Library Boards are critical to the success of today’s libraries. They provide the strategic direction for the library, ensure adequate resources, supervise the Director, and are ears and eyes in the community. Friends and Foundation Boards may provide increasingly valuable private resources in support of the Library.
Yet most Board members receive little training on their roles, responsibilities, or positive approach to governance and management. In some cases, the Board(s) are not supporting or governing the Library effectively and struggle with moving forward.
A Board development process can help Boards understand their role, but also define positive next steps to become more proactive supporters and governors of the library. Board development may also be a helpful first step leading into a more comprehensive strategic plan, fundraising/development plan, or even a capital campaign. Board development is usually a short process, typically consisting of initial discussions, a board retreat, and a follow-up report which includes recommended next steps.
The players who engage in board development can include the Library Board/Library Trustees and Library Director, as well as the Boards of the Library’s Friends and Foundation.
Board development may consist solely of a half- or full-day workshop or retreat, or include additional planning or consultation work that may take 2-3 months.
Board development is tailored specifically to the needs of the board or boards involved. The boards advance their knowledge of best practices, their roles and responsibilities, and emerge with a short list of action steps to improve their effectiveness. Typical areas of improvement are in board governance, management and ethics, advocacy, roles and responsibilities, and/or fundraising.
Successful boards are critical to building a successful, community-oriented library. Continuing board development, especially tailored to the library’s needs, greatly enhances the functioning and effectiveness of the board and library.
Stillwater (MN) Public Library
The Stillwater Public Library Board of Trustees had undergone a number of changes in membership. It also was coming off a period of budget cuts, but was looking to a brighter future, including moving into a new strategic planning process.
Library Strategies conducted interviews with the President of the Board as well as the Library Director to further define the issues facing the board, as well as desired outcomes from a board retreat. Library Strategies then developed and facilitated a tailored, day-long retreat for the Board, both to address the various issues and to build the board as a cohort. Following the retreat, Library Strategies provided a written report outlining the recommended next steps for the Board.
The Library Board became a more cohesive unit and moved forward on a number of fronts, most noticeably the creation of a three-year strategic plan, including extensive input from the community. The plan ultimately reinforced the already strong relationship with the Library Foundation, and helped the Library re-focus its collections, staffing, marketing, and programming directions.