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South Dakota State Library Services

A list of services provided by the South Dakota State Library.

Library Boards & Trustees

Information for library directors, boards, and trustees


South Dakota's more than 100 public libraries are governed by a library board, also known as a board of trustees. The Library Boards & Trustees Guide is intended to provide information for South Dakota public library trustees to use in the performance of their duties. Building on and updating the content of the South Dakota Public Library Trustees Manual published in 1994, it presents a general overview of:

  • trustee duties and responsibilities
  • the complementary roles of trustees and library directors
  • some of the skills trustees must develop
  • some of the issues trustees face
  • SD Guide for Library Boards 

Click the tabs above and the links below for more information. 

School/Public Combination Libraries
Library Board Meetings
Library Policies and Procedures
Library Friends and Foundations Groups

If you have questions, contact South Dakota State Library Development Services at 1-605-773-3131 or 1-800-423-6665, Option 5


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

  1. Hire or assist in the hiring of the Library Director
  2. Develop and Adopt Policies
  3. Plan for the Library's Future (Strategic Planning)
  4. Evaluate Library Service and Advocate for Advancements
  5. Approve and Monitor the Library Budget

An ideal Library Board consists of:

  • members who possess a library card and use the library
  • members who support and advocate for the library
  • members who network with community leaders and organizations
  • members who are familiar with library trends and standards
  • members who represent the diversity of the community with respect to interests, age, and socioeconomic levels

Trustee Ethics 
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:
See specifically:

  • 1-25-1: Official meetings open to the public--Exceptions--Teleconferences--Violation as misdemeanor.
  • 1-25-1.1: Notice of meetings of public bodies--Violation as misdemeanor.
  • 1-25-2: Executive or closed meetings--Purposes--Authorization--Misdemeanor.

Board members must know and follow these laws and act in the best interest of the entire community.

Librarian/Library Director 

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. 

Library Board/Trustee​s:

  1. Hire a competent and qualified librarian. Includes recruiting, hiring, and annually evaluating the Director based upon a well-defined job description and expectations.
  2. Determine and adopt policies to govern the operation of the library.
  3. Help determine the direction of the library by studying community needs, conducting community surveys, and ensuring that the library has a 3-5 year strategic plan with goals.
  4. Assist the library director with budget planning and presentation of the budget to the governing body.
  5. Be familiar with city/county ordinances affecting the library, as well as state or federal laws. 
  6. Participate in continuing education activities to help the library achieve voluntary accreditation through the state library.


  1. Select and supervise all library personnel, and administer all aspects of the library’s personnel policy.
  2. Oversee and direct the day to day operations of the library.
  3. Design library services to meet community needs/interests. Develop, along with the board, a 3-5 year strategic plan. 
  4. With the board, prepare and present a yearly budget to the governing body.
  5. Be familiar with city/county ordinances affecting the library, as well as state or federal laws. Keep the board informed of any legal issues or changes.
  6. Participate in continuing education activities and professional organizations.  
  7. Serve as the channel of communications between the staff and the board of trustees.
  8. Advocate for the library through contacts with general public, civic organizations, and public officials. Attend city council and/or county supervisor meetings.

Public Relations
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:


  1. Library user.
  2. Support the librarian’s efforts to maintain an effective public relations program. Promote library services and needs throughout the community.
  3. Studies and actively supports legislation to improve library services on local, state and national levels.
  4. Establishes a good working relationship and maintain year-round cordial contact with the city or county commissioners, community leaders, and other government officials.
  5. Participates, when asked, in formal public relations activities. 


  1. Maintains a high level of library service, and a friendly, inviting atmosphere within the library. 
  2. Develops a sustained public relations campaign through the use of personal appearances, media coverage, display materials and special promotions. 
  3. Studies and actively supports legislation to improve library services on local, state and national levels.
  4. Establishes a good working relationship and maintain year-round cordial contact with the city or county commissioners, community leaders, and other government officials.

SD State Library Voluntary Certification/Accreditation Program 
Hiring a New Director Resource Packet 

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:


Trustees 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 Budgeting Process

The following is a brief outline of the steps involved in preparing a budget:

  1. Formulation of the library budget is primarily compiled by the library director and staff. This first step in preparation of the planned budget should include various approaches to achieving the goals and objectives that are feasible in terms of anticipated resources. The approaches should then be ranked according to their priority and available funds.
  2. In the second step, the formulated budget must be presented to the board. The library director must explain the budget in depth so that it can be discussed. All anticipated questions that the community may ask should be taken into consideration during the discussion. If problems should arise, changes must be made. Board members must be well informed and prepared to answer any and all budget questions which may arise.
  3. The third step involves obtaining the good will of the community. If the library has been a needed part of the community, and the community has taken an active interest in the library, public support should be in favor of the planned budget. However, precautions must be taken to counteract existing anti-tax sentiment through the use of the news media. Budget discussions must be open to everyone: the general public, the press, Friends, and government officials. To make certain all segments of the community are represented, invitations must be made both publicly and privately.
  4. During the final stage, when the budget is presented to the proper allocating officials, board members must accompany the library director to present the budget. If the budget is to be approved, officials must see the board as a representative body of taxpayers.
  5. Adopt a line item operating 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.


What is a strategic plan?

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, See Fact Sheets, Toolkits, and Publications. Publications may be available through interlibrary loan.
Determine the mission statement, goals and objectives for the library.

  • Mission Statement - a tightly-worded statement of the library's purpose for existing. Mission statements are usually expressed in a few sentences. They should be specific enough to serve as a guide for the rest of the plan without being too wordy. A mission statement is the most basic and permanent part of the plan. Mission statements are seldom changed, and from them flow the goals, objectives, and action statements.
  • Goal - a broad statement of what the library should be doing in the future. A goal must be consistent with the mission statement.
  • Objective - a statement of the specific result to be accomplished in support of achieving a goal. When possible, objective statements should be quantifiable--capable of being counted or measured with definite time frames. This allows for determination of the successful accomplishment of a goal.
  • Action Statement –a statement describing the means used to support the mission statement.

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.

4. Determine a basis for evaluating progress toward reaching the goals and objectives.

5. Be certain the community accepts the plan. Once the public is convinced of the need for the planned library service, then the public will be supportive of it. Therefore, it is mandatory to involve the community in the planning.

6. Planning is on-going process. No plan is perfect. Unexpected events necessitate changes in any plan, and changing times present new problems and suggest new approaches to meeting library goals. Unless some crisis requires immediate updating of the plan, the plan should be reviewed annually.


Tools for Trustees


Public Library Ordinance Samples
State Library of Iowa template. See page 82.

Disaster Preparedness - State Library of Iowa.
Disaster Preparedness and Recovery  New Jersey State Library
Library Disaster Preparedness & Response - American Library Association

Material Selection and Intellectual Freedom
Trustees must not only formulate a written selection policy, but they must defend the formulated policy in the event of citizen complaints. It is extremely important that the library board support decisions of their librarian in implementing the policy which they, the trustees, have adopted.


Continuing Education

Education of board members must not cease after orientation. A requirement of library accreditation through the SD State Library is that board members must complete a certain number of CE hours every three years.  Board members should be aware of new trends and new methods in the library field. To stay informed, members should become active in the South Dakota Library Association (SDLA), and they should read selected professional publications. In addition, the SD State Library publishes a newsletter Cornerstone. There are ways of keeping current through participation in statewide and regional workshops and conferences. Visiting other libraries is yet another way to keep current, especially if the library to be visited has a successful project which can be examined. In addition to their own continuing education, the board is responsible for the continuing education of all library staff members. The board should provide adequate money in the budget for staff members to travel to workshops and other training programs.


Every trustee should be familiar with current and pending legislation relating to libraries at local, state and national levels. Trustees should express their opinions, both as individuals and as library board members, to their elected representatives in regard to any pending legislation which could benefit or adversely affect libraries.

Library Organizations

American Library Association (ALA)
The ALA represents librarians, trustees and interested citizens in the United States and Canada. The American Library Trustee Association is a division of ALA specifically organized for the purpose of discussing and handling problems which library trustees may encounter.

Mountain Plains Library Assocation (MPLA)
MPLA is made up of the following member states: South Dakota, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. MPLA's most important activities are the sharing of ideas and expertise throughout the area and the provision of opportunities for continuing education. 

South Dakota Library Association (SDLA)
SDLA is an at home opportunity for the trustee to share ideas and knowledge with other South Dakota trustees and librarians. The association sponsors an annual conference and publishes Bookmarks, a monthly newsletter. Trustees may join the Public Library Section.

South Dakota State Library

The State Library is in existence to provide library service to all South Dakotans, largely through assistance to local public libraries. The State Library is open 8 am – 5 pm (CST) Monday – Friday. 1-800-423-6665 or 773-3131. Visit