Please note that this guide should not be used as a source for legal advice. Library directors and trustees should always consult with attorneys for legal matters.
Primary Responsibilities of a Library Board
An ideal Library Board consists of:
New trustees want to be good board members, but they are not always familiar with the ethical concerns of a non-profit board. The library should have an Ethics Statement for Library Trustees and this should be shared with new board members.
ETHICS STATEMENT FOR PUBLIC LIBRARY TRUSTEES - from the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations, a division of the American Library Association
Trustee Selection and Appointment
See SD Codified Law 14-2-35, which specifies the make-up of a public library board.
The chairperson of the board or library director must notify the appointing body of vacancies as soon as they occur, and appointments should be made as soon as possible. In the case of an unexpected vacancy, the new person will fill the remaining term of the vacancy.
Board members can be reappointed, but no one should serve indefinitely. New board members bring new perspective and new ideas. The board chair position should be rotated among members. Each member should be appointed for a specific term and know when (month and year) their term expires. Terms should be specified in the appointment document.
South Dakota Codified Law governing public libraries is found at:
Public library trustees should become familiar with these statutes.
South Dakota Codified Law dealing with public meetings, which include public library board meetings and public libraries is found at:
Board members must know and follow these laws and act in the best interest of the entire community.
The librarian or library director is employed to handle the day-to-day administration of the library. Both the board and the governing body (city or county) should support the director in performing her/his administrative responsibilities. The board should ensure the director's continued education and development by encouraging participation in professional associations and by requiring attendance at workshops and conferences. The board itself should also take responsibility for its own continuing education. The information below contrasts some of the responsibilities of the library board and the library director.
Trustees serve as the public's representatives to the library and as the library's representative to the public it serves. The list below defines the public relations role of trustees and the librarian:
One of the most important obligations of the board is to make certain that sufficient funding is available to operate the library properly. Each board member should know the library's financial background; the unit(s) of government allocating the local appropriation; the entire resources of local tax monies and the library's fair share; grants available from all sources (government and private foundations); and any other possible sources of support. (For example: a bond issue, endowments, gifts, donations, fines and fees.)
A budget is an expression of the library's plan and objectives in financial terms. Therefore, before a budget can be formulated, the plan for library services must be developed and the goals and objectives established. If the community is involved in the planning process, the library and its plan will be supported throughout the community. However, the library's budget must be realistic. The library is, after all, only one of many services provided by the unit of government. If the budget requires a substantial increase in funding, the board should investigate other possible funding sources. Funding from such other sources as federal monies should be considered supplemental and never as a means of lowering local appropriations. The local appropriations must be at least large enough to provide the minimum level of public library service acceptable to the community. Other funds should be used to supply services and materials over and above this level. The following list classifies the responsibilities of trustees and librarian:
|Study, amend if necessary, and approve the annual library budget request.||Prepares annual budget that clearly states the amount of money needed, the services and materials which will be provided with the money, and the priorities among the various library services.|
|Present, along with the librarian, the budget to the appropriate governing body.||Presents the budget to the appropriate governing body along with members of the library board.|
|Approve acceptance of gifts and government or private grants.||Prepares a final line item budget for consideration of the board.|
|Adopt a final line item budget based on the budget allocation approved by the governing body.||Reports regularly to the library board concerning expenditures and budget status.|
The following is a brief outline of the steps involved in preparing a budget:
No specific budgeting system can be recommended because the library's accounting system must comply with that used by the governing body. The budget should be detailed enough to assure the authorities that the money will be spent in compliance with the agreement. However, a too detailed budget will result in money being tied up in accounts for extended periods of time.
Strategic planning is similar to a road map in that it gives directions on how to arrive at a destination. Without a basic guide or plan it would be difficult, if not impossible, to make decisions concerning appropriations, the need for expansion, allocations for programs or staff development. A plan assists the board of trustees and the library director in making the best decisions for the community being served.
Planning is an integral part of any organization's growth and development. The board of trustees, the library director and the library staff are charged with serving as a caretaker and steward of the library system. It is their job to keep the mission and goals of the library in perspective and on track by constantly reviewing services and policies to ensure library service is accessible by all segments of the community.
To provide the community with efficient, progressive library service, the board of trustees must base the plan upon their knowledge of the community, community expectations, resources of the community and realistic projections of the future needs of the community. Therefore, the purpose of planning is to move the library forward effectively to meet the needs of the entire community. To help the board and library director develop a good plan, the following list helps explain a plan:
The basis on which a strategic plan should be constructed is the adoption of planning statements for library service. While the board of trustees and library director must take the initiative in writing and revising these statements, the library staff and community should have the opportunity to make suggestions and to discuss ideas before the board adopts the statements, which should include a mission statement, goals, objectives, and action statements as explained below.
Developing a strategic plan
1. Assess the library's present situation. Study the local environment--the community's political structure and how the library fits in, the geographic and demographic data for the community and the library, the economic factors affecting the community and the library, including revenue sources and budget. If projections for the community have been made, examine them. If not, develop such projections on the basis of present and anticipated community development.
2. Study the library in relation to the community using standards and guides, especially the tools published by the American Library Association, www.ala.org. See Fact Sheets, Toolkits, and Publications. Publications may be available through interlibrary loan.
Determine the mission statement, goals and objectives for the library.
3. Examine alternative approaches to reaching the objectives. Select the most feasible approach in terms of likely resources. Divide the selected approach into steps and place the steps into time frames. Assign priorities; that is, decide which steps have to be accomplished, which should be accomplished, and which would add to the total effect but are not essential. This ranking will dictate the allocation of funds and other resources.
Library Space: A Planning Resource for Librarians - from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners