Ethical Considerations for Trustees

As a Board member of a public library, you are a public servant. The public expects that your conduct will always be above question and for the public good, not for your own interest or another special interest. What's more, the law demands it.

As mandated by the Constitution of Montana, Montana has a code of ethics that prohibits conflict between public duty and private interest for members of the legislature, state employees and local officers. Under the rules of conduct outlined in this law, trustees cannot disclose or use confidential information acquired in the course of their official duties for personal gain or economic benefit, nor accept gifts of substantial value.

In addition to meeting legal requirements, an effective Board will adopt, and periodically review, its own code of ethics to guide its actions. If your Board does not have a written code of ethics, you might consider the following statements as a starting point:

As a public servant and advocate for the public library, I will:

Work to ensure that the public has equal access to information.

Work to meet the information needs of the whole community.

Resist efforts to censor library materials.

Keep all library policies free of racism, sexism and other bigotry.

As a public servant and representative of the community, I will:

Attempt to interpret the needs of the community to the library and interpret the action of the library to the community.

Represent the whole community to the library and not a particular area or group.

Protect the public's right to open meetings.

Refer complaints about the library to the proper level in the chain of command.

As a member of the library Board, I will:

Listen carefully to other Board members.

Respect the opinions of other trustees.

Support the decisions of the Board.

Recognize that all authority is vested in the Board when it meets in legal session and not with individual Board members.

Be well-informed of developments that are relevant to issues that may come before the Board.

Call to the attention of the Board any issues that may have an effect on the library.

Vote to hire the best possible person to manage the library.

Not interfere with the duties of the director or undermine the director's authority.

Ensure that the library is well maintained, financially secure, growing and always operating in the best interests of the community.

Declare any personal conflicts of interest and avoid voting on issues that appear to be conflicts of interest.

Not use any part of the library for my personal advantage or the personal advantage of my friends or relatives.

Not discuss confidential Board proceedings outside of the Board meeting.

Not promise before a meeting how I will vote on any issue to be decided on during the meeting.

Work to learn more about the job of a trustee and how to do it better.