April 4, 2003
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.
I have received your letter in which you requested an opinion concerning "the applicability of the Open Meetings Law and §260-a of the Education Law to the Northern New York Library Network ("the Network"), a not-for-profit educational corporation chartered by the University of the State of New York and established under §255(3) of the Education Law.
The Provisional Charter of the Network, which had been known as the North Country
Reference and Research Resources Council, indicates that its purpose is "to improve reference and research library resources and services, and to provide a means for the development of inter-library cooperative plans and services within the area of the council", which includes seven counties in northern New York. You wrote that the Network is not a library but rather "a reference and research library resources library system" and that its "voluntary membership includes hospital libraries, museum libraries, public libraries, law libraries, public library systems, school library systems, college and university libraries, corporate libraries, and correctional facility libraries."
In this regard, first, the Open Meetings Law is applicable to meetings of public bodies, and §102(2) defines the phrase "public body" to mean:
"...any entity for which a quorum is required in order to conduct public business and which consists of two or more members, performing a governmental function for the state or for an agency or department thereof, or for a public corporation as defined in section sixty-six of the general construction law, or committee or subcommittee or other similar body of such public body."
Based on the foregoing, as a general matter, the Open Meetings Law pertains to governmental bodies. In addition, that statute, which is codified as Article 7 of the Public Officers Law, is applicable to boards of trustees of public libraries pursuant to §260-a of the Education Law, which states that:
"Every meeting, including a special district meeting, of a board of trustees of a public library system, cooperative library system, public library or free association library, including every committee meeting and subcommittee meeting of any such board of trustees in cities having a population of one million or more, shall be open to the general public. Such meetings shall be held in conformity with and in pursuance to the provisions of article seven of the public officers law. Provided, however, and notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision one of section ninety-nine of the public officers law, public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least two weeks prior thereto shall be given to the public and news media at least one week prior to such meeting."
Again, since Article 7 of the Public Officers Law is the Open Meetings Law, meetings of boards of trustees of various libraries, including public libraries that are not-for-profit corporations, must be conducted in accordance with that statute.
As you suggested, the Network does not appear to be a public library system or cooperative library system as those entities are described in §255 of the Education Law, nor is it a public library or a free association library. If that is so, because the network is not a governmental entity, it appears that the meetings of its governing body are not subject to either the Open Meetings Law or §260-a of the Education Law.
Having sought to research the issue, the Network appears to be most analogous to a "reference
and research library resources system", which is defined in §272(2)(a) of the Education Law to mean "a duly chartered educational institution resulting from the association of a group of institutions of
higher education, libraries, non-profit educational institutions, hospitals and other institutions
organized to improve reference and research library resources service." I note, however, that
paragraph (b) of §272(2) indicates that the area served by a reference and research library resources
system "shall include not less than seven hundred fifty thousand persons", which is more than the
Network serves. Nevertheless, again, as I understand its nature, the Network's governing body is not
required to give effect to §260-a of the Education Law or, therefore, the Open Meetings Law.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman