For sound reasons, changing the library ordinance is not simple. Most other city ordinances are changed through a vote of the city council. However, substantial changes to the library ordinance such as changing the number of board members, how board members are appointed, or their powers and duties, require a referendum vote. This means the issue is decided by a vote of the people in a city election.
“A proposal to alter the composition, manner of selection or charge of a library board, or to replace it with an alternative form of administrative agency, is subject to the approval of the voters of the city.” (Iowa Code section 392.5)
A frequently asked question about the library ordinance is “Our ordinance states that all seven members of the board shall be residents of the city. We would like one of the board members to be a rural resident. How do we proceed?” Such a change to the library ordinance must be submitted to the voters in a city election. The library board may request that the proposed changes be placed on the ballot. If a majority of the voters approve, the city changes the library ordinance in accord with the proposal.
Iowa Code section 392.5 protects library boards and the powers of library trustees against direct city control over libraries. This protection insulates library governance from political influence and safeguards intellectual freedom.