Welcome the new members of the board by providing the information they need to feel comfortable with their new job and to begin work. Like any new volunteers, trustees will be more productive if they know how the organization functions and what is expected of them.

Plan a step-by-step orientation program.

Let the new trustee know how the introductory activities will be handled. Responsibility for planning and implementing the orientation is shared by the board chairperson, board members, and the library director.

The specifics will obviously vary with the style of the board and the size or type of library. However, the importance of a written orientation plan cannot be overemphasized.


Whenever possible, orientation sessions should begin immediately. A letter should be sent directly after her/his appointment or election, informing the new trustee of the term of her/his position, date and time of board meetings, and general responsibilities before the first meeting. The library director should schedule time to allow the new trustee to ask questions, to develop a rapport with her/him, and to obtain background information.

Orientation Kit and Notebook

A new trustee needs local information to review and consult. Information should be compiled for her/him including:

  • Annual schedule of board meetings
  • List of board members, names, addresses, e-mail addresses and phone numbers
  • Bylaws of the board
  • Organizational chart for library, along with staff levels and pay scales
  • Staff lists, titles, responsibilities, location, job descriptions
  • All policies of library and board including code of ethics, intellectual freedom, personnel, collection development / materials selection, meeting room use, challenged materials, acceptable behavior
  • Strategic plan
  • Most recent library annual report, with prior years for comparison
  • Meeting minutes from the preceding year
  • Current budget and financial reports
  • History of the library and its current goals and objectives
  • Local laws, charter, and contracts pertaining to library
  • Community analyses such as census figures, economic and occupational trends.

New trustees should meet with the library director to learn how the library is:

  • organized and governed
  • funded and budgeted
  • operated day to day
  • serving the needs of the community
  • linked to other resources and groups related to the board of trustees

New trustees should meet with trustee representatives to learn about the board:

  • type of board, (city or district), officers, and committees
  • meeting location, schedule, and operation
  • responsibilities and expectations
  • goals, strategic plans, and projects in progress
  • accomplishments
  • roles of the director-board team

New trustees should tour the library (or libraries) and meet staff members

Introductory Board Meeting

Hold the regular board meeting at a slower pace than usual so that newcomers can ask questions and follow the business. Consider having experienced board members briefly recap activities and accomplishments of the past year.

Adjourn the meeting, then spend time reviewing with the new trustee and ask for opinions and observations.

On-going discussions and informal sessions can be a valuable supplement to the on-the-job training that follows orientation. Pay special attention to your new members.

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