Administrative Read Reference

Public Libraries and the Law

Intergovernmental Cooperation

There are an estimated 7,000 to 9,000 units of local government, school districts, and municipalities in Illinois (actually too many to accurately count, as the various agencies of the state all use different numbers), so the topic of Intergovernmental Cooperation and the manifestation of that through Intergovernmental Agreements is an important matter. The 1970 Illinois Constitution expressly provides, in Article VII, Section 10 (a):

"Units of local government and school districts may contract or otherwise associate among themselves, with the State, with other states and their units of local government and school districts, and with the United States to obtain or share services and to exercise, combine, or transfer any power or function, in any manner not prohibited by law or by ordinance. Units of local government and school districts may contract and otherwise associate with individuals, associations, and corporations in any manner not prohibited by law or by ordinance. Participating units of government may use their credit, revenues, and other resources to pay costs and to service debt related to intergovernmental activities."

In other words, under this Constitutional authorization, public libraries and other units of government in Illinois have vast authority, limited only where prohibited by specific laws and ordinances, to combine or share powers and functions. This provision does NOT create new powers for those units or allow them to create new powers that otherwise do not exist, but it does allow the combination or sharing of existing powers almost without limit.

In furtherance of this Constitutional provision and consistent therewith, the legislature has also created the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act in Illinois [5 ILCS 220/1 et seq.] which similarly provides in Section 5 that:

"Any one or more public agencies may contract with any one or more other public agencies to perform any governmental service, activity, or undertaking or to combine, transfer, or exercise any powers, functions, privileges, or authority which any of the public agencies entering into the contract is authorized by law to perform, provided that such contract shall be approved by the governing bodies of each party to the contract and except where specifically and expressly prohibited by law. Such contract shall set forth fully the purposes, powers, rights, objectives, and responsibilities of the contracting parties."

As a result of these authorizations, and likely in part as a result of the thousands of Illinois units of local government, there have been countless intergovernmental agreements created over the years covering a wide divergence of topics or issues, and likely tens of thousands of such agreements are currently in place on any number of subjects. Examples of such range from insurance pooling agreements, building use and sharing agreements (as in the nature of leases), loaning or sharing employees, multiple joint acquisition of services or operations of programs, "mutual aid" agreements for fire protection and even law enforcement, and many others.

In addition, and consistent with the general concept of intergovernmental cooperation but actually in some ways far broader, are the specific contracting provisions for public libraries found in the Local Library Act [75 ILCS 5/4-7(8)] and the Public Library District Act [75 ILCS 16/30-55.40]. Both of these sections authorize library boards to contract with both public and private corporations and entities (i.e. far broader than just other units of local government), as well as individuals, for the provision of library services or programs and performing any acts necessary and proper to carrying out their responsibilities under the law.

Given the vast variety of such agreements and topics covered, it is not possible to set forth here forms or content provisions for intergovernmental cooperation agreements. However, it is possible to list some of the considerations or elements that may need to be included.

  • A reference to the legal bases for the agreement including the Constitutional provision, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act section, and perhaps the library statutory reference.
  • The identification of the parties, including the various government boards and agencies and the respective roles they will play.
  • The organization of the units, personnel involved, and joint venturing body created.
  • A statement of the purpose of the contract or project.
  • The financing as needed of the project, services, or venture.
  • A statement of responsibility or sharing of liabilities and purchase or provision of insurance coverage.
  • The term or length of the agreement, and any renewals.
  • The identification of any property (real and personality) devoted to the project and/or which is to be acquired for the project and by which party.
  • That Illinois law applies and controls the contract and any provisions found invalid are to be severed from it and what effect such is to have on the overall agreement or venture.