Bruce has been a trustees for 7 years, 4 as chair. In his library, trustee is an elected position.
How to be a good trustee:
- Be a passionate advocate for the library. Be a salesperson.
- Talk to staff, know what they’re doing and what their responsibilities are (80% of budget is salaries)
- Communicate! When there is a problem, communication is always the issue.
- Model good behavior in library and advocate in the community (go to library events, say hello to staff, show that you value the time staff take in planning programs)
- Show your appreciation to library staff
- Make sure everyone knows who talks to the media.
- Know your job (many trustees are unaware of the scope of their obligations; training is paramount)
State-wide training for trustees is available in NH. Trustees need to be educated on their area of governance and responsibilities.
- set policy
- hire/evaluate director
- make sure library is adequately funded.
They do not handle general collection development or complaints about staff. There are generally processes for issues like that which the director handles. If trustees need to be informed or pulled into discussion, director will do that
Richard: Current director and has been a trustee, including 4 years as chair.
- Only worked with elected boards, but there are towns where trustees are appointed.
- Stresses the key issue with trustees is keeping them informed. “Trustees live in town. You don’t want someone coming up to a trustee in a supermarket to ask about a library issue that the trustee is unaware of.”
- They need to know about budget, important staff issues, changes to services (the launch of self-checkout), and any bigger patron concerns.
- Orientation for all new trustees is a must and includes introduction to staff and explanation of responsibilities
- Directors should have an agenda for every meeting (must be posted several days before – open meeting law)
- Remember trustees live in town so they are your ambassadors
- Be sure trustees know your vision for your library and provide them with lists of what projects/programs have happened or are on the horizon
- Encourage rotation of the trustee chair. Helps protect trustees from burnout and is good to for the health of board.
- Again, communication is key.
- Go to every Friends meeting. You are giving them an outlook for the library and they approve funds for programs/ equipment.
- Make sure staff knows who Friends are
- Find out what they consider they’re focus (some friends won’t pay for things they consider the responsibility of the town like carpeting)
- If there are issues between Friends and staff, start by reminding everyone that they are there to benefit the library.
- Encourage rotation of involvement and the formation of committees (book sale, fundraising, etc.) to help reduce burnout and keep group healthy
- Recognize friends every chance you get. Plaques on donated equipment, signs at programs
April: Directors, staff, friends and trustees can call/ contact for help.There are also associations for Friends of the Library and Trustees that can help. They also do trustee orientations all over the state. Next one is March 8.
MBLC has help for:
- Board evaluation
- Hiring a director
- Director contracts
- Bylaw and town charter info
- Policy making
- Incorporation process for Friends as well as book sales, fundraising
- Info for new directors
Also made recommendation for
- ALA’s United for Libraries, a resource for friends and trustees and guides.mblc.state.ma.us
- Written communication helps eliminate confusion.Always recognize trustees and friends
Questions from audience:
What recourse do you have for an elected trustee who is not fulfilling duties?
- Bylaws may a collective authority clause to deal with a board member operating outside the board.
- Trustees cannot meet outside officially posted public meetings. It is a violation of public meeting laws. Public can only be excluded during executive session.
What about people who are both on friends and trustees?
- Try sending friends to training or encourage self evaluation.
- Attend meetings of trustees/friends. Try to sway them to embrace new ideas
What about succession planning for friends/trustees?
- Try to markets library and the work of the friends/trustees via Facebook/Twitter.
- Promote those groups at public gatherings.
- Minimize responsibilities by encouraging formation of various committees to spread out work (nomination, fundraising, marketing, etc.)
- Evaluate what skills sets and what demographics do you need represented?
- Appoint alternate trustees who move up after a few years as alternate.
- Find a project/goal that they can accomplish. They need an early win to generate and keep enthusiasm.