Laws Affecting Libraries

Modified on 2017/10/02 16:49 by Jeremy Stroud — Categorized as: Library Law

Library boards are ultimately responsible for assuring that federal and state laws are reflected in library policies and procedures and that the constitutional rights of individuals are protected. This chapter, although by no means comprehensive, provides a brief overview of some state and federal laws that relate to public libraries. Assistance may be available from state and federal agencies through their print publications and web sites, as well as in-person workshops and webinars. The Washington State Library is a depository for both Washington State and Federal publications. Visit our Washington State Government Publications and Federal Government Resources web sites for further information or search our catalog for items in these collections. Specific questions should be addressed to your library's legal counsel.

Washington State Laws and Constitution

Some state laws and articles of the State Constitution that should be highlighted are:

A number of RCWs and WACs are of particular relevance to libraries and may be viewed by going to the interactive index.

Washington State Legislature

The Washington State Legislature provides a wealth of resources including:

Revised Code of Washington (RCW)

As described on the Washington State Legislature web site:

“The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) is the compilation of all permanent laws now in force. It is a collection of Session Laws (enacted by the Legislature, and signed by the Governor, or enacted via the initiative process), arranged by topic, with amendments added and repealed laws removed. It does not include temporary laws such as appropriations acts. The official version of the RCW is published by the Statute Law Committee and the Code Reviser.

The online version of the RCW is updated twice a year, once in the early fall following the legislative session, and again at the end of the year if a ballot measure that changes the law passed at the general election. Copies of the RCW as they existed each year since 2002 are available in the RCW Archive.”

Washington Administrative Code (WAC)

The web site of the Washington State Legislature provides the following description of the WAC:

“Regulations of executive branch agencies are issued by authority of statutes. Like legislation and the Constitution, regulations are a source of primary law in Washington State. The WAC codifies the regulations and arranges them by subject or agency. The online version of the WAC is updated twice a month. Copies of the WAC as they existed each year since 2004 are available in the WAC archive.”

Laws relating to library service

The Washington Library Association (WLA) provides a wealth of information related to laws affecting libraries. As stated on their Library Related Legislation web page:

"ldquo;The Association actively pursues a legislative agenda that presents the interests of its members through a legislative planning committee and a contract government relationship representative who works with the Washington State Legislature.”

Among the many resources available at this site are:

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries Workplace Rights web site includes information on numerous issues including:

Federal Laws

The United States Government Printing Office (GPO) is the portal for legal information at a federal level. The Federal Digital System (FDsys) provides links to:

Federal laws that are of particular relevance to libraries include:

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides a number of helpful resources including:

City and County Codes and Ordinances

In addition to ensuring that state and federal laws are reflected in library policies and procedures, library boards must also be aware of any city and/or county codes or ordinances relevant to their operations. The Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington (MRSC) includes a number of links on their Legal Resources web page, including:

The MRSC page devoted to Purchasing and Bidding for Washington State Local Governments is worth a look.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Misc. FAQs

Is the library under an obligation to follow a No Trespass Order between the library's landlord and a third party?
From Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington:
"Based on our understanding of the facts, the library is not a party to the No Trespass Order, so they should have no duty to ensure that the order is enforced. Indeed, it is probably best for the library not to be involved in the dispute between the landlord and [third party]. Unless or until (1) the [third party] cause issues with the library directly, or (2) the landlord formally involves the library, the library should continue to conduct its business as usual."
Further information may be found in the full MRSC opinion.
May a library board send requests to the community to support library-related election measures?
As per the Public Disclosure Commission:
A library board may submit such requests as long as no library resources were used; i.e. no library computers to send the message, and no official letterhead. Advocacy should be done from personal computers on personal time.