Trustee Orientation

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.

Library Tour

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.

Board materials

this handbook

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 bylaws

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

Library materials

library policies

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

Orientation Meeting

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.