Friday, July 24, 2015

Duties and Responsibilities of the Library Board

Since the Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees is about to hire a new Library Director, we are re-posting our May 10, 2015 article and a link to the Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees Policy Manual:

Policy regarding Library Director:  The Library Director shall be selected and appointed by the Fairfax County Public Library Board of Trustees.

From May 10, 2015:

Duties and Responsibilities of the Library Board

On May 2, 2015, the Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees was joined by Kim Armentrout, a member of the Library of Virginia staff to discuss the duties and responsibilities of the Library Board.   The following notes were taken at the work session by a member of the Fairfax County Public Library Employee Association. 

Library Board of Trustees Chairman Charles Fegan opened the work session of the Board on Saturday May 2.  All Trustees were present except for Michael Cutrone (Hunter Mill District) and Darren Ewing (Dranesville District.) Mr. Fegan extended a special welcome to the two newest members of the Board, Fran Millhouser, representing the Mason District, and Miriam Smolen, representing the Providence District.  He noted that the Library Board has become a focal point in the community at large – and this is not a bad thing.  In his view the Board needs to listen and respond to the concerns of citizens as the Library needs the goodwill of its patrons.  Mr. Fegan reported that he and Library Board Vice Chair Karrie Delaney traveled to Richmond to speak with a member of the staff of the Library of Virginia, Ms. Kim Armentrout, a specialist in assisting local library systems. Arrangements were made for Ms. Armentrout to conduct a training seminar for the Trustees entitled “Ensuring Trustee Success” at their work session planned for May 2.  Ms. Armentrout was joined at the work session by her Library of Virginia colleague Cindy Church who presented the second part of the training, “Hiring a New Library Director.”
Ms. Armentrout gave a detailed explanation of the duties and responsibilities of Boards of Trustees.  A Board’s most important responsibility is to employ a qualified competent library director and maintain an ongoing performance appraisal process.  The Board determines the mission and goals and objectives of the library and adopts written policies governing the library. It secures adequate funds to carry out the library’s program, assists in the preparation of the annual budget and officially approves budget requests.  The Board ensures that the library has a long-range planning process that considers the library’s strengths and weaknesses, a process that can be implemented and evaluated. Ms. Armentrout said that libraries are required under the Virginia Administrative Code, 17VAC15-110-10, to submit five year plans to the State Library Board; a library’s strategic plan also needs to be filed with the Library of Virginia.  Strategic plans typically cover a period of less than five years.  For the five year plan, an annual revision is required. Community input is recommended – otherwise, how relevant is the library to the community?  Mr. Fegan noted that the Library Board is preparing to conduct a public survey as a prelude to developing a long-range plan.  
The Board also has a duty to be familiar with local, state, and federal library laws.  The Virginia Library Association has a Legislative Committee that can be a resource to help.  VLA’s website has a link to CQ Engage which enables the monitoring of key bills and key votes in Congress and enables the user to contact legislators.  VLA’s web site also has a page entitled Legislative Action Center with policy tools at
Trustees have a responsibility to attend all board meetings and see that accurate records are kept on file at the library.  Agendas and minutes should be produced in a timely manner.  Trustees should attend regional, state and national trustee meetings and workshops.  This allows them to talk to their peers and get ideas.  Trustees have a duty to report regularly to the governing officials and the general public.  People want to know what is going on; such reporting allows trustees to talk about their successes.
Ms. Armentrout said that a trustee should consider it his/her job to support the library and the library director, to support the community and citizens he/she represents, to support the local governing body, and to support appropriate library legislation.
Library boards should have a thorough knowledge of the allocating authorities responsible for library funds (meaning, find out where your money is coming from).  They should have an awareness of supplementary sources of revenue - Ms. Armentrout mentioned grants as an example.  Library boards should have a clear understanding of the current financial needs of the library and a strategic plan for helping to obtain funds to carry out the goals and objectives of the library.  They should have an understanding of the legal regulations and accountability required for library funding.  They should have a willingness to support actively requests for increased funding.  Ms. Armentrout said that Friends groups can be supportive of these requests.
Ms. Armentrout reviewed how to advocate:
o   Participate in public relations events
o   Be vocal, visible, and well-informed
o   Use the library and spread the word
o   Listen to the community
o   Talk to individual groups about the library’s progress, plans, and policies
o   Work closely with local officials according to the library’s plan
o   Tell people what trustees do, who they are, when they meet, and how they can be reached
o   Sell the philosophy and merits of high-quality library service
o   Support the Friends of the Library and recruit members
The next section of her presentation covered FOIA, also known as the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.  A public meeting under FOIA occurs when 3 members of a public body are gathered and they are discussing library business.  The place where this occurs does not matter.  There are rules in the Act that govern conference calls.  What are public records under FOIA?  Any writing, images or recordings in any format that are prepared or owned by or in the possession of a public body or its agents in the transaction of public business.  Ms. Armentrout said that notes taken during a meeting are public records until the final version of a public document is issued.  At that point, when business is done, meeting notes may be discarded.  She went over retention schedules.  Governing boards must retain minutes.  The Chairman retains his records permanently; when he leaves office, he turns these over to Library Administration.
Ms. Armentrout reviewed e-mail basics as they apply to record keeping.  Trustees are responsible for managing their sent and received e-mail as it relates to library business.  Requests from the public must be honored the same as any other public record request.  E-mail must remain accessible during the entire retention period.  She suggested that each trustee set up a separate e-mail account for library business so that personal e-mail does not get intermingled with library business e-mail.
Ms. Armentrout discussed trustee self-evaluations.  She said that this is a healthy component of being a Board.  It gives trustees an opportunity to discuss, as a Board, how are we doing?  It is beneficial for each trustee to self-evaluate and answer this same question.  Such self-evaluation could be done at a board retreat.
Respectfully submitted
Janice Kuch, FCPLEA Secretary

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