From the Vermont Department of Libraries August 2021 newsletter, originally published February 2020
Need some new blood on your board? United for Libraries – the section of the American Library Association for trustees and friends – has some tips to recruit new trustees and friends.
Evaluate Your Current Board: What community connections, qualities, personal styles, and areas of expertise already exist on your board – and what are you missing (and thus should recruit for)?
Reduce Barriers: Can the meeting time and place be flexible to accommodate different schedules? Can members participate electronically?
Make Meetings Efficient, Productive, and Meaningful: Focus on action items during the meaning that move the work of the board forward in meaningful ways. Make sure everyone is allowed to contribute and is taken seriously.
Make it Easy to Join or Donate: Provide ways for members to join and donate online.
Develop an Elevator Pitch: Find focused and memorable ways to describe what the board does, the impact of its work, and its future plans so that others can easily understand what you do and envision themselves as part of your work.
Invite People Personally: Many people are never approached directly and asked to join library trustee or friends boards. Ask potential members in a way that makes it easy for them to say “yes” by personalizing your request so that it matches what the potential member will value. Example: If they are parents of young children, talk about how the board’s efforts support childhood literacy and community engagement.
Use Creative Events/Fundraisers as Recruitment Tools: Look for library events and fundraisers that bring the community together. Use those efforts to emphasize the work of your board and the need for community members to contribute to this important work. Talk about the meaningful engagement these events foster.
One of the most important (yet often neglected) duties of Library Trustees involves “Succession Planning” — that is, planning for the future governance of your library, no matter who is on the Trustee Board or who is the library director. A good introduction is in this eight-minute video.
Succession planning and the yearly calendar
One element of Succession Planning involves creating a yearly calendar for the Trustees that:
Lists what topics the Trustees usually discuss each month of the year,
Indicates when the Trustees need to start talking about certain items to make sure those items meet specific deadlines (the budget, for instance), and
Shows when the Trustees can fit additional topics into their meeting schedule (for example, reviewing policies or engaging in strategic planning).
Having a detailed yearly calendar will help ensure that Trustees do not have to rely on institutional memory and can continue to move forward if a Trustee needs to resign due to health or other reasons. It also helps the Trustees decide when to tackle new initiatives, or what topics can be postponed to future meetings when unexpected urgent agenda items arise.
Ideas for how to create a yearly calendar
Brainstorm an initial list of to-do items for each month of the year – and assign one Trustee to the task of revising that list throughout the year.
Go through a year’s worth of Trustee board meeting agendas and write down what was discussed each month. Revise as needed.
Schedule a focused discussion during a Trustee Retreat to brainstorm and agree upon a calendar plan based on external deadlines, Trustee capacity, and board aspirations.
Whichever way the Trustees create their yearly calendar, it’s important to store the document in a place accessible to any current or future Trustee – for example, in a Trustee filing cabinet at the library, in Google Docs, or on the Trustees’ section of the library’s website.
The Wyoming State Library offers a handbook for Trustees with supplementary materials and links. The handbook and site are packed with information. You’ll find both general and Wyoming-specific information. Questions? Contact the WSL Library Development Office.
Intellectual freedom is a core value of library work, but what exactly is it? The American Library Association (ALA) defines intellectual freedom as “the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction.” Through free access to information representing a range of perspectives, intellectual freedom allows individuals to explore “any and all sides of a question, cause, or movement.” Watch the short video Introduction to Intellectual Freedom for an overview of this important topic.
The ALA Library Bill of Rights addresses intellectual freedom through seven foundational principles that should guide library service. The first of these principles states: “Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.” The Library Bill of Rights goes on to address challenges to library materials, censorship, library access, and patron privacy. The supplemental Interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights provide more detailed analysis of how these principles should be applied in specific library settings, including topics such as Diverse Collections, Library-Initiated Displays, and Visual and Performing Arts. The Freedom to Read Statement is yet another intellectual freedom resource published by the ALA.
The values of intellectual freedom should impact how library policy is set at the local level. Some libraries have directly adopted the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement as part of their policy set. Intellectual Freedom principles influence policy related to collection development, library card registration, internet use, and programming. These policies then influence the procedures for handling attempts to challenge or censor library materials. Library policies help protect the rights of library users to read and view information. They also communicate the guidelines the library follows when making decisions about library materials.
For more information on intellectual freedom, take a look at these resources from library professional associations:
How can we show our appreciation and recognize efforts during this season of “Saying Thanks,” stay connected while distanced, and continue building essential relationships while gatherings are prohibited?
Even more importantly: How can we ensure that our method of appreciation/recognition will:
be meaningful for volunteers, staff, and trustees,
help them feel appreciated, and
recognize the importance of their work to the success of the library?
Tips and ideas for recognition/appreciation during COVID-times:
If you are planning an online gathering, consider the following recognition ideas:
Share success stories (e.g., a volunteer, staff member, or trustee challenge that resulted in triumph)
Make space during your event for expressions of appreciation between volunteers, staff, and trustees
Mail a thank-you gift to each person with a note to keep it sealed until a specific time during the event when everyone will open their gift together
Volunteer recognition can be public or private and should be appropriate to the person and [their] contribution. Most of all, it should be honest and demonstrate some particular insight into what that person has done. (From Energize)
GetFullyFunded suggests starting with “The Basics”:
Handwritten notes with personal notes of appreciation
Thank-you video thanking the volunteer for something they did
Phone call from a board member
Using your phone, capture a 30- or 60-second video message from one of your patrons thanking the volunteer, trustee, or staff member by name and sharing how their work has personally impacted the patron (From the Nonprofit Leadership Center).
Gather letters or video-messages of support from patrons and share those messages to celebrate the important work of your volunteers, staff, and trustees.
Have an annual “Design the Volunteer T-Shirt” contest
Have a “Volunteer/Trustee/Staff Member of the Month” and post their personal story on your webpage or social media
Create special edition library swag only available to trustees, staff, and volunteers
Do you have other creative ideas for recognizing and appreciating your staff and volunteers during this time? Share them in the comments!
As a public library trustee, it may be helpful to be aware of trends impacting the future of library services. The Center for the Future of Libraries, an initiative of the American Library Association, is dedicated to monitoring and reporting on trends that relate to library work.
The Center for the Future of Libraries specifically studies and identifies emerging trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve. They share information about those areas in their trend collection. Most recently, the Coronavirus Pandemic was added to the collection. Other featured trends include Artificial Intelligence, Design Thinking, Income Inequality, and Rethinking Rural. In addition to information on each of these areas, there is a set of Trend Cards that can be used for activities and to further your understanding of how these trends may impact future library services.
The Center for the Future of Libraries also promotes the development of futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians and library professionals shape their future.
Libraries try to create spaces where everyone is welcome, and to provide equitable access to information. Libraries do this for people from diverse backgrounds and origins, regardless of their beliefs or affiliations. But achieving goals for equity, diversity, and inclusion are not easy, and often take years of undoing old systems of inequity. It takes the work of library boards and library management: learning, listening, and responding in order to chart a new course for libraries to become more equitable, and to have more inclusive spaces for all.
Bylaws are one of several types of governing documents used by nonprofits, corporations, associations, societies, and governments. They are an essential set of rules that any organization must have in order to ensure consistency and fairness in the way the organization functions. Bylaws are one layer of “rules” for how the organization will regulate its own existence. Other important governing documents include the establishment documents (articles of incorporation, ordinance, or resolution), policy manuals, and procedural handbooks.
Bylaws regulate the way the board functions in order to provide good governance for the public library. The bylaws are the rules for how the board will function in meetings, when voting on library business, and as community leaders appointed as library trustees.
Whether revising your organization’s bylaws, or adopting bylaws for the first time, here are some things to take into consideration.
Check with your parliamentary authority (e.g. Robert’s Rules of Order) for details on what articles and statements should be included in bylaws. Adjust these as needed to what is appropriate for your library board, keeping in mind that parliamentary authority is also utilized by large assemblies and member organizations.
Verify that the requirements of Wyoming Statute are addressed, including but not limited to, rules and regulations for the conducting of meetings, rules for public participation, and length and limits of board member terms. (See Wyoming Library Laws.)
Be careful not to supersede other Wyoming state laws or local ordinances, including open meeting requirements.
Avoid including procedural details in the bylaws, or any detail that might need to change frequently. Procedural information can be included in a board handbook or other procedural document that can be updated more frequently.
Avoid duplication of information. Consider if some details are more appropriate for a separate governance document (e.g. fiscal policy), or if it is already included in board approved planning documents (e.g. strategic plan).
When possible, have your library’s legal counsel review significant changes to the bylaws before approving and adopting.
For additional information on bylaws, take a look at these resources:
The current pandemic may have you thinking of emergency preparedness in general, not just for this crisis. Right now it’s Coronavirus (and you can find resources on that here), but there are many types of disasters that can affect your library and community — floods, fires, weather disasters, shootings, and more. Do you and your staff know what to do in the event the worst happens? Your library needs to have a solid plan for disasters and emergencies of all types. Fortunately, you have resources available.
The New Jersey State Library has put together a great set of resources on their Disaster Preparedness & Recovery page. It includes their Librarian’s Disaster Planning and Community Resiliency Guidebook and Workbook, presentations, webinars, links, and more.
The Colorado State Library is offering a free CSL in session webinar, “Disaster Planning and Assistance for Libraries,” on Thursday, March 26 from 12-1 p.m. In this interactive webinar, the Colorado Cultural and Historic Resources Task Force members will offer guidance on how to create and use a disaster plan, partner with first responders, and protect your collections from damage. The assistance part of it may be more Colorado-centric, but know that in Wyoming, you can always contact the Wyoming State Library’s Library Development Office for help in a crisis.
The Wyoming State Library has a collection of professional library science materials available to you. Here is our recommended reading list from the WSL shelves:
And in the meantime, if you want good information on how to handle the current health crisis, remember that we will be continually updating our Guide to COVID-19 for Libraries to ensure that you have the resources you need to keep your staff and patrons safe and informed.
Are you looking to develop new policies (or revise existing policies) in 2020? The Loveland Public Library shared tips for public library policy development which they gained in 2019 after completing a full update of their policy manual. The first tip they shared is to identify stakeholders.
Get the right voices at the table to make sure that you have objective input from key groups. This should include your library board, staff members from different roles in the organization and your legal representative. Board members provide critical perspective as representatives of the public and can positively guide the process from the start by keeping community needs foremost in mind.
How do you know when it is time to review and revise your existing policies? Maybe laws have changed, or current policies no longer reflect library operations. Perhaps your library policies are old and outdated, or for some issues they simply haven’t been created yet.