Does your library have the following policies, and is each board member and your library director familiar with them?

Are the policies easily accessible?

Please read below to find the questions and responses relating to policies that were compiled from the 2014 Annual Reports. Each policy question cites relevant laws that requires them, when appropriate. (Source: Public and Association Library Annual Reports, New York State Library)

At the bottom of this page is information that can be found on the website of the Division of Library Development:  “Helpful Information for Meeting Standard #4: Written Policies” (Written policies general are required as part of the Minimum Public Library Standards Minimum Standard #4, Written Policies).

Information from the 2014 Annual Report:

  • Open Meeting Policy – Is there a Board-approved Open Meeting Policy? All public and association libraries are subject to the open meetings law (Education Law, Section 260-a). 
    Number of libraries stating they have this policy:  739
    Percentage of libraries stating they have this policy: 97 %
  • Confidentiality of Library Records – Is there a Board-approved Confidentiality policy? All public and association libraries are required to keep library records confidential according to Civil Practice Laws and Rules, Section 4509.
    Number of libraries stating they have this policy: 738
    Percentage of libraries stating they have this policy: 97%
  • Internet Use Policy – Chapter 357 of the Laws of 2000 requires that the Board of Trustees of a public, free association or Indian library, which provides public access to the Internet, establish a policy governing patron use of computer terminals that access the Internet. The law provides that a verification of such policy shall be included in the annual report submitted to the State Education Department.
    Number of libraries stating they have this policy: 752
    Percentage of libraries stating they have this policy: 99%
  • Disaster Plan – Is there a Board-approved disaster plan in the event of a natural or man-made disaster that affects the library’s facility(ies), holdings, or staff and patrons (i.e., evacuation plan)?   (Note that this one is not specifically required.)
    Number of libraries stating they have this policy: 542
    Percentage of libraries stating they have this policy: 71%
  • Conflict of Interest Policy – Is there a Board-approved Conflict of Interest Policy? All public and association libraries are subject to Not-for-Profit Corporation Law, Section 715-a.
    Number of libraries stating they have this policy: 572
    Percentage of libraries stating they have this policy: 75%
  • Whistle Blower Policy – Is there a Board-approved Whistle Blower Policy? All public and association libraries with twenty or more employees AND an annual revenue in excess of one million dollars in the previous fiscal year are subject to Not-for-Profit Corporation Law, Section 715-b. (Note that this is not required for all libraries.) 
    Number of libraries stating they have this policy: 348
    Percentage of libraries stating they have this policy: 46%

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The following information was developed by the Division of Library Development and can be found at: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/helpful.htm#WP

HELPFUL INFORMATION FOR MEETING STANDARD #4: WRITTEN POLICIES

Each …library has board-approved written policies for the operation of the library.

WHY ARE WRITTEN POLICIES NECESSARY?

  • Clearly formulated policies enable the board, library director, and staff to provide quality service to the community.
  • Staff need a framework of consistent policies for the smooth day-to-day operation of the library.
  • Customers need to know that they are being treated equally and fairly.
  • Boards with clear, well thought-out policies based on good professional, legal and management principles encounter less staff turnover, crises, bad public relations and law suits.
  • Written policies help ensure consistency and fairness.

HOW ARE POLICIES DEVELOPED?

In general, policies should be clear and concise, legal and fair. They should be developed by the director and staff with board involvement and approval, and revised on a regular basis, every 2-3 years or sooner if necessary.

It’s a good idea to start with a sample and then adapt it to your specific library’s needs. Contact your library system for sample policies.

The Board can appoint an ad hoc committee made of some board members, the director and a staff member or two to work on policies. Some libraries have the director develop the policies and the board reviews and approves them. It is important that the Director and staff have input since they are familiar with the day-to-day operations of the library.

As the library staff and board develop the policies, the Americans with Disabilities Act must be taken into consideration. It is also a good idea to let the library attorney review the policies to be sure that no laws have been inadvertently violated.

WHAT POLICIES SHOULD A LIBRARY HAVE?

Personnel policies are absolutely necessary for the smooth operation of any organization. Whether it has many employees or only one, every library should have a complete personnel policy manual for its staff.

A suggested list of policies follows. Contact your system for specific examples.

SUGGESTED LIST OF POLICIES

It is recommended that boards adopt the following standard ALA policies:

  • Library Bill of Rights
  • Confidentiality of Library Records
  • Free Access to Libraries for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
  • Freedom to Read Statement
  • Freedom to View Statement

Boards and directors should develop policies which cover:

  • Censorship
  • Circulation
  • Collection Development and Maintenance
  • Emergencies
  • Exhibits and Displays
  • Finances
  • Gifts and Special Collections
  • Harassment
  • Hours Open
  • Interlibrary and Interagency Cooperation
  • Internet and other technology issues
  • Materials Selection
  • Patron Complaints
  • Personnel (See next section)
  • Programming
  • Public Relations
  • Rules of Conduct for Library Users
  • Services for Nonresident Borrowers
  • Substance Abuse (by customers and staff)
  • Use of Library Meeting Rooms and Equipment

Personnel policies, at a minimum, should cover the following items:

  • Benefits
  • Equal Employment Opportunity
  • Personnel Procedures (e.g., Grievance, evaluation, promotion, retirement, etc.)
  • Salaries, Position, Classification
  • Schedules, Hours
  • Staff Development, Continuing Education
  • Vacation and Leave

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, all libraries must have a written plan for how the library will serve people with all kinds of disabilities.

WHERE CAN I GO FOR HELP?

Your library system has forms and samples of many of these policies. Contact your library system for these or any other assistance you may need.

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