Policy Highlight: Required Policies & 2014 Annual Report Data

Does your library have the following policies, and is each board member and your library director familiar with them?

Are the policies easily accessible?

Please read below to find the questions and responses relating to policies that were compiled from the 2014 Annual Reports. Each policy question cites relevant laws that requires them, when appropriate. (Source: Public and Association Library Annual Reports, New York State Library)

At the bottom of this page is information that can be found on the website of the Division of Library Development:  ”Helpful Information for Meeting Standard #4: Written Policies” (Written policies general are required as part of the Minimum Public Library Standards Minimum Standard #4, Written Policies).

Information from the 2014 Annual Report:

  • Open Meeting Policy – Is there a Board-approved Open Meeting Policy? All public and association libraries are subject to the open meetings law (Education Law, Section 260-a). 
    Number of libraries stating they have this policy:  739
    Percentage of libraries stating they have this policy: 97 %
  • Confidentiality of Library Records – Is there a Board-approved Confidentiality policy? All public and association libraries are required to keep library records confidential according to Civil Practice Laws and Rules, Section 4509.
    Number of libraries stating they have this policy: 738
    Percentage of libraries stating they have this policy: 97%
  • Internet Use Policy – Chapter 357 of the Laws of 2000 requires that the Board of Trustees of a public, free association or Indian library, which provides public access to the Internet, establish a policy governing patron use of computer terminals that access the Internet. The law provides that a verification of such policy shall be included in the annual report submitted to the State Education Department.
    Number of libraries stating they have this policy: 752
    Percentage of libraries stating they have this policy: 99%
  • Disaster Plan – Is there a Board-approved disaster plan in the event of a natural or man-made disaster that affects the library’s facility(ies), holdings, or staff and patrons (i.e., evacuation plan)?   (Note that this one is not specifically required.)
    Number of libraries stating they have this policy: 542
    Percentage of libraries stating they have this policy: 71%
  • Conflict of Interest Policy – Is there a Board-approved Conflict of Interest Policy? All public and association libraries are subject to Not-for-Profit Corporation Law, Section 715-a.
    Number of libraries stating they have this policy: 572
    Percentage of libraries stating they have this policy: 75%
  • Whistle Blower Policy – Is there a Board-approved Whistle Blower Policy? All public and association libraries with twenty or more employees AND an annual revenue in excess of one million dollars in the previous fiscal year are subject to Not-for-Profit Corporation Law, Section 715-b. (Note that this is not required for all libraries.) 
    Number of libraries stating they have this policy: 348
    Percentage of libraries stating they have this policy: 46%

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The following information was developed by the Division of Library Development and can be found at: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/helpful.htm#WP

HELPFUL INFORMATION FOR MEETING STANDARD #4: WRITTEN POLICIES

Each …library has board-approved written policies for the operation of the library.

WHY ARE WRITTEN POLICIES NECESSARY?

  • Clearly formulated policies enable the board, library director, and staff to provide quality service to the community.
  • Staff need a framework of consistent policies for the smooth day-to-day operation of the library.
  • Customers need to know that they are being treated equally and fairly.
  • Boards with clear, well thought-out policies based on good professional, legal and management principles encounter less staff turnover, crises, bad public relations and law suits.
  • Written policies help ensure consistency and fairness.

HOW ARE POLICIES DEVELOPED?

In general, policies should be clear and concise, legal and fair. They should be developed by the director and staff with board involvement and approval, and revised on a regular basis, every 2-3 years or sooner if necessary.

It’s a good idea to start with a sample and then adapt it to your specific library’s needs. Contact your library system for sample policies.

The Board can appoint an ad hoc committee made of some board members, the director and a staff member or two to work on policies. Some libraries have the director develop the policies and the board reviews and approves them. It is important that the Director and staff have input since they are familiar with the day-to-day operations of the library.

As the library staff and board develop the policies, the Americans with Disabilities Act must be taken into consideration. It is also a good idea to let the library attorney review the policies to be sure that no laws have been inadvertently violated.

WHAT POLICIES SHOULD A LIBRARY HAVE?

Personnel policies are absolutely necessary for the smooth operation of any organization. Whether it has many employees or only one, every library should have a complete personnel policy manual for its staff.

A suggested list of policies follows. Contact your system for specific examples.

SUGGESTED LIST OF POLICIES

It is recommended that boards adopt the following standard ALA policies:

  • Library Bill of Rights
  • Confidentiality of Library Records
  • Free Access to Libraries for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
  • Freedom to Read Statement
  • Freedom to View Statement

Boards and directors should develop policies which cover:

  • Censorship
  • Circulation
  • Collection Development and Maintenance
  • Emergencies
  • Exhibits and Displays
  • Finances
  • Gifts and Special Collections
  • Harassment
  • Hours Open
  • Interlibrary and Interagency Cooperation
  • Internet and other technology issues
  • Materials Selection
  • Patron Complaints
  • Personnel (See next section)
  • Programming
  • Public Relations
  • Rules of Conduct for Library Users
  • Services for Nonresident Borrowers
  • Substance Abuse (by customers and staff)
  • Use of Library Meeting Rooms and Equipment

Personnel policies, at a minimum, should cover the following items:

  • Benefits
  • Equal Employment Opportunity
  • Personnel Procedures (e.g., Grievance, evaluation, promotion, retirement, etc.)
  • Salaries, Position, Classification
  • Schedules, Hours
  • Staff Development, Continuing Education
  • Vacation and Leave

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, all libraries must have a written plan for how the library will serve people with all kinds of disabilities.

WHERE CAN I GO FOR HELP?

Your library system has forms and samples of many of these policies. Contact your library system for these or any other assistance you may need.

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Policy Highlight: 3D Printing and Policy Implications

The current count for libraries which have 3D Printers is 250. That does not include 3D Pens, or other maker space resources which libraries have. As the technology becomes more affordable (along with the cost of supplies) this number is expected to increase dramatically.

It can be argued that when it comes to 3D printing, just like with any other new technology and services which libraries have introduced through the decades (photo copiers, CD/DVD lending, mp3 file downloads, licensing for movies for public display), library boards would need to address the same policy considerations: balance of intellectual freedom, fair use, and the rights of creators. Additionally, the same general policies: patron conduct, employee conduct and use of electronic resources, would apply.

However it is prudent to reexamine current policies to see if they need to be broadened in scope.

It is also prudent to make sure that procedures are designed, understood and followed by staff and patrons.

Library Boards, Directors and staff always need to be aware of trademark, patent, copyright laws, and to be mindful of impacts to local businesses and other stakeholders.

Policy considerations regarding 3D printing and similar technology at public libraries is a top focus for ALA, and will be an ongoing topic of discussion for LTA.

To help get the conversation started, please review the information referenced below . . .

ALA: 3D Printer Public Policy Issues

An excerpt from the ALA article referenced above:

“Given the many legal questions 3D printing gives rise to, libraries need to do more than provide their patrons with instruction in the basics of printer mechanics, maintenance, modeling and scanning,” writes Wapner. “It is in our best interest to think chiefly about what is practicable and consistent with the mission of libraries [in serving the public], and secondarily about what might eventually be held by Congress, regulatory agencies, the state legislatures or the courts to be outside the bounds of the law.”

The report also examines various intellectual freedom issues raised by 3D printing. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, offers guidance to library professionals seeking to craft a 3D printer acceptable use policy that accords with the fundamental library value of free expression.

“Intellectual freedom principles espoused in the Library Bill of Rights and ALA Code of Ethics naturally extend to those tools, technologies, and services that enable library users to create content, including 3D printers,” Stone said. “A written acceptable use policy for the 3D printer is a necessity if the library is to protect users’ intellectual freedom while addressing concerns about safety, access, liability, and illegal use of the 3D printer.”

Since there is little to no jurisprudence on 3D printing in the current legal environment, the report recommends that libraries begin establishing methodologies and regimes for 3D printing practices within their library institutions.

“If library professionals familiarize themselves with the budding policy debates surrounding 3D printing, they can help shape the laws, regulations and corporate policies that coalesce around this technology in the coming years. One goal of our work around 3D printing is to make this possible,” said Alan S. Inouye, director of the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy.

Other resources (and please do not forget to share your own policies with LTA, so they can be included in LTA’s Library Policy Database, and please view the policies which are already there):

 

Policy Highlight: Important News Concerning Mandatory Policies

Does your library have a Conflict of Interest and a Whistleblower policy?

Even if your library has both of these policies in place, it is important to become familiar with the new requirements under the Non-Profit Revitalization Act of 2013. The new requirements became effective as of July 1.

The act mandates that all public and association libraries, and public library systems adopt a Conflict of Interest policy.

If your library or library systems has 20 or more employees AND also had revenue in excess of $1 million in the prior fiscal year — your library must also adopt a whistleblower policy.

To learn more about the specific criteria for each policy, please visit:
http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/trustees/coi-wb.htm

To look at various examples of each of these policies, please look through our library policy database.
For Conflict of Interest policies, you can do a category search. Soon you will be able to do the same for whistleblower policies. In the meantime you can find these policies by searching for the keyword, “whistle.”

If your library has adopted either one of these policies, and it isn’t in our database, please share it with your peers by sending it to tgavin@librarytrustees.

Similarly, as you revise or create either one of these policies, please share it with us so that we can share it with the rest of the New York State library community.

Thank you!

Policy Spotlight: Policy Resources and Tips

The following is designed to assist in navigation and to provide more insight into policy topics while using LTA’s Policy Database:


General Information Tips by Category Legal Resources Other Resources
LTA Policy Database Search Features Handbook Highlight: Suggested Policy Categories Public Library Law in NYS by Robert Allan Carter www.nylto.org
Designing a “Policy Development Template” Policy Spotlight:
Collection Development and Weeding
Committee on Open Government Mid-Hudson Library System
Policy Development Checklist Policy Spotlight:
Emergency Policies and Procedures
Retention and Disposition of Records (NYS Archives)
Policy Organization Handbook Highlight: Ethics and Conflict of Interest Archives Schedules:
C0-2 (p. 116 of manual)
ED-1 (p.56 of manual)
MU-1 (p.80 of manual)
MI-1 (p. 101 of manual)
Handbook Highlight: Policy Development (p. 24 of manual) Policy Spotlight:
Information Sharing (FOIL, Public Access, etc.)
Policy Spotlight:
Internet and Electronic Resources 2.0
Handbook Highlight: Risk Management Policy Spotlight: Records Retention and Disposition

Reminder: Every article in LTA’s blog and online newsletters are searchable by keyword and topic.

“Ask Joe Eisner” — Which Policies Are Required?

Featured Question and Answer by Joe Eisner:
Q: Are there certain policies or plans that a library is required to have?

A: In reviewing the information in the DLD link, Meeting Standard #4 Written Policies, note that it is suggested, but not mandated, that libraries adopt certain policies — many of which are outlined in the Trustee Handbook or in the link above.

However, there are some policies/plans which a library is required to have — and others that are strongly suggested.

1) Americans with Disabilities Act

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, all libraries must have a written plan for how the library will serve people with all kinds of disabilities.

2) Internet Use Policy

The board of trustees of a public, free association or Indian library which provides public access to the internet shall establish a policy governing patron use of computer terminals which access the internet. Verification of such policy shall be included in the annual report submitted to the department (Education Law s260(12), first paragraph).

Please also reference:
Handbook Highlight: Information Technology: You Should Have a Plan and a Policy

3) Strongly Suggested:

a. Personnel Policies
Personal policies are absolutely necessary for the smooth operation of any organization. Whether it has many employees or only one, every library should have a complete personnel policy manual for its staff.

b. Emergency Procedures and Plans
There is no such statutory mandate of which I am currently aware. However, in these times of apparently more and greater frequencies of occurrence of disasters caused either by weather conditions or other acts of God, it would be prudent for library boards to consider the development of such plans.

In the case of public libraries which, unlike association libraries and cooperative library systems, are subject to audits by the Comptroller , the Comptroller has criticized the lack of existence of a plan to safeguard computerized records essential to the audited entities, which included a small number of libraries and a larger number of municipalities and school districts. Comments extended to lax monitoring of passwords by unauthorized personnel.

c. ALA Policies

It is recommended that boards adopt the following standard ALA policies:

  • Library Bill of Rights
  • Confidentiality of Library Records
  • Free Access to Libraries for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
  • Freedom to Read Statement
  • Freedom to View Statement

Reference: Meeting Standard #4 Written Policies

LTA Members: Get Questions Answered
Do You Have a Library Question Which Requires an Answer?
Ask Joe Eisner

Policy Highlight: Designing a “Policy Development Template”

The Summer Trustee, posted this month to our site, contains an article to create a policy development template. Click here to learn how to do this. Below is an additional tip to create a Table of Contents.

A Policy Table of Contents -

*Tip: Let Your Software do the Work – How to Easily Create a Table of
Contents For Your Policy Manual Using Word
*

1) Use the “ribbon” at the top of your Word Document to select a hierarchy
of headings as you write/update your policy manual.

2) Select “References” from the menu bar, and then select the “Table of
Contents” option.

3) Select the automatic Table of Contents style you prefer.

4) Word will update the Table of Contents and page numbers as you change
the document if you go back to the References tab and select the ‘Update
Table” option.  (Note: These tips apply most directly to Word 2010.)

By Tim Gavin, LTA Association Manager

 

Policy Spotlight: Tablets Donated to the Queens Library

By, Tim Gavin

Recently, Queens Library brought the following information to the attention of LTA:

In 2012, Queens Library began lending e-readers to customers, pre-loaded with content. It was a giant leap forward in customer service, and an opportunity for our library cardholders to become familiar with the advantages and uses of e-reading. A large percentage of library users in Queens depend solely on their public library for computer and broadband access, and many others lean on the library for baseline digital literacy. As more and more content is provided only in electronic format, the divide continues to grow between haves and have-nots. Queens Library seeks to bridge the digital divide by lending electronic devices as well as content. It will allow customers to experiment hands-on with devices and become comfortable using technology.
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a donor has pledged several thousand tablet computers to be lent to customers in the affected areas. In preparation, our Board approved a policy for lending electronic devices that is broad enough to cover most of the formats we currently envision lending. The library’s goals were to incentivize responsible care of expensive hardware, while at the same time keeping barriers to a minimum for good customer service. We hope to keep everyone in Queens plugged in and reading.  

It is certainly an inspiring story, and it is a testimony not only to the extremely important role that a library plays in a community, but how much of a positive impact even one patron can have on a library.

It is also a reminder that the services which libraries provide continue to evolve and that library policies need to do the same. In LTA’s policy database there are a few hundred lending policies. However, there are only a relatively small number of policies which address the lending of electronic devices, and within that group, most only allow patrons to borrow devices in-house.

Of course, not every library even has electronic devices to lend, and those that do, certainly do not have them to the extent that Queens anticipates. Also, every board has to weigh the risks of lending costly devices outside its library’s walls and draw its own conclusions when it comes to policies. Either way, the story from the Queens library gives food for thought.

The price of tablets, laptops, mp3 players and e-readers continue to decline as features improve. These e-devices are becoming a norm in society – yet many patrons still do not own one or know how to use them. Lending e-devices to patrons for use outside the library walls may soon be expected by patrons and affordable enough to become a reality, and just as with any other policy, it is good to be prepared.

Some questions to consider: How can patron confidentiality and privacy be ensured in devices with internal memory? How can patron compliance with Internet Use Policies be maintained? Who would be responsible for damages, an appropriate fine, and who would determine what constitutes “damage?” If e-devices are to be used for content, should patrons be allowed to download apps or other content, and if not who determines what content should be allowed and how?

Queens library was kind enough to share its electronic device policy outline with the library community. It can be found in the Database at the top of the home page. Just click on Advanced Search and search for the keywords:  ”Electronic Device Loan Policy . Please take a look, and hopefully it will help generate some ideas for your own library’s lending policies.

Queens Library Policy on E-Readers

In 2012, Queens Library began lending e-readers to customers, pre-loaded with content. It was a giant leap forward in customer service, and an opportunity for our library cardholders to become familiar with the advantages and uses of e-reading. A large percentage of library users in Queens depend solely on their public library for computer and broadband access, and many others lean on the library for baseline digital literacy. As more and more content is provided only in electronic format, the divide continues to grow between haves and have-nots. Queens Library seeks to bridge the digital divide by lending electronic devices as well as content. It will allow customers to experiment hands-on with devices and become comfortable using technology. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a donor has pledged several thousand tablet computers to be lent to customers in the affected areas. In preparation, our Board approved a policy for lending electronic devices that is broad enough to cover most of formats we currently envision lending. The library’s goals were to incentivize responsible care of expensive hardware, while at the same time keeping barriers to a minimum for good customer service. We hope to keep everyone in Queens plugged in and reading.

Electronic Device Loan Policy
The Queens Library will make electronic devices available to library customers for loan to bridge the digital divide by expanding access points to the Library’s electronic resources, customer use of the internet and desktop software applications. Customers who wish to use or borrow a device:

1. Must have an active Queens Library card in good standing at the time of use/borrowing.
2. Present valid photo identification at the time of use/borrowing; one of the following non-expired photo identification cards is required: valid NY driver’s license or state-issued photo ID, current school or college identification card, or consulate ID.
3. Must satisfactorily complete a Queens Library E-Device Loan Agreement.
4. If under 18 years of age, must have a parent present to co-sign the E-Device Loan Agreement at time of first borrowing, and have ‘Open Access’ privileges on his or her card. Subsequent borrowing would not require parent to be present.
5. May not use the E-Device for illegal activity.
6. Must agree to be personally responsible for the E-Device, and in the event it is lost or damaged due to negligence, to pay for any and all damages to the device and related equipment that are checked out on his/her library account, up to and including replacement costs. Discretion for determining loss and damage rests with the appropriate Queens Library staff.
7. May not download to the E-Device any applications, content or materials that are not provided by or authorized by the Queens Library.
8. May borrow one device, per person, at any one time.
9. If the E-Device is not returned by the end of the loan period, the E-Device will incur an extended use fee of $3 per day up to the maximum amount of $42 (14 days) and on the 15th day overdue the customer’s account will be charged for replacement.

Policy Development Checklist

Effective policies are not so much created as they are developed. As soon as a policy is approved, the work continues and the process of analyzing effectiveness and implementation begins. Without this follow up, the strength of a policy’s usefulness is open for debate.

A policy is only as effective as how well it is created and implemented – and this directly correlates to how accessible, relevant, and clearly communicated the policy process was from its inception.

This article provides some frequently used policy development and implementation reminders. Below is a checklist which is intended to reduce confusion and stress and to help ensure that all bases have been covered

I. Prior to Drafting a Policy:

Call for a Policy

  • Why is a new policy necessary?
  • Have similar policies already been drafted which only need revision?
  • Does the proposed policy relate back to the library’s mission and by-laws in a clear way?
  • What is the motive for the policy?

Initial Considerations

  • Who will draft the policy and why that person?
  • Is the policy solution-oriented and is there a clear statement of purpose?
  • Is it clear who the policy will affect?
    Is it clear who will administer the policy and draft necessary procedures?
  • Is it clear how and why the policy will help provide a solution to an existing or anticipated issue?

Understandability

  • Does the policy use terminology that is consistent with other policies?
  • Is the policy jargon free and simple enough to
    understand on its own?
  • Is the policy concise or should it be broken down further?
  • Has the policy been clearly communicated to all affected parties?

Feedback – Prior to Implementation

  • Has legal compliance been addressed?
  • Have potentially affected library personnel or
    patrons been asked to share opinions?
  • Have local officials been invited to share feedback?
  • Have potential fears by personnel or patrons been addressed and allayed?
  • Who should be contacted if there are concerns?
  • How will the “success” of implementation be
    measured?
  • Have all concerns been adequately addressed and assessed – and communicated?
  • Has the policy been reviewed by second parties? (e.g. lawyer, system director, consultant, library personnel).

II. After Policy Approval:

Feedback — Post Implementation

  • Based on pre-defined measurements, how successful was implementation?
  • Do the measurements need to be adjusted?
  • Have affected parties been interviewed to assess ideas for improvements?

Accessibility

  • Are patrons and staff aware that the policy exists?
  • Can personnel easily access the policy in order to make appropriate decisions?

III. Review and Revision

  • Based on measurements/feedback, does the policy need to be adjusted?
  • Has the policy been reviewd annually or within a predefined schedule?
  • Is the policy still relevant?
  • POLICY SPOTLIGHT: Records Retention and Disposition

    Provided by Tim Gavin, Policy Database Manager

    Q: How long should board meeting minutes be retained?

    A: Permanently.

    If you were unsure of this answer, you are not alone. Not surprisingly, with the large amount and wide variety of records that a library is responsible for maintaining, it can become very confusing and complicated to keep track of which records are supposed to be kept and for how long.

    This is why it is increasingly important that in this age of information explosion, where often copies upon copies of the same record exist (often in multiple formats), and where there is a manual or digital footprint of virtually everything that happens at a library, that libraries have a clear and well-followed records retention and disposition policy.

    Once a policy is created (often as a chart or table) and a records manager (often the library manager or director) is put in place, the guess-work is largely taken out of the picture and the matter becomes one of just maintaining the records according to the policy.

    After a policy/records schedule is adopted, it is equally important that the correct records be retained as it is that that they be destroyed after their required retention period. The legal destruction of unnecessary records:

    1. ensures that records are retained as long as they are actually needed for administrative, fiscal, legal, or research purposes;
    2. ensures that records are promptly disposed of after they are no longer needed;
    3. frees storage space and equipment for important records and for new records as they are created;
    4. eliminates time and effort required to service and sort through superfluous records to find needed information;
    5. eliminates the potential fire hazard from storage of large quantities of valueless records; and
    6. facilitates the identification and preservation of archival records.

    Reference: Suggestions for Records Disposition

    http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_co2_part1.shtml#info

    Accessed: January 21, 2013

    So, which records schedule should your library follow? That largely depends on which type of library you have and how it is governed. However, New York State Archives has already outlined a recommended records schedule for your library to follow. As a local government entity, your library cannot destroy records until the appropriate State Archives schedule is formally adopted by resolution of its governing body. (“Adoption and Use of the Schedule” http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_mi1_part1.shtml#introduction).

    While association “public” libraries are not government entities, they, as many other non-profits often use these schedules when establishing policy. Also, even public libraries will often find that they have records which call for a deeper understanding of the law. Therefore, all libraries are encouraged to look not only at the recommended schedules, but also to take a close inventory of their own records, partner with their library system, NYS Archives, Committee on Open Government and legal counsel before enacting a records retention and disposition policy.

    Another great resource is LTA’s policy database. Learn from your peers. Do a category search on “records retention” and find out what the policies of other libraries look like.

    To get you started, a list of schedules is outlined below, along with a hyperlink to each. This list was excerpted from Retention and Disposition of Library and Library System Records (which can be found on the NYS Archives website at: http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub6.pdf/). This resource also goes into further detail concerning: local government records law, what defines a “public record,” type of libraries and library systems, electronic records and confidentiality.

    Records Retention and Disposition Schedules

    The following schedules are now available from the State Archives for use by the libraries and library systems listed below. 

    • Schedule CO-2: libraries and library systems which are part of county government. (http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_co2_part1.shtml)
    • Schedule MU-1: libraries which are part of a city, town, or village government. (http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_mu1.shtml)
    • Schedule MI-1: special district libraries, public school district libraries, joint municipal libraries, city and county public libraries, miscellaneous autonomous public libraries, and the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System . (http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_mi1_part1.shtml)
    • Schedule ED-1: the Chatham and Newburgh Public Libraries; school libraries, BOCES libraries, and school library systems. (http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_ed1.shtml)

    Note: Each schedule contains many different categories, including a “General” section and a section that addresses libraries. When using these schedules, first attempt to use the “Library” section. If the record you are locating cannot be found under this heading, then proceed to this “General” section to search for a less specific item covering the record. (http://www.archives.nysed.gov/a/records/mr_pub_co2_part2.shtml#general)