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Oregon Library Laws - History
Library Laws Table of Contents

Introduction Related Oregon Laws
Oregon Revised Statutes Other Resources
Oregon Administrative Rules History
Attorney General Opinions      - Timeline of Oregon Library Law

Oregon public libraries have had a rich and varied history.  Even before Oregon officially attained statehood, Oregonians demonstrated their desire for public libraries.  We have since advanced from having a few small subscription libraries in the 1800s to today having hundreds of public, school, academic, special, and tribal libraries, ranging from the huge to the tiny. 
The first public library law was enacted in 1901.  This law enabled incorporated cities to levy a special tax of $0.20 per $1,000 of assessed property value that would be specifically set aside for library services.  The timeline that follows shows how public library laws have developed since then, including the year the law passed, the House or Senate bill number, and the effects of the law.  Many milestone library events are included here, with laws that authorized district libraries, exempted library records from disclosure, and granted more power to library boards.
For your convenience, we have also included links to further explanatory materials.  Where possible, we have also linked to the original text of the laws.  The information in this timeline has primarily been drawn from the Laws of the State of Oregon, which provide the text of the laws passed during each legislative session.

Timeline of Oregon Library Law

Year Bill No.  What the Law Did
1854 N/A Historical note: The property tax exemption for libraries  actually predates the public libraries in Oregon.  The exemption was included in the laws governing the Oregon Territory in 1854.
1901 H.B. 2 Authorized incorporated cities to levy taxes to create public libraries and sets out provisions for the governance and maintenance of said libraries.  Taxes were not  to exceed $0.20 per $1,000 of assessed property value.  Cities could also contract with an association that already managed a library.
Note: This law, primarily advocated by the Oregon Federation of Women's Clubs, was partially modeled on a similar law in Wisconsin.
Interested in reading Oregon's original library law?  Read the PDF copy.
1903 H.B. 83 Eliminated the cap on the tax rate for city libraries, established in H.B. 2 (1901).
1903 H.B. 108 Authorized counties with 50,000 or more inhabitants to levy taxes for a county-wide public library system located at the county seat. Taxes were not to exceed $0.20 per $1,000 of assessed property value.  Counties could also contract with an association that already managed a library.
Note: At the time, only Multnomah County satisfied the population criterion.
1911 H.B. 42 Authorized counties with 50,000 or more inhabitants to levy separate taxes and accept donations for a "Public Library Building Fund."  Such a tax was not to exceed $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value and could only be used for facilities built at the county seat.  The fund could only be spent by the county court for building libraries at the county seat.
Note: At the time, only Multnomah County satisfied the population criterion.  This law was passed in part to take advantage of donations from Andrew Carnegie.
1911 H.B. 237 Eliminated the population requirement for county libraries, allowing any library in the state to create a county library system.  The law also raised the maximum tax rate for a county library system to $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value and allowed for branch libraries as well.  This change did not apply to the special tax for public library construction (see H.B. 42 above).
1913 H.B. 110 Prohibited public libraries from circulating books to people with tuberculosis.
1913 S.B. 62 Authorized counties to create publicly-accessible farm libraries, with materials relating to agriculture and animal husbandry.
1915 H.B. 213 Eliminated the population and county seat requirements for creating "Public Library Building Funds," established in H.B. 42 (1911).  This enabled any county to levy special building taxes and authorized large counties to use such funds to build branch libraries.
Note: Because of this law, other libraries were able to take advantage of Carnegie donations.
1919 H.B. 21 Authorized counties of 100,000 or more inhabitants to levy an additional tax of $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value for the purpose of constructing new library buildings.  This amount was in addition to the $1.50 per $1,000 that could already be assessed for library construction under H.B. 42 (1911).  The law also forbade libraries from using "Public Library Building Fund" monies to pay non-library associations.
Note: At the time, only Multnomah County satisfied the population criterion.
1919 H.B. 373  Significantly revised and edited previous library laws.  The law did the following: authorized cities and counties to contract with other public libraries to offer services; granted library boards independent authority to purchase property; transferred authority and responsibilities from municipal and county councils to library boards; enabled cities with established libraries and 4,000 or more inhabitants to withdraw from county library systems; repealed the farm library law; reduced cap on the tax rate for library construction to $1.00 per $1,000 of assessed property value, thus amending H.B. 42 (1911) and repealing H.B. 21 (1919).
1921 S.B. 203 Required libraries with less than $2,500 in annual income to only purchase books recommended by the ALA, State Library, or school districts.
1927 S.B. 284 Authorized cities that had withdrawn from county systems to contract with school districts to offer library services.
1929 H.B. 505 Eliminated the cap on county library system tax rate established in H.B. 237 (1911).
1941 H.B. 158 Authorized counties without libraries to contract with other counties to offer library services to their residents.
1953 H.B. 628 Required public library boards to report to their respective counties and cities on the fiscal year instead of on the calendar year.
1955 S.B. 159 Authorized county libraries to collaborate to establish regional public library systems.
Note: No county libraries appear to have taken advantage of this law.
1961 S.B. 134 Shifted State Library responsibilities away from traveling libraries and instead empowered the State Library Trustees to fund demonstration projects to encourage library service.  The law also authorized unincorporated cities to levy taxes for libraries, allowed for variable-sized library boards, and eliminated the cap on tax levies for raising county library building funds established in H.B. 373 (1919).
1965 H.B. 1260 Adopted the Interstate Library Compact.
1967 H.B. 1010 Authorized school districts to contract with established public libraries to offer library services to district members.
1971 H.B. 1514 Authorized school districts to establish public libraries.
1973 S.B. 534 Authorized county service districts for library services to be formed within the jurisdiction of local government boundary commissions.
1975 S.B. 160 Authorized community college districts to establish public libraries.
Note: To date, only Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service (CCRLS) has taken advantage of this law.
1975 S.B. 444 Exempted public libraries from prosecution under obscenity and obscenity distribution laws.
1975 S.B. 21 Significantly revised and edited previous library laws.  The law did the following: redefined "public library;" eliminated requirement that public libraries be free, which had been in effect since the original 1901 laws; revised petition requirements for establishing a public library; required that every public library have a separate governing board, unless otherwise established at its creation; required that public libraries submit annual reports to the State Library; altered wording of statutes to instead refer to "local government units."
1977 S.B. 23 Established State financial assistance program for public libraries to encourage resource-sharing, extend access to those without library services, and create new library programs and services.
1979 H.B. 2046 Eliminated requirement that library county service districts be located within the jurisdiction of a boundary commission, established in S.B. 534 (1973).
1979 S.B. 31 Established public library per capita grant program.
1981 H.B. 2679 Authorized libraries to exempt their records from public disclosure.  Under this law, disclosure may still have been required if doing so was within the public interest.
1981 H.B. 2823 Authorized the creation of special districts for library services.  This law also established specific structures and procedures for library districts, including the governance structure, election details, and finances.
1983 H.B. 2489 Changed the number of board members on city, county, and county service district library boards.  Previously, city boards had 5 members and county and county service district boards had 5 or 7.  This law stated that boards should consist of at least 5 and no more than 9 members.
1987 S.B. 794 Authorized district libraries to create multicounty library districts.
Note: To date, no district libraries have taken advantage of this law.
1991 H.B. 2681 Exempted public libraries from prosecution under child pornography laws.
1991 H.B. 2978 Increased the maximum number of board members on a city, county, or county service district governing board to 15.
1993 S.B. 20 Established State Library interlibrary loan assistance program for public and academic libraries.  The program reimburses libraries a portion of costs if they lent more materials from other libraries than they borrowed.
Note: The program established by this law was more commonly referred to as the net lender reimbursement program.
1993 S.B. 22 Shifted focus of public library per capita grant program, concentrating on services for children with an emphasis on preschool children.
Note: The program established by this law was later named the Ready to Ready grant program.
1995 S.B. 157 Authorized libraries to exempt their records  from public disclosure unconditionally, regardless as to the public interest.
2003 S.B. 12 Required that libraries participating in State Library assistant programs offer interlibrary loan services to other libraries.  In addition, the law eliminated the net interlibrary lender program, provided for cooperative electronic database licensing and reference services, authorized the State Library to offer assistance for ground delivery of library services, and extended access to State Library assistance to school libraries
2005 H.B. 2674 Extended access to State Library assistance, such as database licensing  and LSTA grants, to libraries operated by federally-recognized Indian tribes in Oregon.