Spring 2016

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.

Get Your Library Questions Answered!

Joe Eisner

Spring 2016 issue of Trustee

A Service for LTA Members: Ask Joe Eisner
Another service of provided by LTA. Have a question? Ask Joe by e-mail: or by calling toll- free: 1-866-720-8969.   This service is free of charge to members -- including trustees and directors. (All questions are handled with appropriate discretion. The questions posted in Mr. Eisner’s columns are generalized frequently asked questions.)
NEW: Now view Joe’s archived columns in one spot, sorted by cateogry!  Please visit > Resources & Links > Ask Joe Eisner
QuestionAre library trustees subject to personal liability?
The following should not be construed as legal advice, for which the services of counsel should be obtained:
AnswerNo. Those who perform services for a governmental entity or a not-for-profit organization and who do not receive compensation are not generally liable for a claim based on an act or omission of the person performed in the discharge of their duties, except  for acts of omissions which involve intentional misconduct, or knowing violation of the law, or for a transaction from which the person derives an improper personal benefit.
The legal protection for a board is when a board acts as a body, and when actions are performed or undertaken within the scope of the members’ office. Before a board undertakes any actions, it should consult with counsel to determine the correctness of such actions, particularly those which may violate rights guaranteed by federal or state constitutions or statutes. It is important that library board members become knowledgeable about the various laws that apply to library board actions.
Some examples of acts which could incur liability, and which should be avoided:
  • Acting in excess of authority-  A member who acts independently and without authorization may potentially incur liability.
  • Failing to act when action should have  been taken- example: failing to secure adequate insurance coverage.
  • Negligence- example: failing to correct unsafe conditions involving library premises.
  • Intentional misconduct- example: by-passing procedures designed to protect against theft or embezzlement.
  • Acting in violation of the law- example: authorizing payment of improper expenditures; Open Meetings or Freedom of Information Law violations; employment or Civil Service Law violations.
  • Library board members can lessen the possibility of liability by doing the following:
  • Become knowledgeable about the various laws that apply to library board actions;
  • Adopt written policies for operating the library and review all library policies on a regular cycle;
  • Exercise care and diligence in board consideration of new or revised policies;
  • Vote against any proposed action believed to be illegal or improper;.
  • Vote to table any issue where it is believed insufficient information has been provided; make sure minutes reflect such negative vote.
  • Act and speak for the library only when authorized to do so by the full board;
  • Avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest.

The foregoing should not be construed as legal advice, for which an attorney should be consulted.


For more information about Joe Eisner’s experience and background, please click on the “Ask Joe Eisner” tab under “Resources and Links” on LTA’s website.

Do You Have a Library Question Which Requires an Answer?

As part of LTA’s expansion of service to aid and assist library trustees and directors, LTA offers members an opportunity to confer with Joe Eisner, free of charge. Joe can be contacted toll-free at 1 (866) 720-8969 or by email at

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