Sustainable Organization

Many North Carolina public libraries have served as pillars of their communities for decades. This long-term sustainability depends on a strong governing structure; a dedicated and well-trained staff reflective of their community; ongoing, community-based planning efforts; and written, transparent policies detailing library philosophy and methods of conducting business.

Tab/Accordion Items

Outcome 1:

The library is legally established and operates in compliance with all local, state, and federal laws and regulations, ensuring public confidence in the effective stewardship of public funds.


Number Indicator
1.1 The library complies with all applicable State Library laws
1.2 The library complies with all other applicable North Carolina Laws
1.3 The library complies with all Federal Laws

North Carolina's public library systems are governed by a variety of local structures, including Governing Boards, Advisory Boards, or City or County governments. The multiplicity of structures, therefore, do not align well with a series of Tiered indicators but are instead subject to state library laws and codes included below. These laws and codes ensure that libraries are responsive to their communities and are managed in a way that provides transparency and accountability to taxpayers.

The laws and codes, particularly those related to State Aid to Public Libraries, contain requirements including:

  • Public library services shall be provided from at least one designated facility with a cataloged collection that is open to the public a minimum of 40 hours per week
  • Employ a full-time library director (minimum 35 hours/week) having or eligible for North Carolina public librarian certification
  • Secure operational funds from government sources at least equal to the average amount budgeted and available for expenditure the previous three years.  . . . State funds shall not replace local funds budgeted and available for expenditure for public library operations.

Links to all applicable laws and codes are included below. 

State Library Laws

North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) and North Carolina Administrative Codes (NCAC) that govern public libraries:

Other Applicable North Carolina Laws
Federal Laws
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides information and technical assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons
Helpful Resources

Top of Page

The library is an institution of education and empowerment for the community. To create this culture of learning, the library hires skillful, dedicated staff who are afforded the tools and supports, including fostering an environment of mutual respect and cooperation, to ensure ongoing learning and skill-building. 

Outcome 2:

The library is sufficiently staffed with personnel who reflect the diversity of the community and participate in professional development to provide quality service to the community.


Number Indicator

Staffing meets a standard per 25,000 population of:

  • 2.5 ALA-MLS staff
  • 7.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) – includes ALA-MLS staff

Paid staff are present during all business hours.

2.2 All state and federal laws in recruiting, hiring, and terminating employees are followed.
2.3 Written job descriptions are used to hire, develop goals, and conduct performance evaluations.
2.4 The library creates human resource policies or an Employee Handbook for employee orientations. Review for updates on a regular basis.
2.5 Orientation for new staff includes equity, diversity, and inclusion awareness training.
2.6 Paraprofessional/support staff participate annually in at least 5 hours of professional learning.
2.7 Professional staff participate annually in at least 20 hours of professional learning.
2.8 The library conducts a diversity audit of their staff to determine its fit with the community’s profile.


Number Indicator

Staffing meets a standard per 25,000 population of:

  • 5 ALA-MLS staff
  • 12.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) – includes ALA-MLS staff
2.10 Inclusive hiring practices are utilized, including a diverse hiring committee.
2.11 The library develops a staffing plan that addresses job descriptions, competencies, organizational development, and succession planning.
2.12 The library ensures all employees are proficient in carrying out the library’s values and philosophy.
2.13 Paraprofessional/support staff participate annually in at least 10 hours of professional learning.
2.14 Professional staff participate annually in at least 30 hours of professional learning.
2.15 The library provides equity, diversity, and inclusion training to the staff every two years.
2.16 The library actively recruits and employs staff representative of their community demographics, with a focus on cultural and multilingual diversity.


Number Indicator

Staffing meets a standard per 25,000 population of:

  • 10 ALA-MLS staff
  • 20 full-time equivalent (FTE) – includes ALA-MLS staff
2.18 The library actively recruits and considers diverse candidates for job positions, including bilingual candidates.
2.19 The library provides trained professional staff in areas such as adult services, youth services, IT, and/or Outreach.
2.20 The library provides in-house and continuing education activities for staff, trustees, and volunteers.
2.21 Paraprofessional/support staff participate annually in at least 20 hours of professional learning.
2.22 Professional staff participate annually in at least 40 hours of professional learning.
2.23 The library creates policies and strategies for strengthening and maintaining organizational diversity.
Helpful Resources
  • Library Competencies (American Library Association) Core competencies for professionally trained staff including Librarians Serving Children and Youth in Public Libraries, Reference and User Services Librarians, Developing Core Leadership Competencies, and Core Competencies of Librarianship.
  • State Library of North Carolina Continuing Education The State Library offers a wide variety of continuing education opportunities, including links to archived webinars, upcoming online courses, and other web-based training resources.
  • Project Ready: Reimagining Equity & Access for Diverse Youth Project Ready offers free, online professional development modules for librarians and other professionals interested in improving their knowledge about race and racism, racial equity, and culturally sustaining pedagogy.
  • NC LIVE Training for librarians and library staff through NC LIVE, a statewide library cooperative supporting 200+ public and academic libraries across North Carolina. 
  • OCLC WebJunction Training Resources OCLC offers resources, including free training, to strengthen library staff members' knowledge, skill, and confidence.

Libraries earn the public trust by being accountable and transparent about the use of public money.  North Carolina public libraries are primarily supported by local tax revenues. The library governing authority seeks and secures funding from public and private sources and monitors and expends these funds with integrity and to support the goals of the library. Donations, endowments, grants, and State Aid supplement but do not replace local funding.

Outcome 3:

The community is effectively served by a library that is appropriately funded and transparently administered to meet community needs.


Number Indicators
3.1 The library is in compliance with 07 NCAC 02I.0200 - State Aid to Public Libraries, which establishes qualifications for State Aid grant eligibility and approved uses, including requirements for local government funding, salaries, etc. (CODE).
3.2 The library follows fiscal procedures consistent with local, state, and federal government requirements.
3.3 The library prepares an annual budget based on the library's strategic planning goals and objectives.
3.4 The library director provides written financial reports for review and communicates regularly on financial matters.
3.5 The library develops a long-range capital plan for the library and updates it on an annual basis.
3.6 The library submits an annual application for State Aid and Public Library Survey to the State Library (CODE).
3.7 The library submits a full audit of the library's finances annually to the State Library (CODE).


Number Indicators
3.8 The library fosters community financial investment in the library through Friends of the Library groups, foundations, philanthropists, donations, and gift program, etc.
3.9 The library applies for local, state, or national grants that are supplemental to local government funding.
3.10 The library sustains or increases supplemental funds from local, state, or national sources each year.


Number Indicators
3.11 The library establishes and maintains an endowment to provide enhancements to basic services.
3.12 The library develops partnerships with other local government or nonprofit agencies with aligned missions and goals to apply for additional funding opportunities.
3.13 The library explores group purchases and collective bargaining opportunities in order to expend funds effectively and efficiently.
Helpful Resources

In addition to managing the day-to-day concerns of the library community, libraries must continually assess both the changing needs of their stakeholders and the changing delivery mechanisms of library service. Technology, evolving expectations of libraries, and natural and community health disasters demand forward-thinking planning that builds upon community and library traditions.

Outcome 4:

The library develops and implements a dynamic planning process that reflects strategies based on community needs and priorities.


Number Indicators
4.1 The library develops a comprehensive strategic plan that identifies the library's strategies for achieving goals and objectives based on community needs and interests.
4.2 The library's planning process includes significant community feedback gathered through focus groups, surveys, interviews, patron comments, staff observations, and usage statistics.
4.3 The library's strategic plan includes specific goals for surveying community diversity.
4.4 The library's planning includes facilities planning. (See Facilities, Design)
4.5 The library's strategic plan is updated every five years (CODE).


Number  Indicators
4.6 The library's strategic plan articulates a method for reflecting the demographic, ethnic, and social diversity of its community and regularly reviews and evaluates the linguistic, ethnic, and cultural diversity of its community.
4.7 The library's strategic plan is reviewed annually by board members and staff, including evaluation of progress toward goals.
4.8 The strategic plan and annual review of progress are reported to the governing authority and made available in hard copy or online for the community.
4.9 The library's planning process includes discussion of systemic racism and racial equity.


Number Indicators
4.10 The library uses its strategic plan and annual review of progress to determine whether additional funding is necessary, and if so, pursues additional funding through grant writing, private fundraising, or increased tax support, as necessary.

The library develops a Technology Strategic Plan at least once every three years, with at least one staff member keeping ongoing track of trends in library technology. In preparing to do so, the library regularly tracks the following metrics: 

  • Number of hours public computers and other devices are in use by patrons
  • Average wait times for public computers and other devices
  • Number of wireless sessions
  • Number of printing sessions originating from patrons' laptops or mobile devices
  • Number and type of e-resources (e.g., databases, e-books and online periodicals, movies) utilized
  • Number of attendees in technology classes
  • Number/type of one-one-one technology help sessions
  • Number/type of online reference requests (See Technology)
Helpful Notes

While a library's strategic plan generally focuses on those areas of primary interest as identified by library staff, board, patrons, and other community members, some potential areas for consideration might include:

  • Administration and Finance/Fundraising
  • Advocacy Efforts
  • Collections Management
  • Community Partnerships
  • Disaster Readiness
  • Personnel Management
  • Preservation Planning
  • Public Services
  • Public Relations
Helpful Resources


Written policies provide a foundational and transparent resource for communicating expectations of all members of the library community, including staff, boards, patrons, volunteers, donors, and others.  Such policies should be considered "living" documents that evolve as expectations, priorities, or environmental factors such as technology or applicable laws change.

NOTE: For simplicity, references to Policies include both Policies and Procedures.

Outcome 5

The library develops transparent policies representative of sound management practices to ensure efficient and effective library operations.


Number  Indicators
5.1 The library has a written set of policies to govern library personnel, operations, and services which are transparent and easily accessible to library staff and the public.
5.2 Library policies are written to emphasize that basic services are free and welcome to all.
5.3 The library complies with North Carolina law regarding confidentiality of customer records (NCGS 125-19).
5.4 Policies are updated to reflect changes in applicable local, state, and federal laws, and with relevant court decisions.
5.5 The library reviews all policies at least every five years, updating as needed.


Number Indicators
5.6 The library establishes an Information Security Policy.
5.7 The library considers the use of fine-free policies. While patrons would be liable for lost books, the library would be considered whole when the item is returned.
5.8 The library reviews all policies at least every three years, updating as needed.


Number Indicators
5.9 The library reviews all policies every year, updating as needed.
5.10 Library policies are made available in multiple languages, as appropriate for the community.
5.11 Library policies are reviewed and revised for implicit biases and barriers to service.
Helpful Resources

Policy Topics

The library may choose to include the following policy topics:

  • Personnel policies, including hiring, evaluation, salary, retirement, employee conduct, etc.
  • Circulation policies, including loan periods, fines, overdues, etc.
  • Collection development policies, including intellectual freedom, gifts and donations, weeding, etc.
  • Facility use policies, including accessibility, displays, meeting room use/signups, etc.
  • Public safety policies, including unattended children, inappropriate behavior, emergency, and disaster response, etc.
  • Volunteers/Friends of the Library (See Community Engagement, Volunteers/FOL)