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March 2002, Volume 34, Number 3

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Trustees' Corner

Manual can lead to consistency Trustees' Corner

You can probably locate the library’s personnel policy manual and customer service manual among your resources you use at board meetings, but can you find a manual that relates to board policy?

Significant time is spent at board meetings discussing open hours, adding or discontinuing services, or modifying employment of workers. Yet if you lack a board operating manual you are probably administering the library inconsistently meeting to meeting and year to year.

As individuals conclude their terms on the board, the corporate history is sliced a bit thinner, so that past practices and decisions become lost or ignored.

This can cause a problem for a director with more than a few years in office who carries that corporate history and expects certain situations to be handled in the same manner as the last time that the event occurred.

What are some topics addressed in such a board policy manual? The document might clarify the role that the board plays in developing, analyzing and approving the budget:
  • It might include a year round timetable for fiscal planning;
  • It might include the position on allowing staff to make complaints directly to the board members;
  • It might include the process in dealing with contracts and vendors;
  • It might include the process it adopts when the director presents changes in policies;
  • it might include thresholds given to the director for hiring beyond base salary, transferring funds between the checking account and other short term investment, products, or establishing operational rules;
  • It might include its own code of ethics and requirement to attend meetings;
  • It might include rotating attendance at the annual library association conference;
  • It might include the appropriate communications and relationships with staff when visiting the library and branches; and
  • It might include when and how the board will discuss its dissatisfaction with the director.
    These are just a few of the core elements your board manual needs. And be warned that writing them will not be as easy as it first appears.
Such an administrative document is an ongoing product because conditions do change that make past practices outdated or members agree that business should be conducted differently, but when it is in writing and board members and director work under the umbrella of its design then the chance for ill will or ugly surprises are reduced.

Take the time to start assembling the document and then use it as your guide through board meetings.

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