Spring 2002

The Trustee communicates issues affecting libraries and library services. Once a library and systems join LTA, all their trustees automatically receive this quarterly publication published by LTA. To learn more about membership in LTA, Click Here.

How Are You Doing Evaluating Your Board and Trustees?

By Joan Hurley, NYSALB Trustee

Spring 2002 issue of Trustee

Evaluation of our library board or ourselves as trustees provides great insight into areas that, either collectively or individually, can improve our performance for the library and community that we serve.

A good place to start in the evaluation process is The Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State.  It outlines the areas of focus and responsibility for library trustees.  These include: selection and hiring of a qualified library manager or director; securing adequate funding ensuring proper stewardship and accountability of funds; adoption of policies and rules for library use; planning and evaluating the library's service program; and promotion of the library in the local community. These and other areas outlined in the Handbook are starting points for developing assessment questions that can be answered by all trustees during a board/trustee evaluation.

Typically evaluation tools use either a question or statement format.  The question format typically requires a written response by the respondent.  A statement format can utilize a variety of rating scales, such as: checking a box; yes or no; numerical rating scale (1 to 5, where 1 = poor and 5 = excellent) or a numerical point scale (a higher score indicates a more successful board or trustee).  When deciding what scale to use, ask this question: Will we get actionable results from using this scale?  The primary purpose for board/trustee evaluation is to ultimately improve the performance in service to the library and the community.

The evaluation tool can be developed using the process of brainstorming to generate a list of potential questions/statements.  The following are examples of questions/statements you may want to include in a board evaluation tool (both question and statement forms are provided):

Question:   Do we update our goals and objectives annually?

Statement: We update our goals and objectives annually.

Question:   Do we have a documented process for hiring a library director?

Statement:  A documented process exists for hiring a library director.

Two books that I've read recently that touch on the topic of library board/trustee evaluation are The Library Trustee, A Practical Guidebook by Virginia G. Young and The Library Trustee and The Public Librarian, Partners in Service by Lorraine M. Willliams.  These volumes, in addition to The Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State, are good starting points for developing questions for your evaluation tool.

If creating your own evaluation tool seems too daunting a task, consider looking at A Questionnaire to Evaluate Your Library and Library Board, published by the American Library Trustee Association/American Library Association in 1988.  The ISBN number for this publication is: IBSN 0-8389-7.

What can you learn from taking the challenge to conduct a board evaluation? As a trustee, you can gain a greater understanding of how well you contribute to the success of your library and the library board, areas that you may need to pursue for continuing education, or other ways in which you can make a positive impact for your library.  

As a board, you can learn what to focus on for trustee education, identify areas that need board attention policies, advocacy, funding, etc.) or gain insight into what type of expertise and knowledge you need to seek out when you pursue new board members.  Conducting an evaluation can lead to growth and improvement for both trustees and boards alike.

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