Working Relationship with the Director

The responsibilities of trustees can be divided into four general categories:

  • Policy Development
  • Finance
  • Personnel
  • Community & Public Relations

Cooperation is the key.

The duties and responsibilities of the library board and the library director may appear to overlap. Understanding the differences in function assures teamwork and better library service.

Boards should not run their libraries; they should see that they are run properly. Boards should not attempt to manage their libraries; they must see that the libraries are managed properly.

Policy determination and management are different roles:

  • Policy determination relies heavily on the board's participation and knowledge.
  • Management is the responsibility of the person hired by the library board to administer, direct, or run the library.

Cooperation is the key. See Board Governance Model

Unhealthy Board – Director Relationship

  • The Dominating Director. The director can try to dominate the board. In this situation the director fails to take direction from the board. In some cases, when the board is weak, she or he even tells the board what to do. Where a strong board is involved, each decision becomes a power struggle between the library board and the director.
  • The Dominating Board. The board can try to dominate the director. When this occurs, the board does not listen to the director. Because of this the board may not be informed of problems or important issues. Or the board may become too deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of the library. Staff members become confused about whom they are to take orders from, the director or the board.

Healthy Board – Director Relationship

The answer is simple: mutual understanding and respect. This healthy relationship is shown in the following ways:

  • The board and the director recognize that each has an important role to play in providing library services.
  • The board provides the director with a written job description and evaluates the director's work in a constructive way at least annually.
  • The board does not interfere with the daily operation of the library unless specifically asked by the director. In other words, the board allows the director to do the job s/he was hired to perform.
  • The director keeps the board adequately informed about the operation of the library. S/he recognizes when a decision goes beyond the authority of the staff and takes these issues to the board.
  • The board solicits the director's opinions about all issues upon which they will act. They will especially ask how a specific decision might impact on the daily operation of the library.
  • The director carries out the policy of the board even if s/he does not agree with it. The director, in other words, recognizes that the board has the ultimate legal authority for operating the library.
  • When disagreements occur, they are discussed openly and honestly between the board and the director in the board meetings. Neither the board members nor the director discuss these problems with other members of the public behind each other's back.

The following comparative list shows the division between the complementary roles of the board of trustees and the library administrator:

Board of Trustees Library Director
Employ a competent and qualified library director and pay an adequate salary. Act as technical advisor to the board. Hire and direct subordinate staff members in line with library personnel policies.
Provide adequate compensation and reasonable fringe benefits for all employees. Work for needed improvements in working conditions, salary scales, and fringe benefits.
Provide agreeable working conditions and opportunities for professional growth. Assist in the orientation of new trustees, including introduction to library procedures, departments, and staff.
Provide a planned orientation program for new trustees.  
Develop policies to guide staff selection. Provide the board with recommendations and material for study. Apply guidelines in selecting staff. Take full responsibility for the day-to-day administration of the library.
Provide in-service training for the professional development of staff members on effective implementation of library policies. Whenever possible, provide opportunities for additional education and advancement. Consider establishment of career ladders within the library if possible.  
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