Board Roles and Responsibilities

 In Boards

Library’s operate under many structures and with many boards, including governing library boards, Friends and foundation boards, advisory library boards, and municipal boards or councils. In order to maximize your library’s performance, it is essential that all of your boards have a clear understanding of their roles, responsibilities, and limitations, too.

For most libraries, the most critical board is the one that governs your organization. Typically, but not always, this is the library board, which can be elected or appointed. In most states, the basic functions and duties of the library are defined by state law or statute, and the board should review these requirements at least annually.

It is useful to review what the primary roles and responsibilities are for a library or governing board (in most cases). The fundamental requirements of a library board typically are surprisingly few:

  • Have bylaws that govern the board, its officers and how the board functions
  • Meet regularly and take/archive minutes
  • Control and oversight of all finances/budgeting
  • Set fundamental library policies
  • Hire and supervise the library director
  • Complete an annual report
  • Conduct all business in accordance with local, state and federal laws

Other responsibilities that are not usually required but are often helpful for library boards to adopt, include inter-library collaboration and cooperation, strategic planning, and public and community relations. It is noteworthy what these responsibilities typically do NOT include, such as fundraising or selection and supervision of staff.

Of course, there are many more details to define board responsibilities in a particular locality, especially if there are a number of boards, and the roles are not clear. Defining the functions of each board in writing, reviewing the functions annually, and providing good board orientations, self-evaluations, and on-going board professional development are fundamental to smooth functioning of effective boards.

Library Strategies has worked with library boards of all kinds across the country to help clarify responsibilities, define functions of each board, provide board training and development, and assist in sorting out challenges or difficulties. Whether you need advanced board training, confronting board concerns, or need help defining the responsibilities of multiple boards, we can help move your library to the next level.

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