Joe Eisner

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(All questions are handled with appropriate discretion. The questions posted in Mr. Eisner’s columns are generalized frequently asked questions.)


Is there a “standard procedure” to be followed by a library board in regard to limitation of the number of years an incumbent board member may serve as chair or as an officer of the board?

A. Since there are 750 association or public libraries in New York State, it cannot be confirmed that there is any “standard procedure” followed by a majority of those library boards in regard to the question.

However, there is no statutory mandate which limits in any way the number years a library board member may serve as an officer of a board.. Thus, unless a library board has previously adopted a by-law which provides for a limitation, such as the number of years or terms an officer of the board may serve in a
specific capacity, it is within the discretion of a majority of the board, acting at a public meeting convened in accordance with the requirements of the Open Meetings Law (OML), to either appoint or elect a new chair/president or any other board officer at a time and by the method indicated in the library’s by-laws.

If a library board has a set of by-laws, the procedure for nominating officers for election to the chairmanship/presidency or any other office should be followed. If a majority of the Board deems that particular by-law not to be suitable, it can be amended following the procedure in the by-laws which spells out notice which must be given to the board members indicating that a change in the procedure will be scheduled for a vote, and when (time, date, text).

It is suggested that consideration should be given to whether it is more important

  1. to replace the present chair/president or other officer, in order to provide another board member with the experience of being in that position?; or
  2. all things being equal, if the current board chair to be doing a good job, re-elect the current incumbent with the proviso that it is important to provide opportunity for the vice-chair/president to be given some opportunity not just to preside at board meetings, but to participate with the chair/president and the library director in the preparation of the agenda which will list what is to be discussed at each Board
  3. such joint participation in the preparation of the agenda is important, leading to more informed and productive discussions at board meetings, as well as providing some insight and experience to another board member which would prove valuable in the future when necessity would dictate the election of new chair/president, or provide another board officer with insight into the duties to be performed by a board member who is elected to replace him/her.