Library Act and Types of Public Libraries

The Library Act is the provincial public library statute and applies to public libraries only. It was last revised in 2018 and provides for the establishment and operation of library boards, mandates free basic library service and authorizes the provision of provincial grants for public library purposes.

Public libraries share a common mandate under the Act for borrowing to be free of charge to residents of a library service area. There are four types of public libraries: municipal, regional library districts, public library associations, and integrated public library systems. Libraries are led by locally established, autonomous boards as legislated by the Act.

The Act also provides a model of collaboration among library jurisdictions through library federations.

Library Act regulations:

Types of public libraries

British Columbia public libraries are established under the authority of the Library Act. The Act allows for the creation (and continuation) of several types of libraries. Each community determines the type of library system.

Municipal libraries are established by a municipality under section 3. Library board members are appointed by the municipality.

Regional libraries are established when two or more municipalities and one or more regional districts form an agreement, under section 14. These boards are made up of regional and municipal elected representatives from participating local governments.

Public Library Associations (PLAs) are a historic type of library that are recognized by section 31 and represent the majority of libraries. Library board members are elected from among the members of the PLAs and may also consist of elected local government officials. The Act no longer permits the creation of these types of libraries.

Integrated library systems are a historic type of library that are recognized by section 60 and exist only in the Cariboo and Thompson-Nicola Regional Districts. These systems are departments within their regional districts. The Act no longer permits the creation of these types of libraries.

Library federations are established under section 49. A library federation is a group of library boards in a similar geographic area who join together to provide library service to their members and their communities. Federations are managed by a library board and administrated by a coordinator or manager. 

Library federations are different from regional libraries in that they do not operate the local libraries but work together to enhance local library service though a variety of activities such as shared-rotating collections, programming and professional development.

School libraries are managed (including funding and staffing) by school districts and are outside the scope of the Act and Public Libraries Branch.