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 and 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 are found in Administrative Rules of Montana 10.102.1158 through 10.102.1162. These were created by a task force of librarians with input from the wider Montana library community, and ask library directors and boards to identify community needs and offer services that meet those needs.

Many of our tribal college libraries provide public library services for community members in their service area. The task force and State Library want to recognize that role and have included tribal college libraries in the current 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.


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

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


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.


The Montana State Library Commission annually recognizes libraries for achieving excellence in serving their communities with the Excellent Library Service Award (the ELSA). 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 receive a certificate from the Commission at the Montana Library Association awards ceremony during the annual conference. 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? Libraries wishing to apply are invited to complete the application

When is the deadline? The deadline for applying is March 1, 2024.

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.


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


Guide to Essential Public Library Standards