Massachusetts Public Library Trustees Handbook
Chapter 78 of the Massachusetts General Laws is the statutory authority for public libraries in Massachusetts. Every public library should possess a copy of this law. Trustees should read through Chapter 78 and become familiar with its provisions and scope of authority. Certain provisions of the law, sections 7 through 13, apply directly to trustees' and librarians' powers and responsibilities.
Section 7 describes the requirements for public record keeping. It states: "That part of the records of a public library which reveals the identity and intellectual pursuits of a person using such library shall not be a public record..." It is important for trustees to know what constitutes a public record, to develop a policy for the library which conforms with the law, and to understand and enforce such policy. For more information on public records, contact your regional library system or the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.
Section 10 describes the process by which trustees are selected, when no overriding governance structure such as a town or city charter or other special legislation is in place.
Section 11 states "The board shall have the custody and management of the library and reading room and of all property owned by the town relating thereto." This section is the only provision in the law which explicitly states the trustees' powers and duties.
Section 33 establishes the statutory requirement for each library to have a written policy for the selection of library materials and the use of materials and facilities which is in accordance with standards adopted by the American Library Association (ALA).
See Chapter 2 of this Handbook for a discussion of the Open Meeting Law.