To do your board member job well, understand policy because that’s where you’ll be spending much of your time. Policies:
Policy is a carefully designed, broadly stated, written guideline for actions and decisions of the library. It is a governing principle formally adopted by the board.
- inform everyone of board intent, goals, and aspirations
- prevent confusion among trustees, staff and the public
- serve as the basis for the rules and regulations governing the library’s operation
- promote consistency of board action
- eliminate the need for instant (crisis) policymaking
- improve communication with the public
- clarify board member, director and staff roles
- give the director a clear direction from the board
Policies flow from the library’s mission statement and should be consistent with its mission. For example, if part of your library’s mission is to support the formal education of K-12 students, then the library’s collection development policy, hours open and services should support that mission.
A board should “develop” policy and not just “write” policy. Good policy grows out of a process of studying the issues and needs, gathering facts, deliberating the issues, writing the policy and reviewing the policy at least every three years. Once the board adopts policies, the board observes, interprets, evaluates and supports those policies. The board also modifies existing policies and creates new policies as needed to keep the library running well.
Using the board policies as general guidelines, the director and staff write procedures. For example, your library board may develop a policy for adding a DVD collection. The director and staff would then write procedures for purchasing materials for the collection, processing items purchased for the collection and other procedures necessary to manage the collection.