In his preface to Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State (1995), then State Librarian Joseph Schubert wrote “Trustees of public libraries have never carried greater responsibility or had a greater opportunity for public service. Technology, our economy, and domestic and international developments are changing every sector of American life, including library services. . .Trustees’ decisions affect the lives of people and the future of their communities.”
As you contemplate becoming a member of the Guilderland Public Library Board of Trustees, we would like to provide you with some information regarding particular responsibilities. Some of these responsibilities are unique to our library, others are common to public libraries across New York State. The main charge to the Board is to set policy for the Library, which is then administered by the Director.
Your responsibilities will include:
- Meetings: The Board meets on the third Thursday of most months (generally except August) at 7 pm in the Library’s Tawasentha Room. Committee meetings are held as necessary. Special meetings are occasionally held as situations require, or the Board may set an earlier starting time to accommodate a full agenda. Meetings are approximately two to three hours in length, although they may last longer. Board Meetings are broadcast live on the Library’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/guilderlandlibrary
- Participation: This is a working board, and all members are expected to attend. Eleven members are on the Board, and six are required for a quorum. Your presence on a regular basis is absolutely necessary not only to allow the Board to conduct the business on its agenda, but to facilitate full exploration of issues before the Board. Interaction between Board Members and the Director is vital to this process.
- Committee Meetings: There are five standing committees: Finance; Personnel/Labor/Management; Policies and Procedures; Building and Grounds; and Long Range Planning. Each Board Member is expected to serve on a minimum of two committees; each committee usually meets once every other month. Ad Hoc committees are also common, and may exist for a period of several months until their charge is completed. In addition, Board Members must often conduct assignments or tasks outside of the committee or Board time allotted.
- Issues: Some of the issues we are currently working with and contemplate in the future include: resolution of building issues; long range planning (which may include meetings with local officials regarding development, traffic, drainage, etc.); future expansion of the Library; and continuing review of existing policies and development of new ones.
- Additional Opportunities: Board Members are expected to volunteer their time for all of the above activities, and others as well. These might include lobbying for libraries with their legislators, working with our Foundation, and participating in related library events, such as book sales, a lecture series, book discussions, and the like. One of our Board Members also volunteers as our representative to the Upper Hudson Library System (a cooperative system to which our library belongs), which requires another schedule of meetings, both Board and committee. We also expect that community involvement will result in Board Members making family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues aware of the value of their library and its services, and becoming strong advocates. Board Members are some of our biggest promoters.
A realistic picture of being a Board Member includes many challenges, but great rewards as well. The position will be what you make of it. It takes time to become fully aware of all that goes into being a trustee. We would encourage you to ask questions, especially of other Board Members, talk to the Library Director, take a tour of the Library, read the policy handbook, and review the bylaws. This will help you understand the duties and responsibilities that come with this office.