapolis Public Library Annual Report

If you have an idea for a question that should be included in next year’s Annual Report, or if you are interested in serving on the advisory committee, please contact me at I’d also love to hear stories of how you were able to put the stats to use!

This blog post was written by Jen Clifton, Public Library and LSTA Consultant, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Library Development Office at (800) 451-6028 or visit our webpage at