The many and complex issues facing your board cannot always be handled efficiently by the full board. Some issues may be assigned to board committees for study with the understanding the committees will make recommendations to the full board. Committee work is a good place for board members to offer any special expertise and to learn more about the library.
The purpose of creating a committee is to extend the capabilities of the board. Committees are not autonomous groups with loose connections to the board, but rather extensions of the board and always responsible to the full board. Committees have no power or authority beyond what is granted to them by the full board. The only action committees can take is to study the assigned issue and make recommendations to the full board about the issue.
Occasionally, committee members may be selected from people outside the board so that additional expertise can be utilized by the board through the committee. Involving non-board members also builds ownership among other members of the public and opens a new avenue of communication between the library and the community.
- Extend the capabilities of the board
- Have no power other than to make recommendations to the full board
- Are subject to the Open Meetings Law if they involve a majority of board members. A meeting is defined as "a gathering of a majority of the members of a governmental body (library board) where there is deliberation or action upon any matter within the scope of the (library board's) policy making duties." Even an informal meeting of library trustees would be subject to the Open Meeting Law if there is a majority of the trustees at the gathering and library business is discussed.
The board should receive regular reports from each committee about its progress. Board members not on the committee should feel free to ask questions and get clarification from committee members. Since the purpose of the committee is to save time for the board, avoid repeating work the committee has done.
Your board may already have standing or permanent committees that are described in the bylaws of the library and function year round. As certain important issues arise, the board may also appoint temporary or “ad hoc” committees to study those issues for the board.
At certain times, the board may meet as a committee of the whole. This is done to allow time for in-depth discussion of one subject. The issue is then presented as a committee report at the regular board meeting where formal action is taken.
Your board may also have an executive committee. This committee is usually composed of the board officers and the director. It often has limited powers to act for the board in emergencies, but must have all actions ratified by the board at the next regular meeting.
Approach committee meetings as seriously as you do the regular board meetings. Prepare for the meetings, attend the meetings and take part in the discussions. If you have an assignment from the committee, complete it on time. Learn the mission of the committee, when and where the committee meets, and the names of other members. Examine the history of the committee and the minutes of their meetings for at least the past year.
Help your committee stay focused on its responsibility. Although committee meetings are usually not as formal as a full board meeting, they should have a chairperson, agenda and goals. When the committee completes its work, there should be a clear result that can be reported to the full board.