Are you a new trustee or do you have a new trustee on your board? The start of a new calendar year often starts the term for many new trustees, whether they were appointed or elected. Let’s give them the tools they need to become contributing and effective trustees as quickly as possible.

Hopefully an item in the packet given to a new board member was the 2010 edition of the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State. The Library Director or Board President should have these Handbooks available for all members of the Board.

The Handbook gives an overview of what you should be learning, where to find information and your role in participating.


Pages 14 & 15 of the Handbook – The Orientation of New Trustees, give an outline for this journey into Trusteeship. Read through the lists provided and follow through with becoming familiar with the documents discussed. A knowledgeable trustee is an asset to its board and the library community.

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

Orientation of New Trustees

A successful trustee begins with a thorough understanding of libraries and the laws that govern them.  A formal orientation with the library director and the Board President is the best way to learn about your organization. This orientation should include a discussion of the library’s mission and goals, its role in the community and a review of the critical issues facing the organization.  A good orientation will provide trustees with the information they need to carry out their responsibilities effectively and will generate a spirit of ongoing curiosity about the library and its role in the community.

Responsibility for planning and conducting the new trustee orientation is shared among the Board President, other board members and the library director. The specifics will vary depending upon the style of the board and the size and type of library.  Regardless, it is essential to have a formal orientation for all new trustees as soon as possible.

All new trustees should receive a tour of the library and an opportunity to meet the staff. The library director and Board President can provide information on:

  • Mission, goals, long-range plans and projects in progress;
  • How the library is organized and governed;
  • Responsibilities and expectations of trustees;
  • Funding sources and how the budget is created and managed;
  • Ways the library serves the needs of the community and how it is linked to other organizations and resources;
  • Recent accomplishments and challenges;
  • Board relationships with the director, staff and volunteers;
  • Day-to-day operations.

Every trustee should receive a thorough orientation and packet of essential documents to keep in a notebook of library related materials. It is wise to become familiar with these items before you fully participate in board decisions.  

The following information is typically provided:

  • A brief history of the library;
  • Copies of the library’s charter documents;
  • By-Laws of the Board of Trustees;
  • Board membership and contact information;
  • Board Committee memberships;
  • Schedule of Board meeting dates;
  • Minutes of recent Board meetings;
  • Information on Open Meetings Law;
  • Library policy manuals; Long range or strategic plans;
  • Current Operating Budget;
  • Recent monthly financial reports and statistics;
  • Results of the most current community survey about the library;
  • Union contract (if applicable);
  • Staff Handbook;
  • Staff List & Organization Chart;
  • Previous annual audit(s);
  • Library service contracts, relevant local and state laws and other key documents pertaining to the library;
  • An explanation of the State Library and the library’s public library system, including the services they provide to the library;
  • Library newsletters, brochures and related library websites;
  • Information on the Friends of the Library;
  • Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State;
  • Statement on the Governance Role of a Trustee or Board Memberexternal link opens in a new window; New York State Board of Regents

All trustees should keep this notebook up to date by adding to it such documents as minutes and reports that are distributed at board meetings.