Newsletter Date 2016-12-01
The 5Ms: Meetings, Minutes, Motions, Majority and Manners
Keeping the community informed about library meetings is an important requirement. To follow the open meetings law, all libraries need to keep the 5Ms in mind.
Meetings-Regular Board meetings should be scheduled on the same day of the same week each month. This is the reason the law asks the Board to advertise and make public the dates and times the Board will be meeting. If, for some reason, you have a special meeting, remember to advertise it, as well. The easier you make it for your community to find the location and time of your meetings, the less likely they are to get lost and infer that the Board has something to hide.
Minutes-Take clear and consistent minutes. They are the official record of the Board meetings. (Handbook for Library Trustee of New York State, p. 28). It is a way to make sure that the library’s business is transparent to community members who fund their libraries. Minutes should be taken at every Board meeting and made available to the public within two weeks of the meeting.
Motions-Motions are a formal proposal put to the Board for their consideration. Financial motions are the most crucial because the Board has a fiduciary responsibility. Motions are Board decisions made on behalf of your community and towards the sustainability of your library. Don’t make a light of them.
Majority-According to the law, a quorum is a “majority of the whole number (of trustees regardless of vacancies).” For example, if your Board has eleven members, your quorum is six. Majority becomes key when passing motions. If you have a Board meeting with just the members that make up the quorum of your Board, then every motion at that meeting must pass with a unanimous affirmative vote. Otherwise, it is not valid. Understand that one “loud” voice does not represent the whole Board. It is just one person’s view. All Board members should express their thoughts about an issue so that all voices are heard. Once a Board decides, it is your duty as a trustee to rally around the decision made. Act as a unified body.
Manners-Board meetings are to be conducted in a respectful and professional manner. Time is valuable. As a trustee, you are responsible for the financial, physical, and sustainable future of your library. “Debating, discussing, and even disagreeing over an issue are an important part of policy development and decision making process.” (Handbook for Library Trustee of New York State, p. 22) However, a debate should be controlled and present both sides in an orderly manner. Loud, chaotic disagreements should not overshadow a meeting or be the image your library presents to the community.
For more information about the HATS initiative, please visit www.librarytrustees.org and read the Spring newsletter.