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Colorado Public Library Standards

The Colorado Public Library Standards provide both minimum standards for libraries in the Definition of a Public Library in Colorado and developmental standards in which a library can examine its current services and set goals for a better level of service for the local community.

The Colorado Public Library Standards website includes checklists, training, and videos.

Download a PDF of the 2016 Colorado Public Library Standards​.


The standards serve as an important tool in measuring a library’s success in fulfilling its stated mission and role in the community. This document is intended to spark debate, discussion, evaluation, planning, and action in all public libraries. The following principles guided the development:

  • Consider the public library’s role in sustaining a civilized society.
  • Value the public library’s role as a community learning institution.
  • Understand the public library’s role as a reflection of cultural heritage.
  • Recognize the diversity and uniqueness of libraries across the state.
  • Understand the needs of the communities that libraries serve.
  • Value intellectual freedom and access for all to information.
  • Acknowledge the skills, talents, and contributions of library staff.


The goals of the standards are to:

  • Promote quality library service to all Coloradans.
  • Inform community users about what they can expect from their library.
  • Assist library staff in connecting with the communities they serve.
  • Provide an authoritative document to which library administrators and supporters may refer when justifying requests for funds.
  • Assist library leaders in planning, administration, and professional development.

The Colorado public library standards serve as models for services, resources, and information that are available in libraries across the state. They are not meant to stand by themselves; rather, they are intended to enhance local planning efforts crafted to identify service goals that will allow the library to respond to the unique interests and opportunities in its community while achieving a consistent standard of library offerings across the state.

The Standards and Colorado Library Law

Public libraries are established and maintained according to the provisions of the Colorado Library Law (§24-90-101 et seq) which provides a basic definition of a public library. This definition is used to determine eligibility for state funding for library materials, or when libraries receive funding or other services from the State Library. It is also used to determine which libraries are required to provide statistical data in compliance with state and federal requirements.

What are Standards?

The standards represent a snapshot in time. Library planning and operations are inherently fluid in responding to what is sometimes a rapidly changing social, fiscal, and
technological environment.

These standards can inform but do not replace a library’s strategic plan. While the standards attempt to identify current key issues, services, and best practices in Colorado public librarianship, they are not intended to be a detailed road map to each library’s future.

How to Use these Standards

As an aid in planning, the checklists provide the means by which library stakeholders canintrolibstandards discuss and determine how a library addresses or should address each standard category.

These checklists are not intended to be a one-size-fits-all set of elements that all libraries must meet. Some libraries now plan and carry out activities that exceed many or all of those listed, while others may be constrained by resources or circumstances in ways that make achieving many of the basic ones difficult. Every community is different. What is important is that the director, staff, board, and community constantly review where you are, where you want to be, and what it will take to get there. These checklists are intended to provide guidance for that journey.

Supplemental information, like associated webinars and videos, offer resources for addressing some sections. When pertinent, tables are embedded with state and national statistical data. Local libraries will need to decide how best to meet or exceed them for the benefit of their communities. The State Library offers consulting support and resources for meeting standards.

This resource is intended for use by librarians, boards, staff, governing officials, members of funding agencies, and community support groups involved in planning at the local level, and within the context of regional and state library services. For example, library directors may choose to review each standard by bringing them one by one to their board meetings throughout the year. Staff, community members, and other stakeholders are encouraged to attend these discussions about how the standards apply to their library.

Action Items and Next Steps

Ultimately, how library stakeholders view and adopt these standards will determine the actionable next steps important to planning and growing a library’s services and ideas on which to act. For instance, a list of small administrative to-dos, key policies, adjustments, or the need for a more thorough review of existing practices, etc. might turn up. A few major initiatives may float to the top of the planning priority list, such as outcomes that are more specific and metrics to measure progress. Examples may include the creation of a comprehensive risk management strategy that identifies a host of business assets and procedures for assuring their survival.