Welcoming New Library Trustees
March 25, 2019
Kate Hall, Northbrook Public Library & Kathy Parker, Retired Public Library Director and Consultant
With library trustee elections around the corner, libraries are thinking about how they are going to onboard new trustees. When a new trustee joins the board, whether through an election or appointment, having a plan for the trustee’s orientation is critical to helping them become acclimated to the library and other board members. The orientation sets the stage for what a library can expect from a board member in the future and provides a library director an opportunity to align the new trustee with the library’s philosophies.
After the election or appointment, the director and board president should call the trustee to welcome them to the board. Follow up with a welcome letter that includes some basic information. Here is a sample of what a letter might look like:
Welcome again. Congratulations on your appointment/election to the library board. I look forward to working with you. Enclosed in this packet are some library goodies, board member and key library staff contact information as well as information on completing the Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act training which is required by all new elected officials and must be completed within 60 days of being sworn in.
You will be receiving more information during the orientation, but, before that happens, I want to share some basic information that you will hopefully find helpful.
Board meetings are typically on the 3rd Thursday of the month at 7:30 PM in the meeting room. My administrative assistant will send out a request for agenda items at the beginning of each month. If you have anything that you would like added to the agenda, you can let her know, and we will include it on the agenda.
The board packet typically goes out the Friday before the board meeting. It is emailed out to all trustees and posted on the website. There are times when information is not included in the board packet online as it pertains to items that will be discussed in a closed session. Another item that is always emailed is the minutes from the previous month’s meeting. They are then posted on the website after the board has approved them.
If you have any questions or want to discuss anything in the board packet or anything else, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. My administrative assistant will be in touch to schedule a convenient time to do your orientation.
I look forward to working with you.
Your Library Director
After the director has welcomed the new trustee, invite the trustee in for an orientation. Providing an orientation every election cycle for all trustees can also help current board members stay up to date on information. At the orientation, provide each new board member with a binder or digital copies of important information. Here is a sample of what you can include in the binder:
1. General library information
a. Contact information
b. Mission statement
c. Organizational chart
2. Board of trustees’ names and phone numbers
3. Key staff contact information
a. Board meeting dates
b. Holiday schedule
c. Annual calendar of actions to be taken at board meetings
5. Director’s reports (past six months)
6. Minutes (past six months)
7. Financial reports (past six months)
8. Annual library budget
9. Board bylaws
10. General library policies
11. Any other large-scale projects
(master plans, capital improvement plans, etc.)
12. Additional resources from your local library system or association
Creating an agenda for the actual meeting helps you stay on track and cover all the salient details. Here is a sample agenda:
II. Duties and role of the board versus duties and role
of the director
III. Library structures in your state
A.Your state library
B. Library system (if applicable)
C.Funding and your state libraries
IV. Important policies and laws
A. State laws (varies by state)
A.Review of prior month’s treasurer’s report
B.Review of different reserve accounts
VI. Library tour
VII. Strategic plan review
The orientation usually takes about two to three hours. The trustee should leave with a good knowledge of how the library runs, how the board meetings run, and any projects that the library is currently working on. This will help bring the new trustee up to speed at their first meeting.
Once the orientation is complete, the training is not done. Offer trustees to attend local continuing education opportunities like ILA’s Trustee Forum Workshops or Trustee Day during the ILA Annual Conference.
Like any job, it takes about a year to learn. But unlike an employee, trustees are only attending meetings once a month. Directors should review their agendas each month and identify common items like the levy and budgets and reach out to new trustees during the initial year to offer additional information.
At the end of the day, directors and staff need to remember that new trustees need to be on-boarded just as staff do. Welcoming them into the library and making sure they have the information and background they need to succeed will help create a committed and engaged board.
Adapted from The Public Library Director’s Toolkit by Kate Hall and Kathy Parker, ALA Editions, 2019. ISBN 978-0-8389-1859-3. Available at the ALA Store, www.alastore.ala.org.