Governing Accounting Standards Board (GASB) 

Governing Accounting Standards Board requirements can send libraries into a tailspin without solid guidance from a pro. We are also familiar with other aspects of the GASB requirements for libraries.  If you just found out the following or something equally mystifying:

” Your CAFR has problems regarding OPEB requirements under GASB Statement # … ” 

The apparently foreign language is “accountantese.”  If you do not speak it, we can help.  A lot of harm has come to unwary librarians regarding pension liabilities and other public employee benefits, among other elements of GASB statements.  By the way, OPEB refers to “Other Post-employment Benefits”

  • Need help with GASB Statements No. 43 or No. 45?
  • How about Statement No. 50, Pension Disclosures?   Where we learn that “in order to more closely align financial reporting requirements for pensions with those for OPEB and to provide enhanced information in the notes to financial statements and required supplementary information (RSI) for users of government financial statements.”  

We are not accontants, but we do speak some accontantese, and we are very fluent in Librarianese.  If you need help because of trouble with the city manager, accountant, or auditor, give us a call.  We may be able to help.

Information on GASB 34 is included below.


by Thomas J. Hennen Jr. A web sidebar and FAQ


The article, “Do You Know the Real Value of Your Library?” appears in the June 15, 2001 edition of Library Journal.

This web page provides updated information for librarians concerned with implementation for the new GASB 34 accounting rules.  It will be revised periodically as new information is obtained.

GASB 34 (pronounced to rhyme with The Great Gatsby) is a set of accounting rules, considered by accountants to be the most monumental change in government financial reporting in American history. The new rules may prove hazardous or helpful to public libraries—depending on the knowledge base that library planners bring to the table.

According to the rules, when auditors prepare the annual audit (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, they will be required to capitalize and depreciate library book and materials collections.  The author is developing a spreadsheet program for implementing the initial and ongoing capitalization and depreciation of library collections.  For further information, contact him at:

What’s GASB?

Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) is not a government agency, but rather a nonprofit agency. It issued its first concept statement regarding this issue in 1987 and unanimously adopted this new financial reporting model on June 10, 1999, after 10 years of development. The organization operates with donated funds collected on its behalf by the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF) and supplemented with proceeds from sales of its documents. Their official web site is at:

What should be included as assets in a library according to GASB 34?

The building, the land it is on, shelving, and major equipment, for sure.  Computer and other equipment with a useful life of less than a year or a unit cost of over $5,000 need not be included.

Should library collections be counted as capital in the annual audit?

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board says that library materials collections must be capitalized and depreciated. 

The National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers (NASACT)indicates that library collections should be completely capitalized.   On the other hand, Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, says “The state’s methodology for library books and materials will be to classify them as inexhaustible assets that should not be depreciated. Library books and materials have an economic benefit or service potential that is used up slowly and their estimated useful lives are extraordinarily long.

Where can I find more written information on GASB 34?

The GASB staff has developed a series of guides to financial statements designed especially for financial information users. Three guides focus on specific governmental entities (local governments, state governments, public school districts) and are aimed at a wide range of readers, from the average citizen to the experienced, non-financial public manager. More information is available at their site at:

How is the MD&A – Management Discussion and Analysis changed under GASB 34?  And what IS an MDA anyway?

Cities and other agencies, including libraries, must provide an “easy to read” assessment of the financial results for the entity for the previous year. This section will be subject to review by auditors, providing assurance that you are telling the truth about your financial condition. This may be the spot to make the case for a new building or automation upgrade. It could also be where library foes plant the doubts about the need for a new building or server.  Information about GASB in (relatively) plain English can be found at the GASB site at:

What is the cost for library buildings and spending on library capital costs nationally?

Nationally it appears that library buildings cost $200 to $300 per square foot (including equipment and technology).  National data for building size are erratic and incomplete, but Library Journal takes a stab at building costs annually.

For those states with data, the norm for size appears to be somewhere between 0.8 and 1.9 square feet per capita. A reasonable cost per square foot, amortized over a 20 to 40-year period would yield a target sum.  A ten-year trend analysis on Wisconsin libraries by the author indicates that roughly 16 cents was expended on declared capital costs for every one operating dollar.  National data examined by Hennen provides a similar amount.

Is there more information on GASB?

The Government Financial Officers Association covers the issues well at:



Understanding Your Library’s Financial Audit

Dennis Carrigan University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky,

Public Library Quarterly

Volume 34, 2015 – Issue 4

Pages 291-309 | Received 01 Aug 2015, Accepted 01 Sep 2015, Published online: 08 Dec 2015


This article is intended to help libraries face routine financial audits. Public libraries fall into three categories: departments of local government, nonprofits, and “special district governments” (U.S. Census Bureau 2012). When libraries that are “special district governments” undergo financial audit, they are subject to rigorous standards, known as generally accepted accounting principles, of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. The independent auditors who perform financial audits are also subject to standards, known as generally accepted government auditing standards, of the Government Accountability Office. The author shows librarians how to use the audit to promote their reputation as first-rate public library money managers.

Dennis Carrigan

Dennis Carrigan was assistant director of the University of Kentucky School of Library and Information Science from 1986 until he retired on June 30, 2011. During that time he taught several courses, including the popular public libraries course. In 2009 he created a course, Public Libraries and Business Management, which he continues to teach each spring as a part-time instructor in the school.