Public Library Standards

The Standards

The North Carolina Public Library Standards offer relevant, dynamic, and flexible community-based standards in a self-assessment format to guide libraries in providing quality service based on community needs. The Standards provide libraries a common language of aspirations and a framework to guide local planning, management, and evaluation processes. Each Operational area is composed of indicators with tiers of service to provide goals for growth. A self assessment tool is available for public libraries through LibPAS.

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The North Carolina Public Library Standards, released in 2022, offer relevant, dynamic, and flexible community-based standards in a self-assessment format to guide libraries in providing quality service based on community needs. By offering a common language of aspirations, the standards seek to:

  • Aid libraries in building on existing strengths and identifying opportunities to improve offerings
  • Provide a framework to guide local planning, management, and evaluation processes
  • Guide libraries in solving new community problems
  • Assist libraries and funders in evaluating the impact of public library service
  • Inform the public of the vast array of ways libraries can enrich their lives
  • Promote equitable library service for all North Carolinians by offering expectations of minimum levels of service

For more information or questions about the Standards, email:

The Standards are organized into five operational areas with tiers of service. 

Each Operational Area includes a set of Standards that offer Outcomes and associated Indicators or suggested best practices. The Indicators are structured so that libraries can conduct a self-assessment based on their unique community needs.

Tiers of Service:

Except for the Governance Standard, all the Outcomes and Indicators are organized by Tiers of service. With the understanding that every library is unique, and that each library must make its own decisions about where to focus efforts, those tiers are defined as:

  • Essential: The basic level of library collections, programs, services, etc., to adequately meet community needs

  • Enhanced: This level recognizes that some aspects of library service stand out compared to their peers

  • Exemplary: This level recognizes public libraries for being state and national leaders

Acknowledging that each library works within a local set of constraints and opportunities, libraries are considered to have fulfilled a Tier level after achieving most of the indicators.  For example, there are 8 essential indicators under the Staffing Standard.  If 5 of those 8 indicators are marked as Achieved, the Outcome is realized at the Essential Tier level.

Many people contributed to the creation of the North Carolina Public Library Standards. Library staff from across the state provided initial feedback through out 2019 which culminated in the creation a working group to guide the creation of the new standards. We would like to acknowledge and thank the following working group members for their time and dedication to this project.

North Carolina Public Library Standards Working Group

Jim Blanton, Director, Buncombe County Public Library
Dr. Jon Gant, Dean, NC Central University SLIS; State Library Certification Commission
Brian Hart, Library Director, Forsyth County Public Library; Chair of State Library Certification Commission
Marian Lytle, Director, Mooresville Public Library
Jenny Gerami-Markham, Assistant Director, Catawba County Public Library
Melanie Morgan, Director, Neuse Regional Library
Jimi Rider, Branch Manager, New Hanover County Library; State Library Commission
Michael Roche, Director, Rockingham County Public Library; State Library Commission
Terry Rollins, Children’s Services Librarian, Brown Library
Tiffany Savage, Branch Manager, Sampson County Public Library
Jonathan Wark, Director, East Albemarle Regional Library

State Library Standards Team

Lynda Reynolds, Public Library Management Consultant
Lauren Clossey, Continuing Education Consultant
Jeffrey Hamilton, Adult Services Consultant
Amanda Johnson, Data Analysis and Communications Consultant
Catherine Prince, Federal Programs Consultant
Jasmine Rockwell, Youth Services Consultant
Karen Dash, Consultant


To assist library efforts toward implementation of the Standards, recorded webinars can be accessed through the NC Public Library Standards category of the SLNC Niche Academy.  Additional helpful Standards topics can be searched in Webjunction


Why are we publishing new Public Library Standards now? 

Since 2012, when the Standards were last published, the world of librarianship has changed significantly, whether due to technological innovation, changes in community expectations of libraries, socioeconomic and demographic changes across the state, or, as we are currently experiencing, significant external events affecting delivery of library services.   

What process did the State Library undertake to develop these Standards? 

In 2019, through a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the State Library of North Carolina convened a State Library Development team to assess the need for revised and updated North Carolina Public Library Standards.  The 2019 State Library team planned extensive opinion research efforts, including five regional focus groups throughout the state for fall 2019 and winter 2020. Additionally, librarians and the state library's leadership team offered insights through interviews and survey responses.   

In summer 2020, a second LSTA grant funded the continuation of the project with the assistance of an outside consultant.  Within this second phase of the process, 10 online public stakeholder meetings were offered, including six open to all library stakeholders and an additional meeting each for Librarians and Library Staff; Members of Boards and Friends; Library Partners; and Teens.   

The results of the Stakeholder Opinion Research efforts, as well as those of a comprehensive Environmental Scan of 11 other states' public library standards; standards in aligned industries; and best library practices and trends, were summarized for the State Library Team and an 11-member Working Group of professional librarians from across the state.  In a series of meetings over fall 2020 and winter 2021, the Working Group helped refine the structure and format of the North Carolina Public Library Standards.  The Standards were approved for publication by the State Library Commission on November 18, 2021. 

How often will the Standards be updated? 

We recognize that the field of librarianship is constantly evolving. Therefore, we will endeavor to keep these Standards dynamic with annual updates. 


How are the Standards organized? 

The standards are organized into five Operational Areas: 

  • Sustainable Organization 

  • Center for Knowledge and Lifelong Learning 

  • Community Engagement 

  • Innovation through Collaboration 

  • Facilities 

Each Operational Area includes Standards (e.g. Governance, Staffing, etc.) that offer Outcomes and associated Indicators, or suggested practices, in a Self-Assessment format.

Except for the Library Governance Standard, all of the Outcomes and Indicators are organized by Tiers of service. With the understanding that every library is unique, and that each library must make its own decisions about where to focus efforts, those tiers are defined as:

  • Essential: The basic level of library collections, programs, services, etc. to adequately meet community needs. 

  • Enhanced: This level recognizes that some aspects of library service stand out compared to their peers. 

  • Exemplary: This level recognizes public libraries for being state and national leaders. 

The Standards have 3 Tiers of Service – Essential, Enhanced, and Exemplary.  Do I have to meet all of the Indicators in a Tier to achieve that level of service? 

No. Acknowledging that each library works within a local set of constraints and opportunities, it is up to each library to determine what Indicators they would like to focus on. Libraries are considered to have realized a Tier level after achieving the majority of the Indicators.   

The Standards include Helpful Notes and Helpful Resources.  Do I have to use these? 

No. You may choose to review or utilize some, all or none of the Helpful Notes and Resources. They are simply a reference.   

Using the Standards 

I run a small branch of a much larger library system.  Can I use these Standards? 

Yes. The Standards are written to apply to any size public library or branch of a library system. It is recommended to evaluate Facilities and Technology on a branch level, if applicable, unless otherwise noted as System Level.  

Our library meets the Essential service level for most of the Standards.  Do we have to reach for the Enhanced or Exemplary Tier levels? 

No. It is up to each library, and their governing authority, to determine which level of service would best meet their community's needs. 

What if our library meets the Essential Tier for some Standards and Enhanced or Exemplary for others?  Is that a concern? 

No. Many libraries may find that they meet different Tier levels, depending on community focus and other factors.  It is up to the library and its governing authority to determine what levels of service they hope to achieve. 

Does my library have to meet every Indicator to meet the Outcome? 

No. Each library works within a local set of constraints and opportunities and thus libraries are not required to meet every Indicator within a particular Tier, but rather most of those Indicators based on local library needs. When most of these Indicators are met, the Outcome cab be realized for the Tier level.  


What is the Standards Assessment Tool? 

Libraries can assess how they are meeting the Standards by utilizing a self-assessment tool, accessible through LibPAS. This tool will provide the mechanism for libraries to record a response for each Indicator to determine the Tier level for which the Outcome can be realized. Selected responses include: Achieved, In-Progress, Future Goal and Not Applicable. Governance will require Yes/No responses as this standard includes laws to which all public libraries must comply. 

What custom reports will the Assessment Tool provide? 

The Assessment Tool provides custom report templates to include: one-page summary for use as a handout for boards or local officials, full report including responses to all Indicators, current to prior year assessment to see change, comparison report based on library type, service population and/or per capita budget.  

I am a community member.  Can I use these Standards to assess my public library? 

No. These Standards are written as a self-assessment tool for libraries, their staff and governing bodies, who are best positioned to assess their internal policies and procedures, and operational inputs and outputs. The public can use these Standards to understand best library practices. 

Access and Training 

How will the Standards be accessible? 

The Standards are accessible as both a downloadable document and online access through the State Library of North Carolina website.

Currently, there are no plans to print and distribute copies of the Standards. 

Will training be offered for the Standards? 

Yes.  The State Library of North Carolina will be offering training on how to utilize the self-assessment tool through LibPAS and other collaborative learning opportunities. 



How do I provide feedback or comments on the Standards?   

To provide feedback, can email with “STANDARDS FEEDBACK” in the subject line.   


What if I have a great Helpful Resource to recommend? 

In the spirit of creating a dynamic set of standards, we encourage library community members to suggest additional resources for potential inclusion in subsequent editions of this document.  You may provide suggestions to with "STANDARDS RESOURCE SUGGESTIONS" in the subject line. 


What if I have other questions? 

You may send questions to with "STANDARDS QUESTIONS" in the subject line.