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.

Who is in charge at the public library?

Most public library patrons are familiar with the friendly people behind the reference desk, who help track down books and answer questions, and the smiling circulation clerks who make sure you get your “Harry Potter” holds. Occasionally, you might come into contact with the library director. You’ve almost certainly seen the director speak at a public, library-related event. Behind the scenes, however, there is a library board responsible for the governance of the library. The library board oversees the finance, policy and planning activities at the library. They also hire the library director, who keeps the board informed on finance, policy, planning and day-to-day operations.

How are these public library boards appointed? In Indiana, the library boards are appointed, not elected. In most cases, there are seven appointees, but four county contractual libraries have eleven member boards. Elected official bodies in the library district are in charge of appointments. For example, school boards appoint library board members.

Each public library has three board members appointed by the school authorities in the district. The next two board member appointments are selected by county authorities, such as council members or commissioners. Finally, the last two appointments, rounding out the seven-member board, vary based on the territorial composition of the library district. For example, the appointing authorities may be determined based upon whether the library is in one city or one township.

Board members serve for four year terms and the terms can be renewed, but they can serve no longer than 16 years. There are exceptions to this rule for the smallest of library districts where it can be difficult to find people to serve.

This is all covered in the Indiana Code IC 36-12 found here. The code also covers Indiana laws that guide the library board’s governance. For instance, the treasurer of the library board is the only paid board member, whereas all other board members receive no compensation.

I applaud the dedication of the appointed board members who work with library directors to provide library services to the Indiana community.

This blog post was written by Karen Ainslie, Library Development Librarian and Professional Development Office librarian. For more information, contact the Library Development Office at (317) 232-3697 or email