Nuts and Bolts of Creating Policy

Policy making is one of the board's most important functions. The board is responsible for establishing written policies to govern and guide all phases of library operation, both internal and external.

Policy statements must be tailored to local conditions and needs, and express a true commitment to service and leadership. For city libraries, it is advisable to inform the city council about policies that are potentially controversial. Governing authorities may be questioned by the community and should be cognizant of policy rationale or revisions of policy that could cause public inquiry.

Types of Library Policies

Two major categories:

  • External Policies, govern service to the community, other libraries, agencies, etc.
  • Internal Policies, govern the management of the library system.

Important policies that every library should have:

  1. Board By-Laws. These are the rules under which the board will operate. It describes the board offices and the duty of each office, the rules under which regular and special meetings will be held, the standing committees of the board (if any), and any other permanent operating procedures for the board itself.
  2. Personnel. This policy includes the duties and powers of the staff, job descriptions, information on evaluation and discipline of staff members, grievance procedures, and description of benefits. Sometimes salary information is also included.
  3. Collection Development. This describes the kinds of materials that will and will not be added to the collection, based on community needs and interests. It will give the criteria that will be used in selecting these materials and will tell who is responsible for this selecting. It will explain how gift materials will be handled, how the collection will be weeded and how challenges to materials will be met.
  4. Operational Policies. This group of policies will include information about when the library will be opened and closed, circulation procedures and loan periods. They will explain who has the right to use the library and what fines or fees will be charged. They will also explain what the staff should do in case of particular kinds of emergencies, and will describe what is and is not acceptable patron behavior in the library.
  5. Program Policies. These policies explain what kind of programs, both for children and adults, the library will have; they will describe who can attend these programs and who is responsible for organizing them and putting them on. If the library has a meeting room or special equipment for meetings, it will describe who can use these resources.

Policy Malpractice

To avoid "policy malpractice," board members might ask the following questions:

  • Is this an instant policy?
  • Is this a dictatorial policy?
  • Is this an illegal policy?
  • Is this a sloppy policy?
  • Is this a contradictory policy?
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