The board president runs the meetings and keeps the board moving toward good decisions. However, it is each board member’s responsibility to:
- prepare for and attend all meetings
- arrive on time
- take an active part in discussions, but not dominate or get the board off track
- use parliamentary procedure and abide by any state laws that apply to your meetings
- practice the arts of listening and compromise; work towards consensus on issues
- focus deliberations on the mission of the library and the best interests of those you serve
- publicly support the board decisions.
Arrange your calendar so that you can attend all board meetings. When board members are absent, all perspectives on the issues may not be explored and there is a greater possibility that poor decisions will be made or that decisions will be delayed. The board’s effectiveness and productivity will suffer if all members do not attend and participate in board meetings. If too many board members are late or absent, a quorum may not be present and the board cannot conduct business. (Unless otherwise defined in the by-laws, a quorum is a majority of board members. For example, the quorum for a seven member board would be four board members. )
The agenda packet should be sent to you several days before the meeting. Board meetings will be shorter and more productive if all board members are familiar with the agenda and related materials. If you have questions, ask the library director prior to the board meeting. Study the agenda so you understand what is expected of you at the meeting. Which agenda items will require a vote? Which ones will require only discussion and input from board members?
Some issues will require that you seek input from your constituents in the community before the board can make a decision. Don’t assume how constituents feel about an important issue. As the connection between the community and the library, solicit community input regularly.
Even though you research issues and prepare before the meeting to discuss those issues, it is unethical to decide how you will vote on an issue before the board meeting or to promise constituents you will vote either for or against an issue. Your decisions should be made only after deliberation in the meeting with other members of the board and when all sides of the issue have been explored.
Board meetings should be conducted according to parliamentary rules, such as Robert’s Rules of Order, or some other parliamentary procedure guide agreed on by all board members and stated in the by-laws. These rules are intended to set a businesslike and courteous tone, allow for ample discussion of the issues, protect the right of all board members to be heard on the issues, and not allow the discussion to get out of control.
You should have a basic understanding of parliamentary rules so that you can be a part of the process of moving quickly and efficiently through a meeting agenda. When a disagreement among board members occurs about the way to proceed, consult the parliamentary guide.
Parliamentary rules are intended to ensure that the rights of all board members are protected and meetings move towards action. Using parliamentary rules for the purpose of impeding the meeting process is unethical and detrimental to the team atmosphere.