This information below & much more can be found in the Trustee Handbook.

Trustee Education

Trustees must learn and grow during their tenure on the board, developing an ever-deepening awareness of the affairs of their own library and an appreciation and understanding of other libraries and library organizations. The public library is a multifaceted organization functioning in a complex world.

The first critical step in the learning process is the orientation of a new trustee.  However, education cannot cease once a person has reached the board table. Board meetings can be an excellent forum for continuing education. Many boards set aside time at every meeting for a presentation or discussion of some aspect of the library’s work or programs. Such a session might include a training video, an overview of a staff member’s work responsibilities, a presentation by a representative of the public library system or simply a few minutes of philosophical discussion and reflection on the role and purpose of the library. The importance of board self-assessment cannot be overstated.

There is an extensive body of literature on trusteeship and board development, as well as public library operation and management. A small sampling is included in the bibliography.  In addition to statewide organizations such as the Library Trustees Association of New York State and NYLA, many American Library Associationexternal link opens in a new window divisions such as the Public Library Association and Library Leadership and Management Association and the Association for Library Trustees, Advocates and Friends offer extensive resources as well. 

Outside the library field there are many organizations concerned with non-profit administration and management. BoardSourceexternal link opens in a new window and Leader to Leaderexternal link opens in a new window are especially helpful and complement the offerings of the library organizations.  Many of these publications are listed in the bibliography and can be obtained through the library or public library system. Trustees should also ask the library director to let them know about articles or books in all fields that may be helpful to an understanding of the library’s affairs.

Workshops and conferences provide an excellent opportunity for continuing education both from the program content itself and from the opportunity to meet and share experiences and ideas with other trustees. The Library Trustees Association of New York State sponsors an Annual Trustee Institute and most public library systems offer workshops and seminars specifically aimed at trustees. The annual NYLA Conference offers an excellent opportunity to learn about new developments, programs, and activities across the state. The Library Trustees Association of New York State always offers a special package of trustee-oriented programs within the NYLA conference. On a national level, the Association for Library Trustees, Advocates and Friends offers a program track for trustees at the annual ALA Conference as well.

Financial constraints or the perception of public disapproval make some boards reluctant to approve dues, registration fees, and travel expenses for continuing education.  However, these expenses are essential to keep libraries alive and vibrant through a better-informed and more effective board and staff.  Every library should have a written policy regarding staff and board training and budget sufficient funds each year to assure that both the library board and the library staff can take full advantage of educational opportunities and remain aware of new trends and best practices in the library world.

Effective and knowledgeable trustees undergo a constant process of growth and learning. Attending board meetings and voting on current questions is not enough. Continuing education, for trustees as well as staff, represents an important investment in the library’s future.