Golden Rules for Board Members

Twelve Golden Rules for Board Members

  1. A Trustee must have an interest in the library.  Does she or he believe enough in the educational, informational, and recreational role of the library to fight for the library as the church member fights for her or his church, the school person for her or his educational program, the doctor for her or his patient?  It is a duty of the Trustee to do so.
  2. A Trustee must have time to give to the library.  Continuity of policy is almost impossible if a board member is absent two out of three meetings.  No citizen should accept appointment as a library Trustee if she or he does not intend to come regularly to meetings.  Likewise, a Trustee who finds new interests interfering with attendance should resign.
  3. A Trustee must consider the position not a matter of prestige, but an opportunity for courageous and forward-looking efforts to push the library ahead.  An ideal trustee is a good businessperson, is interested in education, has few prejudices, and has good judgment, sound character, common sense, and public spirit.  A Trustee should be chosen with these personal qualities in mind and not because of the church she or he attends, the section of town in which she or he lives, her or his political party affiliations, and so on.
  4. A Trustee must know the law under which the library is organized.
  5. A Trustee serves without compensation.
  6. A Trustee carries a full share of responsibility as a board member, assuring that a few members do not have to do all the work or take all the blame or praise.
  7. A Trustee does not voice her or his opposition or criticism, either publicly or privately, after a policy or rule is adopted by a majority vote of the board.
  8. A Trustee is careful to keep confidential information confidential and does not give out information regarding future board actions or plans.
  9. A Trustee treats the staff members and the librarian in a completely impersonal fashion.  Under no circumstances does a Trustee listen to grievances of staff members or treat individual problems on her or his own.  The library director is in charge of the staff and has administrative control until a grievance is presented to the library board as a whole.
  10. A Trustee should know the funding sources of the library and be familiar with the library budget.
  11. A Trustee must know the needs of the library and community and be aware of trends and new procedures in the library field.  The best and perhaps only way to do this is to read professional library publications, meet with Trustees of other libraries, visit other libraries, and attend the annual conferences and meetings of Trustees and librarians.
  12. A Trustee knows that all powers are always vested in the library board and none at all in the individual board member.  The individual has no power to act for the library in any way, unless authorized by the board itself; it is always the board as a unit that holds the responsibility and the powers.

Excerpted from The Public Library Start-Up Guide by Christine Lind Hage.  Reprinted with permission from Ms. Hage.

Some Additional Guidelines for Trustees

  • Leave the actual management of the library to the library director.  It is his or her responsibility to select library materials, employ the staff, and supervise day-to-day operations.  See Board Governance Model
  • Respect confidential information that is protected by Idaho's Public Records Act, Idaho Code § 74-108:  In addition, do not divulge information regarding future board actions or plans until such action is officially taken.
  • Observe any publicity and information policies of the board and library.  Do not give information individually but refer requests to the library's director or appropriate representative to interpret policies.
  • Do not suggest hiring a relative or two members of the same family as library employees.  See I.C. § 18-1359 for more information.
  • All rules, policies, and assignments directed to the library director must be approved by a quorum of the board at a meeting held under the provisions of chapter 2, title 74, Idaho Code.  All five trustees are equals, so even the chairperson should abide by this rule.
  • Do not hold board meetings without the library director.  See §§ 33-2608 and 33-2721.
  • Complaints from the public are the library director's responsibility.  Continued dissatisfaction and problems should be taken up at the board meeting only if policy revision is necessary or legal ramifications are involved.