Could we use any of our budgetary funds as collected through our tax levy and/or funds received from donations (restricted and unrestricted) to pay for food (dry goods, fresh produce and/or fruit) and PPE's which would be given freely to the public/patrons some of which may not be from our community (we would not ask them for a library card or ID)?
If so, could it be considered a program or if not what other budgetary designation would you suggest it be given?
Before I answer this, I am going to share a story. Trust me, it’s relevant.
When the workforce restrictions and ban on large gatherings due to COVID-19 started impacting libraries, the first wave of questions to “Ask the Lawyer” were about continuity of operations. Specifically, they were about continuing payroll and still offering programs, even though staff would need to work from home.
Because Executive Orders and public health restrictions were happening at a rapid pace, answers needed to be developed quickly.
If there is one thing the lawyers hate, it is quick decision-making. We like precedent, we like time for research, and we like ample time to reflect on the implications of our client’s decisions. In a world moving ever-faster, this is one of the things I cherish about my profession: it demands reflection.
But with libraries waiting for input, I didn’t have the luxury of time. My research indicated that—barring a union contract provision or other express intervening factor—job expectations could be temporarily altered and library programs could continue, re-tooled to meet social distancing requirements (a/k/a “online”) while ensuring legal compliance and limiting liability. But I couldn’t take a week or two to decide.
So I did what lawyers do when we don’t have time to let advice ferment—I turned to another lawyer.
I called an attorney I knew would appreciate the nuances of a question involving municipal law, Education law, taxpayer money, and the all-seeing eye of the NYS Comptroller. I laid out the thinking that would eventually form my answers, and asked him to poke any holes he could see (I think I said “Pretend you’re the attorney for an angry taxpayer”).
He asked a few well-informed, testing questions, and when my legal analysis held up, I felt good.
But then he asked:
“Cole, do you actually think when this thing is all over, the Comptroller is going to organize a posse and hunt down libraries for trying to help their communities? I mean come on…people are in real need here. Who would do that?”
I laughed, and it felt good. I thanked him and said I owed him one (in my world that means he gets to ask me a similar favor, any time, night or day, and I have to deliver).
Here’s the truth, though: although I laughed, my secret answer to his question was: Yes. Yes, I do think that when this is all over, the Comptroller could audit and expose fiscal mis-steps by well-meaning libraries. And I am also concerned that frightened tax payers and municipalities, searching for a way to “solve” fiscal panic, could use any small lapses in compliance or transparency to try and reduce budgets next fiscal year (just when they’ll be needing their libraries to assist with ongoing community recovery). That is why the member’s question is so important.
That said, I got into this business because I believe that law, when well-developed and thoughtfully applied, can ensure justice and create the conditions for a happy society. And I think the law—even as construed by the Comptroller—will allow for the actions proposed by the member, without the concern that a prohibited gift or shady transaction was engaged in.
I’ll give you three solutions.
Some Necessary Background
As a primer to each solution, just in case you haven’t checked in on fiscal controls for public libraries, every reader should visit NYLA’s excellent “Handbook for Library Trustees” (2018 edition), pages 50-58. This section sets forth all the routine requirements for properly accepting, retaining, spending, and accounting for both public and privately sourced funding.
The solutions below, and the steps to set them in motion, build off the assumption that a library is following the fiscal practices laid out in those pages.
And just one more thing…
Okay. Let’s say your board is ready to assess and approve budget adjustments to initiate the acquisition and distribution of food and PPE. Your staff and some volunteers are rarin’ to go. All you need to do is sort out the legal stuff.
But before worrying about how to fund it, or how to characterize the initiative in the budget, the first thing to consider is safety.
No matter what situation the library is in, a written safety plan, informed by OSHA and CDC guidelines, and ideally, confirmed with the local County Health Department, is the first priority for any such initiative. Before approving funds, a board should review the plan for safety, and be assured that it is as well-developed as it can be (and again, if at all possible, confirmed by experts).
So with that “safety first” caveat, here are the three solutions:
Solution 1: Acquisition and Distribution Only (No programming)
Objective: The library will acquire and distribute food and PPE, without any educational programming component or further conditions for participation (people can just stop by and pick up what they need).
Step 1: Organizers (who could be board members, or staff, or volunteers…any combination is fine) develop and, with a county health official, affirm a safety plan for the distribution of the resources. This plan should include how the items will be acquired, transported, and picked up, and what staff and volunteer resources will be used.
NOTE: to ensure the safety of employees and protect the library from any liability, changes to routine job duties should be confirmed in a short letter referencing the safety plan.
Step 2: Considering the need they hope to fill, and safety parameters, organizers develop a procurement plan, consistent with library policy and pages 50-58 of the Trustee Handbook, for the supplies to be acquired. This plan should consider the appropriate sourcing and selection of supplies (PPE meeting CDC guidelines, food suited to re-distribution), and the need to follow relevant procurement laws.
NOTE: On March 27, the Governor issued Executive Order 202.11, which suspends the public bid opening requirements of General Municipal Law Section 103(2) (of course, 103 only applies to purchases exceeding $20k…that would be a lot of PPE!).
Step 3: The Treasurer develops a budget recommendation for a budget change that will fund the procurement plan, and confirms to the board that any private funds to be used are not barred by donor terms (if all of the steps in this solution are followed, it will be a legal use of tax levy funds).
Step 4: The board looks through its mission and plan of service and selects the language in those guiding resources consistent with a distribution for the goods to promote the health or general well-being of the community.
Step 5: The board verifies the above steps, verifies consistency with bylaws and library policies, and sets a meeting under the modified procedures of the Open Meetings Law to adopt a customized version of the following resolution:
WHEREAS it is the mission of the [NAME] Library to [insert] and the plan of service for the library includes [insert];and
WHEREAS the state is currently in a state of emergency as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; and
WHEREAS owing to the pandemic and state of emergency, the library’s area of service is in an unprecedented state of need with regard to fundamentals and supplies for personal safety; and
WHEREAS, owing to travel restrictions and the need of essential workers to serve our community, some people within our area of service may not be card-holding members of the community, but still be in need of supplies that will protect the their well-being, as therefore the general health of our area of service; and
WHEREAS the board finds it consistent with the mission and plan of service to adjust the current budget of the library to allocate resources to assist those within our community by supplying fundamental resources to enable the promotion of health and safety during a time of emergency; and
WHEREAS because the library is uniquely situated and widely regarded as a trustworthy and centrally located institution whose resources are freely accessible to all, and regards it as mission-critical to continue that role at this time; and
WHEREAS the library staff has identified a written plan for the safe allocation of such fundamental resources, and such plan has been reviewed by appropriate health officials; and
WHEREAS the library staff has identified and the board has duly reviewed a proposed plan for the responsible and compliant procurement of such resources, which is attached to this resolution and included in the minutes of this meeting; and
WHEREAS the Treasurer has verified that any private sources of funding do not bar the proposed procurement;
BE IT RESOLVED that the current budget be amended to direct [$amount] from [insert] to the acquisition and free distribution of food and personal protective equipment during the state of emergency, and during any period of recovery (the “Community Health Initiative Plan”); and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the acquisition of such resources listed in the Procurement Plan shall be conducted and accounted for per all the required provisions for procurement; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the library shall effect the distribution of the resources only as set forth in the attached Safety Plan.
Solution 2: A Public Health Program
Objective: the library develops a program, consistent with its plan of service, to educate participants on PPE and the importance of good nutrition during a pandemic, and after a short educational program, makes supplies available. This could even include innovative and fun ideas, like a recipe from a local chef, or instructions for canning food.
Step 1: Organizers develop and, with a county health official, affirm the content of a short educational program, as well as the safety plan for distribution of the resources.
Step 2: Follow all the steps in “Solution 1,” but add this “whereas” clause to your resolution:
WHEREAS the library staff has [developed/identified] a short informational program on personal protective equipment and the important of good nutrition, and such program has been [reviewed by/endorsed by] appropriate health officials;
And add this further action to the resolution:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in conjunction with the distribution of fundamental resources the library shall promote the short informational program identified in the Safety Plan.
Solution 3: The Partnered Program
Objective: together with another entity, and per a written agreement, the library allocates financial, and perhaps other, resources to a joint public health initiative to acquire and distribute supplies.
This one I can’t provide a template for: the permutations are just too diverse. I can only say, when working with another entity, the library will need to consider every element listed in the above solutions: safety (first, always), mission alignment, employee needs, budget, and proper vetting of the plan by appropriate health officials.
Because of the risks related to compliance, a collaborative approach (unless it is just a donation to one of the above efforts…with that, take the money and get it done!) should be only through a written agreement that has been reviewed by the library's lawyer. For this reason, it could be more cumbersome than other approaches, but in the event of a worst-case scenario, confirming all those details will be worth it.
For All Solutions
For any of the solutions I have outlined above, a critical contributor may be the library's insurance carrier. Right after the organizers start developing the plan for safety, someone should give your carrier a call, just to make sure there are no “exclusions” from the policy or conditions for your library to consider.
How do you check in with a carrier on this? Just tell them: “Some lawyer who writes about library legal issues said we should check in with you before we do this.”
While your insurance carrier is probably used to the library developing innovative programming and serving a wide swathe of the population, the distribution of food and PPE during a pandemic is something they might want to weigh in on. That said, in my experience, most carriers will encourage your initiative. They might ask questions about where the distribution will take place, who is offering the programming, and how you are sourcing the supplies.
Since the answers might impact your planning, it is better to call them early in the process, rather than just before the board meets (telephonically, as allowed by Executive Order 202.6) to vote.
And who knows? They might even have some helpful hints for you as you undertake to support your community. This whole thing is keeping agents and adjusters awake at night, just like the rest of us.
Okay, once I start waxing on about insurance, it’s time to pack it in. I hope this was helpful, and I hope it can contribute to your library meeting the needs of your community.
Thank you for a great question, for your determination, and your dauntless innovation.
 This image his rhetoric inspired in my head--an army of GAGAS-wielding accountants, riding horses across libraryland, handing out fiscal frontier justice—makes me laugh now, too (but also cringe).
 In violation of Article VIII, Section 8 of the NY Constitution.
 One cardinal rule at “Ask the Lawyer” is “don’t reinvent the wheel.” If library resources have already been used to develop solid guidance on a topic, we simply refer the member to that answer. Lucky for me, librarians are innovators, so there are always new topics to address.
 Some libraries and library systems may have determined that, because they are regarded as a subdivision of government, the current workforce reduction orders do not apply to them. Others will be organizing a program with the restriction that employees must (as of April 28, 2020) 100% work from home. Still others will be coordinating terms of employment with a union. This answer presumes your library is working within its own, unique parameters.
 By stressing this, I don’t mean to imply that the member is not thinking about safety (in fact, the care the member is taking about legal compliance suggests to me that they place a high priority on safety). I just want to make sure that in any initiative to assist during this time of emergency, safety is the first consideration on the table. At all times.
Our public, municipal library wants to seek funding through a school board levy. The boundaries of the school district we’re petitioning are outside (but include) our municipality. Are there any legal impediments to a public, municipal library going on the school district ballot? We have reached out to New York State Ed’s Division of Library Development and NYLA, but seek a lawyer's perspective.
Perhaps because our nation was born resisting taxes, few things can rile a close-knit community so much as a good old-fashioned tax levy. This is one area where the legal issues might be simpler than the range of human emotions.
That said, the laws governing a school district’s support for a library can present significant considerations, if not impediments, before it can be successfully deployed. So let’s fly at 10,000 feet, and look at the lay of the land.
There are relatively few entity types that can levy taxes based on real property, and school districts are one of them. In addition to facilitating school funding through those taxes (the school budget “levy”), districts are empowered to raise a separate amount for “library purposes.”
This power to tax for the benefit of libraries comes with some very clear conditions.
First, the amount to be raised for the library must be listed as a separate item on the ballot; the voters must see it as distinct from the funds to be levied for the school(s).
Second, if the proposition passes, the funds must be delivered to the treasurer of the library as soon as possible, and cannot be retained or mingled with district funds.
Third, the amount of taxes attributable to library purposes must be separately stated on each statement of taxes. Voters should be able to easily discern the difference.
Now, here is where things get really interesting.
There are two ways such a proposition related to a library levy can get on a school district ballot: 1) a vote by library’s board, or 2) a petition directly from the voters. Since 2007, the precise amount of any proposed levy has to be endorsed by the library’s board (this is so competing or even contrary funding resolutions can’t get on the same ballot). When a library board votes to request it, the proposition must be placed on the ballot—even if it lacks the support of the school board.
This power can be used to the benefit of any public library: municipal, special district, school district, free association, etc. This is true even if the precise boundaries of the school district and the library’s chartered area of service don’t match up.
How can that be? Anyone who follows “library world” knows that there are numerous kinds of libraries: municipal (created by and with the boundaries of a city, town, or village), school district, special district (which can cross and combine municipal borders), and free association. The permutations of these libraries are vast, but all serve their communities without charge, and thus meet the definition of “library” as used in Education Law §259. And thus, all qualify as a “library” that may be supported by a tax levy by a school district.
Here is how the New York State Commissioner of Education, quoting an earlier case, put it as recently as 2015:
As stated in Earlville, a school district is among those entities enumerated in Education Law §255 and, thus, is authorized to vote taxes “for library purposes” pursuant to Education Law §259(1)(a). Earlville noted that, “although only those entities specifically enumerated in Education Law §255 may levy a tax for library purposes under §259(1)(a) [citations omitted], there is no restriction in §259(1) regarding the type of library for which such taxes may be levied.”
Voters, of course, are free to reject the request for support (they can also bring a petition to cease the levy). But the mere act of being asked gives the voters a direct opportunity to consider their community’s overall commitment to educational resources. In library-philic New York, where we treasure books and learning, this is a critical commitment to education, information access, and community advancement.
It is also a serious vote, since once the levy has been established by the school district, it remains in effect each year until there is a vote to have it removed (which, again, can be initiated by the library’s board, or the voters).
As described by the member, boards considering a school board levy are wise to gather (early) ALL the support they can as they plan for a school board tax levy proposition. The State Education Department’s Division of Library Development maintains a great starter kit for an initiative. Reaching out to NYLA, as well as other library advocacy groups, can be critical. And a lawyer with experience in education law (to help draft resolutions, track the paperwork, and have your back when the unexpected happens) is an essential member of your team.
But while you assemble your team and resources, don’t forget “the people.” As the famous Tip O’Neall liked to say, “All politics is local.” So while it’s essential to know a tax levy initiative stands on firm legal ground, nothing replaces careful cultivation of support for your initiative. That is where the allies listed above, and an attorney looking at the specific circumstances of your library (and always the latest case law), are essential.
Thanks for a great question on a very important topic. Good wishes for a vote that supports democracy, community, and information access.
 They are listed in New York’s Real Property Tax Law, which is a fun read if you are lucky enough to be amused by tax law.
 See NY Real Property Tax Law Article 13.
 See NY Education Law Section 259(1)(a).
 New York Real Property Tax Law, §1322 (1) and §1324.
 See New York Comptroller Opinion 92-28, as well as Education Law §259(1)(a) and Real Property Tax Law, §1322 (1) and §1324.
 New York Real Property Tax Law, §1322 (1) and §1324.
 See Education Law §259(1)(a), and for some good color commentary on the process, see New York State Education Commissioner Decision 15,662, which established that once the tax has been turned over to the library, the taxing authority can’t demand it be returned, even if they have to give a taxpayer a correcting refund.
 Education Law §2035(2). To see how this plays out in the field, check out Education Commissioner Decision # 13,891.
 See Bill S03542, 2007.
 §239(1)(a), again!
 This is due to the law being amended in 2007. The objectives of the amendment are detailed in the legislative “memo” for A05107 (2007). The impact of the changes is also discussed in Education Commissioner Decision 16,765. Buckle up if you explore this avenue…there is some quibbling.
 This broad interpretation of the word “library” as used in Education Law §259(1)(a) was established in New York State Education Commissioner Decision 12,423, regarding Earlville Free Library, in 1990. Although §259(1)(a) was amended in 2007, the approach of “Earlville” as the case in known in library circles, was re-affirmed by the Education Commissioner in 2015 (see Decision #16,765, regarding Jamesville-DeWitt Central School District).
 As defined by Education law §253(2), that term includes any library established for “free public purposes by official action of a municipality or district or the legislature….” Some time is spent on this definition in the “Earlville” decision, referenced above. Note that the definition does exclude libraries within technical, professional, and public schools.
 This was also established in Education Commissioner Decision 12,423, regarding Earlville Free Library (1990).
 To say nothing of cooperative and federated libraries.
 You’re seeing a lot of citations to the Commissioner here. That’s because per Education Law §2037, the Commissioner with “exclusive original jurisdiction over all disputes concerning the validity of any district meeting or election.” See Education Commissioner Decision 14,571 (2001).
 Appeal of The Board of Trustees of the Earlville Free Library, 1990 Op Comr Educ No 12423. It is worth noting that while §259 was amended in 2007 (17 years after Earlville) this principle was upheld in 2015 in Decision 16,765,regardingtheJamesville-DeWitt Central School District.
 This is broken down in a great Comptroller Opinion: 1981 N.Y. Comp. LEXIS 726, 1981 N.Y. St. Comp. 176.
 See New York State Commissioner of Education Decision 15,002 “Appeal of Beaver Falls Library” (2003), applying Education Law §259(1).
 Check out their guide “School Districts and Taxes for Public and Association Libraries: How the Partnership Works” at www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdec/libs/sdtaxes.htim.
 I would spend a paragraph or two on what “the unexpected” is, but of course, we can’t expect it! That said, a good look at Education Commissioner Decisions numbers listed in these vast footnotes answer can give you a flavor.
 I just finished his autobiography, “Man of the House.” An interesting read, and a great primer for anyone wanting an abject lesson about local, state, and national politics.
 Taking care to abide by all restrictions and best practices for libraries and political activity.
Are municipal public libraries obligated to provide retirement benefits for all employees? Does the library board need to approve a motion to provide retirement benefits for all employees or selected employees? Does the number of hours pertain? Or does the employee qualify for state retirement system benefits through the municipality? Again - is it based upon hours worked?
Retirement benefits play a critical part in employee recruitment and retention. Library leadership should carefully consider—and routinely re-evaluate—the role of retirement in the suite of benefits they use to attract and nurture personnel.
To craft the right retirement approach, leaders must consider not only the legal landscape of their library, but the local job market, their recruitment objectives, and their retention goals. The final approach should not only support the library’s plan of service and vision for its mission, but comply with all relevant law. To ensure this, the plan and final documents should be evaluated by both leadership, as well as an HR professional and attorney.
Municipal public libraries crafting a retirement plan must work with local government; this is because the retirement benefits they can offer flow from the municipality they are attached to. For that reason, any municipal public library addressing retirement benefit issues should reach out to their municipality’s HR department and/or attorney.
The member’s questions are a good jumping-off point for some general guidelines to this process. To take them in order:
Are municipal public libraries obligated to provide retirement benefits for all employees?
No. Per New York Retirement and Social Security System Law Title 2, Article 2, municipalities may resolve to participate and enroll their employees in the New York State & Local Retirement System (“NYSLRS”), but such resolution and enrollment is not compulsory.
Once a municipality decides to enroll, the NY Comptroller’s Office helps with the initial assessment of costs. After enrollment by the employer, precise rules govern which employees are eligible for what level of plan; a great summary of who qualifies, and how, is here: https://osc.state.ny.us/retire/word_and_pdf_documents/employers_files/employers-guide/section-5.pdf.
Does the library board need to approve a motion to provide retirement benefits for all employees or selected employees?
Yes and no. A municipal public library’s enrollment in the NYSLRS flows through the enrolled municipality;  if the municipality is enrolled in the system, the (municipal public) library can participate. That said, to emphasize employer autonomy, promote awareness, and ensure harmony of the retirement plan and benefits with other library operations, the board should be apprised of and vote on the retirement benefit, as well as its description within the employee manual and relevant policy.
NOTE: This “employer autonomy” aspect cannot be emphasized enough. While great care should be taken by library leadership to coordinate certain employment-related matters with the municipality, a municipal public library SHOULD NEVER SURRENDER OR IGNORE THEIR AUTONOMY AS THE EMPLOYER. There are a great many opinions of the NY Comptroller (the go-to for municipal governance and budget issues) that emphasize the importance of this notion; it is a critical consideration and one deserving of a great deal of board attention and foresight (and professional input).
Does the number of [employee]hours pertain?
There are very precise formulas and enrolling, qualifying, reporting, and claiming NYSLRS retirement benefits, and employee hours are most definitely a part of those formulas.
Hours are only a small piece of the puzzle, though. The bigger parts are the details leadership will explore as they identify, and develop, a retirement benefit that supports the strategic direction and mission of their library. That is a project that will take many hours of thoughtful work and exploration…but if undertaken with the right players, will bring great benefits.
 Interestingly and somewhat famously (among the 14,000 or so library law aficionados in New York), this does not mean the municipality is the employer. However, it does mean that many of the employee retirement benefits must (to a certain extent) be coordinated with the procedures and reporting of the local government. NOTE: I invented the possible number of “library law aficionados,” but since I find this stuff fascinating, maybe 13,999 other people do, too.
 Information on kicking off the process of enrollment is here: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/employers/employer_partnership/an_employers_role/becoming_a_participant.php
 As reflected in the excellent comparative chart on the New York State Education Department’s Division of Library Development Page: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/libs/pltypes.htm.
 For instance, Op. State Comptroller 93-15, from 1993.
 A helpful guide on reporting hours to the NYERS is here: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/word_and_pdf_documents/employers_files/employers-guide/section-6.pdf#search=%20libraries.
 Pun intended.
Is it possible for a municipal library and an association library to share one employee? The association library would handle payroll and manage benefits, the municipal library would pay the association library their percentage for the employee's time. Could this happen with two association libraries and one municipal library? Individually, our libraries are unable to offer full-time with benefits, but collaboratively, we could provide a full-time position. What are the legal steps to creating such a job share?
I have good news, and bad news.
First, the bad news: most of the legal factors involved do not support this type of “job share.”
Now, for the good news: the type of capacity-adding at the heart of the member’s question is feasible…with a slightly different legal structure.
What are the legal steps to creating such an arrangement? For chartered libraries, they are numerous and intricate, but considering the goal (added service), the work might be worth it.
Here are the factors to consider:
1. The libraries’ chartered identity
The question cites a potential collaboration between a municipal and an association library. Just in that coupling, there are issues, since depending on entities’ size and type, the institutions will have different staffing requirements. When considering a capacity-adding staffing model, those requirements should be kept in mind at all times.
2. The libraries’ bylaws and staffing policies
Staffing requirements and other factors impacting staffing might be recited in the libraries’ bylaws and policies. So those documents, too, should be factored into this exercise.
3. The libraries’ plan(s) of service
Does the resulting staffing schema fit into their respective plans of service?
4. Labor law details, such as workers’ comp, unemployment, FMLA, and ADA
Here is where the technical nitty-gritty, and the concerns that generally bar “shared” staff between separate entities, starts. Whenever an employee is brought on to work at more than one legal entity, it is important to confirm who would actually be the employer, so the arrangement complies with state and federal labor regulations.
One example of why this is important is workers’ compensation. Per New York state law, if a worker sustains an injury on the job, that worker is covered by “comp,” and the employer is indemnified for (almost) any personal injury claim. This protects both the employee (who gets some wage/salary continuance) and the employer (who generally does not face additional liability for the injury). In a truly “shared” employee arrangement, with debatably two (or more) employers, the resulting ambiguity could result in a contested or denied coverage claim.
Another example of how a “dual employer” arrangement could be risky is revealed by considering the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, employers are responsible for providing employees with reasonable accommodations for permanent and temporary disabilities; failure to do so can result in serious liability (and fines). But with a “shared” worker, it can be tough to know who would have that responsibility…and be responsible for failing to follow the law.
There are many more reasons along these lines.
5. Salary equity and benefits-related details
This is a critical one, because employees who are not treated equitably in comparison to other employees can have an array of legal claims. Examples abound: If one library offers more paid time off than the other, how do the libraries offer the “shared” employee a fair and legally compliant arrangement? If the libraries have different systems for evaluation and promotion, how does the employee advance? If one library is found to be treating a particular class of employee unfairly, does that impact the other library? While minimal staffing at the employing institutions might limit some of these concerns, even if there is one other part-time staffer to compare to, ambiguity could turn into liability.
6. The actual legal relationship between the libraries and the “shared” employee
From the legal perspective, this is where the rubber hits the road. For the reasons set out above (and many others), it would be almost impossible for both libraries be “joint,” employers: even if possible, it would likely be too risky. But with another legal relationship, this resource-sharing might be feasible.
What is that “legal relationship?” Well, it would depend, but the most feasible solution would likely be one library hiring an employee specifically to add to the capacity of other libraries. In this model, there would be no “shared,” employment; rather, the first library would offer their employees as extra capacity on a contractual basis.
In such a “Capacity Contract” scenario, money paid by the second (or third) library would not be a salary/benefit contribution, but rather, a fee for services (that happened to help pay for the salary and benefits of a full-time librarian). The relationship would need to be carefully set out in a detailed contract and hiring documents that confirmed how any performance evaluation, employee discipline, civil rights, personal injury, and other claims would be handled. And the factors I list above (starting with the identity of both libraries, and considering the various regulatory, bylaw, and policy obligations they have) would have to be assessed to see if it was even feasible. Most critical would be: is adding to the capacity of others consistent with the hiring library’s plan of service?
With careful planning by leadership and trustees,and input from an attorney and HR professional, this type of “shared” staffing could be built. The end result would be:
As I said at the beginning, this could be a fair amount of work. But if it provides a small library with access to specific expertise and a diversity of talent it might otherwise not be able to afford, it could be worth it. Just approach the details with care.
Thank you for this important question.
 In addition to those considerations, although it is not legal, I feel I must mention a quasi-political or strategic element. As we know, once taxpayers, municipal leadership, and other entities see cost-cutting, it is hard to close Pandora’s (newly efficient) box. So while it is not a legal consideration, per say, being mindful of how any innovations in staffing efficiency will play out long-term is wise. You don’t want a clever solution to become the tool of a permanent budget cut!