Fall 2006

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.

The New Handbook for New York State Library Trustees: Part One: Trustee Selection and Training

Francis Picart, NYSALB Trustee

Fall 2006 issue of Trustee

This first article in the series deals with the very primary and very important need for a library board to be properly selected and maintained. A library board of trustees is entrusted with the custody of the visionary, fiduciary, policy, and administrative soundness of their libraries and is vested by law with the authority to oversee those activities. Among the most important areas of the day-to-day concern that a collective board has is the selection and hiring of a competent director and also planning for the selection, training, and motivation of new trustees. Various methods exist for the selection of library trustees. They may be appointed by local government, selected by the terms of a library’s founding deed or directly elected by public vote. In New York State most public library trustees are elected or appointed. Library boards represent the interests of the communities that they serve and provide a two-way bridge between the community and the library. To adequately perform their roles good boards should have as broad a demographic representation of their communities’ diversities as possible in their members. Boards should also consciously and aggressively seek to include in their memberships people with the best sets of personal and professional skills who are knowledgeable or highly trainable in the areas that the library has oversight needs in, and who have demonstrated commitment to libraries in the past and in their other activities.

These qualities are not always easy to obtain in people, especially in those with the time available to commit to a board. If board members are appointed, the current board should cultivate and maintain a short list of persons with those qualities whom they can recommend to the appointing entity. If board members are elected, the current board should cultivate and maintain a short list of persons whom they can approach to run for the positions as they become vacant, and these prospective trustees should have good and broad connections in the community that would reflect well on your library and would indicate that the person could work well within the electoral process.

Ultimately, library service is not mandated in New York State. It is provided mostly by electoral consensus, and good trustee selection is a critical component of supporting that consensus support. Even when selected, good training and networking practices are required to keep trustees working effectively for your libraries, and it is critical that your policies and budgets provide sufficient support to your trustees to allow them to maintain their knowledge through seminars given by NYSALB, local systems, NYLA,  ALA and in house training.

I hope that these basic ideas about trustee selection will be of some use to you in your service. Each library situation is different and it is difficult to approach this area in other than general terms. Having said that, I hope that I have been able to encourage your boards to consciously plan ahead and examine themselves and their communities in their needs and resources, and establish a list of criteria for trustee selections, and maintain a short list of persons who can be called on if necessary.

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