Policy Development

One of the most important functions of the library board is to establish the policies of the library. Policies can be defined as "a broad course of action selected from alternatives and in light of given conditions, to guide and determine present and future decisions." Policies differ from procedures in that policies are broad and procedures are specific. Policies tend to be more philosophical; procedures more technical.

In public libraries, policies are established by the board with the input of the staff. Procedures, on the other hand, are developed by the staff to carry out the policy. For example, it may be the policy of the library to open at 10 a.m. Procedures include turning on the lights, unlocking the door, and so forth.

Policies are guidelines for making decisions

  • Broadly stated guidelines for actions and decisions.
  • General statement for supporting library operations, rules, regulations and use
  • Basis for procedures but not detailed courses of action
  • Statement in accordance with purpose and legal basis for library
  • Effective tools for transferring decision making to lower levels in the organization
  • Effective or operational the day it is formulated and continued effective until it is revised or deleted
  • Leads to achievements of objectives

Benefits of written policies:

  • They indicate a basic honesty and integrity of the library's intentions
  • They support the overall library plans, goals, and objectives
  • They become available to everyone in the same form
  • They guide the library director and staff in implementation of board decisions
  • They can be referred to so anyone who wishes can check
  • They can be disseminated to all who are affected
  • They provide direction and consistency in day-to-day service to the community and in library operations
  • They can be taught more easily to new employees
  • They can reduce uninformed decision-making and crisis responses to problem situations
  • They can be referred to when misunderstandings occur
  • They can force the board to think more sharply, thus helping achieve further clarity
  • They can protect the rights and ensure fair treatment of all patrons and staff members
  • They generate confidence of all persons in the organization concerning the library's management

To be most effective, policies should be:

  • reflective of the objectives and plans of the library
  • consistent, so efficiency is maintained
  • flexible, so they can be changed as new needs arise
  • distinguishable from procedures
  • written, so they are easily communicated to staff



ICRMP (Idaho County Risk Management Program) Policy Resources – http://icrmp.com/Library/Forms.aspx
WebJunction Policy & Procedures Resources