New Open Meetings Law Guidance

Under the newly amended Open Meetings Law, boards can meet virtually until June 8, 2022.  After that, they must hold a public hearing and pass a resolution stating the procedures and specials circumstances for allowing members to attend remotely. This new law, section 103-a, gives library boards the option to expand remote/virtual access to individuals (not the entire board) in extraordinary circumstances only. You can find more information and sample resolutions prepared by attorney Stephanie (Cole) Adams here

Under the new law, if library boards want to permit individuals facing “extraordinary circumstances” (including disability, illness, caregiver responsibilities, and more) remote access to a meeting, the library board must:

  • Adopt a resolution authorizing remote attendance and adopt procedures that they determine to be ‘extraordinary circumstances’.
  • Conduct a public hearing before adopting the resolution.

When hosting a meeting where a library board member is attending remotely, the meeting must:

  • Have a quorum of trustees physically present at the public meeting location.  Members attending remotely can vote only if there is a quorum of the trustees physically present.
  • Grant remote access to the public to view and participate (public comment).
  • Record meeting minutes reflecting who attended in person and who attended remotely.
  • Record and post the meeting on the library’s website within five business days and let it remain for a minimum of five years. Recordings shall be transcribed upon request.

The law also states that the “in person” participation requirements of the Law shall not apply during a state disaster emergency declared by the governor.

All libraries, regardless of type, are required to comply with Open Meetings Law. For more on Open Meetings Law, check out the Committee on Open Government, which also provides information about Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

Trustee Education Requirement

Beginning January 1, 2023, all library trustees are required by NYS law to complete a minimum of two hours of trustee education every year on the financial oversight, accountability, fiduciary responsibilities and the general powers and duties of a library trustee. Such trustee education may be delivered online or in person, and may include lectures, workshops, regional or national library association programs, or any other format approved by the Commissioner of Education.

The trustees are responsible for providing proof of completion to their board president. If any expenses are incurred complying with this requirement, they should be charged to the library budget.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your consultant.

Read the complete law here.

NYS Mask Mandate Lifted

Earlier today (2/9/22) Governor Hochul lifted the mask mandate for indoor public spaces. Starting tomorrow, Thursday 2/10, masks are not required to be worn indoor areas other than public transit, schools, health care facilities and nursing homes.

Your library can still require patrons to wear masks if your safety plan/policy states so. Libraries can justify their mask policy using local data such as active positive case rates. It’s important that your safety plan be updated to include the details or benchmarks that are used. Additionally, since libraries are chartered under the Department of Education, it is not a stretch for libraries to mirror what their local school is doing. The mask mandate for schools (set to expire February 21) has been extended to the beginning of March for now.

NCLS recommends libraries to at least adopt the mask recommendations and guidelines from the CDC, if your library hasn’t already. Updated information can be found here:

Update to Open Meetings Law

On Monday, the Governor signed into law an amendment to Open Meetings Law.  Now, public bodies are required to make available or post to their website the documents that they will discussing at least 24 hours prior to the open meeting at which they will be discussing the documents.  It’s our understanding that this new requirement takes effect on November 17th (30 days after the signing into law, according to the text).  

For your reference, the text of the law is available here.  

It’s best practice to seek legal counsel should you have any questions regarding the new law.

Library Planning 102

Over 25 library directors and trustees attended the Library Planning 102 session that was presented by Paulette Roes on Tuesday July 27th. Participants learned techniques, tools, and resources for evaluating library services, staff, and board members.

For those who could not attend, the recording is available HERE. Handouts from the class are available HERE.

Library Planning 101

Over 25 library directors and trustees attended the Library Planning 101 session that was presented by Paulette Roes on Tuesday July 13th. Participants learned about the fundamentals of creating a relevant and responsive library plan and went away with practical examples and resources to help with the planning process. For those who could not attend, the recording is available HERE. Handouts from the class are also available at HERE.

Make plans to join us for the next planning session, Library Planning 102 on Tuesday, July 27th at 10am. More information, including the registration link is available on the NCLS Events calendar.

Authority for virtual meetings ends

With the lifting of the state of emergency on Thursday June 24th, the authority for virtual meetings ends on June 24th. This means library boards must now meet in person starting on June 25th.
Open meetings law does allow for a member to meet virtually, as long as there is both a video and audio component.  Additionally, all locations in which members are participating need to be advertised and open to the public.  This means that if a board member dials in from home their address needs to be included in the board meeting public notice and made accessible to the public.

You can find more information about Open Meetings Law at

COVID Safety Updates

In case you missed it last week, here are the handouts and the recording of Stephanie Adam’s (Ask the Lawyer) session on the new Covid guidelines. 

I’m also passing along a link to another recording from Bond, Shoeneck & King LLC regarding the new Covid updates.  I found this session extremely helpful.

While legal professionals in both recordings admit that details are a bit foggy and the guidance can change tomorrow, I believe there was some good takeaways from both sessions.  Here are the main points I found helpful:

  • Safety plans needs to be a modified to reflect current decision-making from the administration and board 
  • Any new protocol or safety measures your library adopts must point back to the safety plan
  • All other screening mandates are still in place (staff questionnaire, etc.)
  • If you are implementing a mandatory vaccination policy for employees, you must provide certain exemptions
  • Employee vaccine records are confidential health records and must be treated as such 
  • There is no legal law or mandate requiring organizations to require proof of vaccination
  • There is no legal law or mandate restricting organizations from requiring proof of vaccination
  • Just because an organization can legally require proof of vaccination doesn’t necessarily mean it should (there are privacy and ADA implications that could arise – especially when staff are not properly trained in ADA)

Please take the time to view the sessions that were provided, especially the BS&K one that I included.  There are other details that they talk about that I think you will find helpful.