Administrative Read Reference



Because library boards of trustees frequently take their legal actions by means of ordinances and resolutions, as well as by regulations, policies, and motions, and these two devices are difficult or confusing to distinguish, it may help to consider their similarities and differences.


Both are written instruments, typically prepared in advance of a meeting or consideration, though both may be revised or edited immediately prior to adoption, so long as the product is clearly understood by the voting trustees and the public. With very few exceptions, both are adopted based on a majority vote of at least a quorum of members. Both are to be numbered serially, dated, and signed by the board president and secretary. Although the method of "serial numbering" is not specifically set by law and there is some variance in use, the most common numbering used is two digits for the fiscal year involved and the actual consecutive number for that item. For instance the number "14-02" would represent the second item adopted in the fiscal year of 2014. Typically, though not necessarily, the serial numbering system in use does not separate ordinances from resolutions, meaning 14-02 might be an ordinance and 14-03 might be a resolution, though these details are not set by law but by local policy and practice.

Both are to be stored in such a way as to be safe from loss or destruction, preserved, available for public inspection or review. In this way they mirror meeting minutes, and frequently the official originals of all three are preserved and stored together, chronologically. Together they are the most formal means and methods for the library boards of trustees to take action, and, along with motions, seconds, and voting records at meetings and recorded in meeting minutes, they comprise the proper legal manner for board actions.

As a useful point of reference, binding on district libraries but not binding on, and only an analogy for, local libraries, is that provision of the Public Library District Act [75 ILCS 16/1-40] setting forth several specific requirements for Ordinances.


Ordinances are enactments of the board of library trustees that may contain fines, fees and penalty clauses on the general public if authorized or permitted by state statutes, while resolutions cannot. Ordinances may impose or levy taxes and resolutions cannot.

It is said that ordinances enact permanent rules and regulations of general application (though of course they may be amended, altered, and revised) and that resolutions are more temporary in nature, expressing opinions or positions of the board, extending commendation, sympathy or support, or requesting action by others.

Usage or role

Although the role or use of ordinances and resolutions is not at all clear, the most decisive and useful tool or reference point in determining which should be used is to consider the words or labels used in the statute or law authorizing the actions, wherever possible. Frequently, that origin will indicate that an ordinance or resolution should be used. For instance, in 75 ILCS 16/30-85, district libraries are authorized to "enact a budget and appropriation ordinance," not a resolution. In 75 ILCS 16/30-95 the district board is authorized to create and maintain a working cash fund "by ordinance," not a resolution. However, in 75 ILCS 16/30-100, the district board is authorized to abolish a working cash fund "by resolution," not by an ordinance. And in 75 ILCS 16/40-50, the section contains a mixture because the district board is authorized "by ordinance" to establish a special reserve fund, but then within two years of the adoption of the ordinance establishing the special reserve the section says the board must have "resolved to develop and adopt a plan," implying that a resolution for the plan component is to be used.

Similarly, for local libraries, which due to the role and presence of their "host" corporate authorities have far fewer uses for ordinances in their statutes, in 75 ILCS 5/4-14, the statute authorizes the board "by resolution" to provide for the payment of judgments, liabilities settlements, or contracts for insurance coverage. Section 75 ILCS 5/4-13 authorizes the local library board to create and maintain a working cash fund, though "by resolution" and not by an ordinance (unlike the district section). Finally, in both 75 ILCS 5/4-15 and 75 ILCS 5/5-7 of the Local Library Act, in reference to the budget and appropriation and tax levy there are uses of the term "ordinance" to accomplish these, though both are by the corporate authorities not the library board itself.

In general, if the method or instrument to be used is NOT specified, noted, or even implied by the language of the authorizing statute, or some other law, then the power can be exercised either by a resolution or an ordinance.

Finally, it might also be helpful to remember the definition of these terms in the Public Library District Act, though these are not technically binding on local libraries. "Ordinance" is defined in 75 ILCS 16/1-5 as "an enactment, adopted by majority vote of a board, that applies to the public generally and that implements, applies, or prescribes conduct, imposes a tax, imposes a fee or fine, or assesses a penalty or that otherwise affects the rights of the public concerning the use or operation of a library." And that section defines a "resolution" to mean "a statement, adopted by majority vote of a board, that establishes library policy and internal procedures for governance of a library."