Public Library Standards

All Montanans deserve access to library services that meet their needs. The public library standards identify a base level of service that residents or visitors should receive wherever they are in Montana. To be eligible for state funding, libraries must meet the public library standards. 

The current public library standards – found in Administrative Rules of Montana 10.102.1158 through 10.102.1162 - were created by a task force of librarians with input from the wider Montana library community. These went into effect on July 1, 2022 (FY23). Directors will be asked to certify that the library meets these standards beginning in the summer of 2023. 

What are these public library standards? 

This library standards document lists all standards that need to be met. 

Montana State Library staff are working on resources and materials that can help libraries comply with the new standards. If you have a question about the new standards, please contact one of the three consulting librarians

What’s different about the new public library standards? 

The task force that worked on these wanted to focus on community members. They directed State Library staff to write standards that were people-centered rather than library-centered. In many ways, the new standards will have familiar requirements for libraries. Key differences lie in the way the new standards ask library directors and boards to identify community needs and offer services that meet those needs. 

Another difference is the addition of tribal college libraries in the public library standards. Many of our tribal college libraries provide public library services for community members in their service area. The task force and State Library wanted to recognize that role and included tribal college libraries in the new standards.  

Tribal college libraries who would like to be recognized for their public library services are invited to go through the public library standards certification process. Ultimately, we hope to increase state aid funding to include tribal college libraries. That is a long-term process and tribal college directors who are interested in learning more about the process may contact Tracy Cook or Jennie Stapp for more information. 

What is the Public Library Standards Road Map? 

The task force directed State Library staff to create a straightforward set of essential standards that must be met to receive state aid. They also recognized a desire on the part of some libraries to achieve higher levels of service and excellence.  

To encourage libraries to further develop and enhance services, the task force created the road map as a guide. Libraries do not need to meet the items within the road map to receive state aid. It is voluntary. However, libraries are encouraged to identify things on the road map they would like to achieve. 

State Library staff will be using the road map as a guide for providing library development advice, resources, and materials for public libraries interested in pursuing the items on the road map. 

What about the ELSA – the Excellent Library Services Award? Is it still tied to the public library standards? 

WHAT IS THE ELSA? The Montana State Library Commission annually recognizes libraries for achieving excellence in serving their communities with the Excellent Library Service Award (the ELSA). In the past the criteria was tied to the public library standards. That is no longer the case. A task force of librarians revised the award criteria, and their recommendation was accepted by the State Library Commission in early 2021.  

Each year academic, public, school, and special libraries have an opportunity to apply for the award using a series of excellent service criteria in a variety of categories developed by librarians from all types of libraries. 

Read the Criteria 

HOW DOES IT WORK? Each year library directors will complete the online application indicating criteria the library has achieved. If a library meets the required number of recommendations and answers a question about excellent service in each category, the library will be honored with an ELSA and receive a certificate from the Commission at the MLA awards ceremony. The State Library will provide recipient libraries with a press release for use in notifying local government officials and/or news outlets about the recognition. 

HOW DO I APPLY? Watch for an announcement on Wired-MT that will provide instructions and deadlines for completing the ELSA application.  

The application for the 2023 ELSA is open February 2, 2023 with a deadline of March 3, 2023. 

WHEN IS THE DEADLINE? The deadline for applying annually is in March. 

This is an opportunity for libraries and library staff to receive recognition that is so deserved — from fellow librarians and from the local community. Consider applying for this honor annually! If you have questions, contact Pam Henley

How is State Aid distributed?

For an overview of state aid, please visit State Aid to Public Libraries.


Guide to Essential Public Library Standards