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Trustees and the Board : Getting Started
Page last modified date: 9/26/2012
The library Board is responsible for conducting Board orientation for new trustees. Typically, Board orientation includes a tour of the library, receipt of written materials and a meeting with other trustees. During this orientation period, it is a good idea to have experienced trustees work with new members. An experienced trustee can point out which materials are used most often and which will require further study.
During the library tour, the director can explain how the library works, introduce the staff and demonstrate how the programs and services operate.
Information provided to a new trustee might include the following.
trustee job description
list of important websites where new members can find out information about city, county, Montana library law, and Montana library services
list of Board members and their addresses, phone numbers and email addresses
Board code of ethics
annual calendar of major Board and library activities
minutes of the library Board meetings for the past year
list of committees, job descriptions and current members
written mission statement of the library
copy of the ordinance establishing the library
documents that report the history of the library
long-range plan of the library
current and prior year budgets
financial reports for the past year
timeframe for developing and approving the budget
job description for the director
staff organizational chart, including names
annual reports for the last five years
major contracts the library has with other public or private agencies
marketing materials, brochures or newsletters
The director and a few experienced trustees usually participate in the orientation meeting. It is best if this meeting is scheduled a few days after the tour, which gives new trustees time to review the written materials.
The meeting agenda should include:
discussion of the library's mission, goals and objectives, short- and long-range plans.
explanation of the budget, chart of accounts, sources and location of funding, expenditures and the library's financial status.
review of the past six-months' Board minutes and director's reports to give the new trustee a sense of who the Board members are and how the Board works.
review of the policy manual, explaining policies and procedures.
explanation of reimbursement policy for trustee expenses and the law prohibiting trustees from receiving compensation for their work.
explanation of the library's relationship to local governing authorities, both elected and appointed.
explanation of the library's relationship to its library federation, State Library and state and national associations.
discussion of the respective roles and responsibilities of the trustees and the director, emphasizing that the trustee's responsibilities do not include management of the library. This handbook contains a chart comparing the roles of the board and director. The chart may help with this discussion.
discussion of the roles of trustees as individuals versus the Board, emphasizing that duly appointed individual trustees are only spokespersons for the Board; the Board as a whole has decision-making powers.
review schedule or calendar that explains what decisions the board must make and when
discussion of what is or will be in front of the board in the next 2-3 months, so new trustees have a better idea of where to focus their energies.
Being a public library trustee means being confronted by daunting problems and exciting possibilities. How you respond affects the future of library services in Montana.