Tools for Trustees — The Workshop

A three-hour workshop for your board(s) of trustees, based on the Tools for Trustees manual.


Public library organization in the United States varies from state to state. In some states municipal libraries are the norm; libraries in other states may be organized to serve county or regional service areas. Library systems in Georgia are established by county or municipal governments, or by agreement between or among them. 

County library systems serve only one county and have one or more buildings. Regional library systems serve two, three, or more counties that share central operations for cost-effective delivery of services. There are also a few independent municipal libraries that do not belong to regional or county library systems.

County and Regional Library Systems

There are 59 library systems in Georgia that are officially recognized by the state library agency, including 375 public library buildings. Appendix A includes a map and directory of these systems. 

Each library system has a state-certified director and a governing board of trustees. Each county served also has a library board. In regional systems, there may be additional affiliated boards of trustees for member libraries.

In single-county systems, the county board is the governing board. In regional systems, the governing board is constituted of representatives appointed or elected by the county boards.

Appointments to county library boards are made by all governmental agencies that financially support the library on a regular basis. Supporting agencies may include cities, counties, and school boards. Board structure (e.g., number of members, terms of office) is set forth in the constitution and bylaws for each board, as discussed in Section IV.

All state grants are awarded at the library system level (to either single- or multicounty systems), although use in a particular county or at a particular library may be specified. Likewise, only library systems may enter into contracts.

Library systems must meet other state requirements in order to receive state funds. For example, all must provide free basic services to residents of the service area, and all must have board-approved materials selection and personnel policies.  A copy of the complete requirements for state aid may be found in Appendix B.

In some cases, public libraries in Georgia operate independently of library systems; one example is in the city of Smyrna. These libraries receive no state funds but are supported by their municipalities.

Statutory Authority

The authority for public libraries and library systems in Georgia comes from the Official Code of Georgia, Section 20-5-40. It says that county or municipal governments may establish a library, either by resolution, referendum, or contractual agreement. 

The state library law (reproduced in Appendix C) defines governance of public libraries and specifies duties of the trustees and of the library director. The law also describes reporting requirements, property ownership rights, contractual rights, financial requirements, and penalties for abuse. Libraries are subject to additional state and federal laws, as discussed in Section III of this manual.

Guidelines for the dissolution of a system, withdrawal or expulsion of a county, or other significant change in system organization are addressed in Sections 20-5-48(b) and 20-5-51 of the Georgia Code. If the parties involved are unable to reach a satisfactory solution in the division of property, the Georgia Public Library Service or its designee mediates the decision.

Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS)

Georgia Public Library Service is the state agency for libraries in Georgia. It is a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Its chief executive officer is the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Library Development and Services, also known as the State Librarian.

Primary functions of GPLS are to administer state and federal funding, to coordinate statewide initiatives such as Vacation Reading Program, and to provide consulting services to public library systems throughout the state. Consultants can assist with many local library system projects, such as library construction, automation, hiring a library director, and training staff and trustees. A directory of GPLS staff may be found in Appendix D.

Other important services provided by GPLS include high-speed Internet access for all public libraries in Georgia; coordination of statistical information; the PINES network that connects most of the libraries in the state through a shared catalog and circulation system; and the Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services (GLASS), which serves the blind, visually impaired, and physically disabled. GPLS also maintains an extensive collection of professional materials available on loan to library staff, trustees, and citizens throughout the state.

The Georgia Online Database (GOLD) serves as the interlibrary lending database and shared listing of library materials used throughout the state. Members of the GOLD group include more than 200 academic, public, private, school, special, and technical college libraries. The Georgia Online Database operates through the WorldCat Database, the world’s most comprehensive bibliography.

All trustees should receive the bimonthly newsletter published by GPLS, Georgia Public Library Service News. Trustees not receiving the newsletter should contact their library director.