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Amendment to District Library Establishment Act

As reported in the previous issue of Access, the District Library Establishment Act, PA 24 of 1989, has been amended by the enactment of PA 160 of 1997. The amendment addresses several concerns that developed as libraries and communities worked with the law over the last nine years.

In many communities school districts and public libraries have been allies in providing services to area residents. As communities discuss the possible formation of a district library, the school district is often the logical partner in the establishment. In fact, twenty five district libraries in Michigan include at least one school district as a participating municipality. Unlike other municipal units, which were allowed under certain conditions to encompass only a portion of their territory within a proposed district library, school districts wishing to participate in a district library agreement were required to use the entire school district. This often led to either overlapping legal boundaries with other libraries or to frustrating a plan to form a district library.

The necessary creation of an overlapping legal service area caused a number of problems. If district libraries' boundaries overlapped, the residents of the territory within both district libraries were subject to two millages to support the libraries. Legal access to services of both libraries did not soften the impact of double taxation. The same result was possible if a district library overlapped the legal service area of a city, village or township library. The overlapping areas also led to confusion on election day as people attempted to sort out where to vote for which library millage or election of board members.

PA 160 of 1997 provides solutions for these situations: 1) School districts may now exclude part of their territories when drawing the district library boundaries if the school district extends into the legal service area of other legally established public libraries. 2) District libraries that overlap with other district libraries are mandated to redraw their boundaries by October 1, 1998, in order to eliminate the overlap. 3) Future overlaps between district libraries are forbidden. 4) District libraries whose boundaries overlap with other public libraries are given the opportunity to eliminate the overlaps. In order to clarify the boundaries of district libraries, the act now requires new or amended district libraries to submit a map to the State Librarian when a district library agreement is submitted for approval.

Presently 119 district libraries exist in the state of Michigan; only a handful of those district libraries have legal service areas that overlap with another district library. Those libraries must now eliminate that overlap. The State Librarian has sent each of the affected libraries a letter explaining the overlap and offering assistance from the Library of Michigan staff to address the requirements of the law. The affected libraries may negotiate the boundary adjustments with their neighboring district libraries. The Legislative Council will not take any action to redraw the boundaries unless the district libraries do not take appropriate action by the October 1 deadline. The law does not give the Legislative Council discretion to redraw the boundaries-the boundaries of the first established district library will prevail.

If a district library has not received a letter from the State Librarian in regard to PA 160 of 1997, that library does not have an overlapping boundary with any other legally established public library.


Ellen Richardson, Library Law Specialist
Library of Michigan
January 1998


Updated 04/27/2006