Alberta’s public libraries ensure or grant local access to all the information in the world, in all formats. Always important, such access has become even more vital in today’s high-speed environment. Our libraries are essential public services, critical to our quality of life and our communities’ success.
The Alberta Library Trustees’ Association (ALTA) has been advocating for public libraries and the patrons they represent as trustees since 1971. For more information on ALTA, take a look: https://librarytrustees.ab.ca/about-us/.
There is great value in the stories that entertain us and bind us together. Alberta public libraries link Albertans to information, worlds of imagination and leisure.
Alberta’s public libraries are governed by Boards of volunteer trustees appointed by local municipal councils. Your Board, with its intimate knowledge of your community, is in the best position to navigate the challenges your library faces.
As a trustee, you are to be commended for agreeing to become a part of the network of individuals working to ensure that public libraries continue to contribute to the ideals of a free society:
Access to knowledge
Freedom of information
The right to communicate
In appointing you as a library trustee, your municipal council has expressed its trust in your skills, diligence, integrity, and ability to effectively govern the public library for this and future generations.
The task demands time, energy, and competence. This Handbook from the Alberta Library Trustees’ Association’ supplies the tools and references you need to do the job! You can also access the Handbook as an online learning module on ALTA’s website: https://librarytrustees.ab.ca/trustee-handbook/.
Section I: The Alberta Library Trustees’ Association
The Alberta Library Trustees’ Association believes that library services are essential to the quality and standard of life of Albertans and vital to the education, social, and cultural development of the province.
ALTA is the collective voice for library trustees. ALTA builds trustee capacity through education, leadership, communication, partnerships, and collaboration.
Effective Library Board Trustees providing leadership for great community library services to all Albertans.
Code of Ethics
Library Boards exist to develop, promote, and monitor library services as a public trust. To this end, library trustees should be committed to the following principles:
The primary goal of public library trustees is to ensure that the public has access to the highest quality library services possible.
Trustees should ensure that individual community members have access to the most complete library service possible, where limitations in service are unavoidable, any inherent inequality of service should favour those residents least able to obtain alternate service.
Library Trustees should observe ethical standards with truth, integrity, and honour.
Trustees should avoid situations where personal advantage or financial benefits may be gained at the expense of other library users.
Trustees should distinguish between their personal views and those of the institution by respecting the position of the Board, even though they may disagree.
Trustees should respect the confidential nature of library records within the framework which allows for the monitoring of material usage and the need for public accounting.
Trustees should respect the established structure of the library:
Trustees should attempt to work harmoniously with the Board and ultimately accept its will.
Trustees should limit their trusteeship role to policy governance and advocacy.
Trustees are expected to take responsibility for their personal development through continuing education opportunities and participation in provincial and national library organizations.
Trustees should support intellectual freedom in the selection of library material.
Adopted May 1992
ALTA acknowledges the Louisiana Trustees of Public Libraries, whose code of ethics was used as a model for this version.
ALTA Structure, Process, and Benefits
There are more than 220 library Boards in Alberta, 7 regional library systems and more than 320 service points. All library boards are eligible for membership in ALTA. Each trustee is considered a member of ALTA by virtue of the Board’s membership.
ALTA serves about 2,000 trustee members, who represent the collective interests of all Alberta public library supporters and users. ALTA is a not-for-profit volunteer organization, governed by an elected and appointed Board.
ALTA is funded by membership fees and projects from grant funding. It was incorporated on July 26, 1971, under The Alberta Societies Act. On January 1, 1990, ALTA became a registered charity under the Canada Income Tax Act, and can issue official tax receipts for donations. ALTA provides strong support for library leadership and innovation.
Most of all, ALTA provides its members with the information, tools, and training to govern Alberta public libraries effectively and responsibly.
Public library boards who choose ALTA membership benefit through training, conferences, information, and support!
ALTA is the collective voice of all Alberta library trustees; we work to improve and strengthen the role of library Boards. Membership in ALTA entitles each trustee on your Board to:
Participation in the Alberta Library Conference at reduced rates.
Copies of the Trustee Voice electronically.
Participation in ALTA’s trustee education workshops.
Can be nominated for the Lois Hole Lifetime Achievement Award and the ALTA Awards of Excellence. Awards are recognized at the Annual General Meeting.
Direct representation to the office of the Minister responsible for public libraries.
Information on what is happening provincially and nationally in the library community.
Your membership contributes to a strong provincial voice that is needed to speak out on behalf of Alberta Libraries. The more members we have, the stronger our voice!
ALTA Works to Achieve Its Goals
Development and sponsorship of workshops and seminars for library trustees across Alberta.
Joint sponsorship, with library and system Boards, of local workshops.
Joint sponsorship of the annual Alberta Library Conference with the Library Association of Alberta (LAA).
Frequent communication with our membership.
Advocacy for library issues and active participation in significant projects in the library world.
Regular interaction with other provincial, national, and international library associations.
Liaison with other provincial cultural groups and literary associations.
A positive relationship with the Public Library Services Branch, Alberta Municipal Affairs.
Tools to steward and strengthen relationships with respective municipal representatives and elected officials at all levels of government.
The ALTA Board
The ALTA Board meets four or five times a year. At its Annual General Meeting, held during the Alberta Library Conference each spring, the Board reports to the membership, adopts a budget, and considers resolutions. The Association President and regional Directors are elected.
The ALTA Board consists of:
At the first meeting following the AGM, the Board of Directors shall elect from its membership, a President for a 2 year term.
Vice-President and Treasurer
Elected at the first meeting after the AGM from among the Directors for a one year term.
One Director from each of the eight regions
on the map below. Even and odd-numbered regions elect Directors in alternate years for a 2 year term.
Each from Edmonton and Calgary Library Boards, appointed annually.
Administrative support is provided to the board by an Executive Director. ALTA’s website: https://www.librarytrustees.ab.ca.
Two ALTA Awards of Excellence
The Alberta Library Trustees’ Association Award of Excellence was created to recognize library Boards that have supported their libraries to provide ongoing exceptional service over a 5-year period. The award winner is announced at the ALTA annual general meeting at the Alberta Library Conference.
There are two Awards of Excellence:
One award to libraries serving populations of less than 20,000
One award to libraries serving populations of over 20,000
LOIS HOLE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
The Lois Hole Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes Albertans who have made significant contributions to libraries and library trusteeship. Established in 2001, the Lois Hole Lifetime Achievement Award honors the passion that our lieutenant governor had for the role libraries play in our society and in gratitude for her support for libraries in Alberta.
The award recipients are recognized at the ALTA annual general meeting.
Award nominations are open and applications need to be submitted. Applications will be accepted until January 31st of every year.
Current information and applications for ALTA membership, workshops, conferences, awards, and initiatives, and contact information for your local ALTA representative, are available on the ALTA website: https://librarytrustees.ab.ca/meet-your-board/.
Section II: The Library Trustee
When you agreed to be a public library trustee, you consented to a fiduciary obligation to undertake several legal and moral obligations. The moral obligations simply include belief in the importance and value of libraries, desire to contribute to their growth and development, and endorsement of your library’s Vision and Mission. The legal ones are more complex.
The Public Trust
A “TRUST” is a legal relationship which is created when one or more persons holds legal title to property, but another person or persons has the right to the enjoyment or benefit from that property.
As a library trustee, whether municipal, intermunicipal, or system, you have been given a fiduciary duty – you have been entrusted by your community with the responsibility for your public library.
You represent the interest of this and future generations in the management of the library services. The Board is a creator of policy, employer of personnel, controller of finances, and advocate of libraries.
20 questions not-for-profit board directors
should ask about overseeing management
of risk (2009)
As a trustee, you have agreed under the common law:
To use the same care, diligence, and skills in managing the library’s affairs as you would your own.
To become informed about the business of the Board and applicable policy and legislation, and to take advantage of learning opportunities to become a more effective trustee.
Not to use the library’s affairs to your own advantage. If you stand to profit from an action or decision of the Board, you must declare that interest, and may not participate in discussion or vote pertaining to it.
To keep confidential any private information you learn in the course of your activity as a trustee, both during and after your term.
To put the best interests of the public library before your own or any other when you are acting as a trustee.
Not to agree in advance to vote a certain way or turn a decision in a particular direction.
As a trustee, you are protected from personal liability for library debts and obligations. However, if you are negligent or in breach of your duty as a trustee (fiduciary duty) or knowingly collaborate with another who has committed such a breach, you may be sued for any loss sustained by the library as a result.
Role and Responsibilities of the Trustee
Trustees are appointed to the Board by their municipal council for a term of up to three years, and may be reappointed in accordance with The Libraries Act.
Best practices for being an effective trustee include:
Believing and supporting the vision and mission of your library.
Being aware of your legal responsibilities as a trustee.
Contributing your knowledge, experience, or expertise in a major management area: finance, personnel, program, policy, or advocacy.
Becoming aware of issues affecting your library.
Handling Board business effectively and fairly.
Maintaining an active library membership.
Developing awareness of the difference between Board and staff roles.
Increasing your own and other trustees’ knowledge of library matters through discussion, ongoing orientation, and attendance at workshops and conferences.
Serving on at least one Board committee.
Embracing the Alberta Library Trustees’ Association Code of Ethics and Canadian Federation of Library Associations.
As a trustee, you will always be perceived as representing the library in your community. Even though you may personally disagree with a Board decision and are free to debate it during Board meetings, the Board speaks with one voice, and what you say in public should always endorse Board decisions.
“Intellectual Freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause, or movement may be explored Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive, and disseminate ideas.”
– American Library Association
Most Boards have a common structure. They consist of a leader (Chair), supporting executive members, a financial officer, a member to look after record keeping, and supporting members to make decisions. The following are some basic job descriptions for the primary roles on a library board.
PRESIDENT OR CHAIR
Provides leadership to the Board.
Sets the tone and climate for Board activity.
Ensures that the Board meets requirements of trusteeship.
Determines the need for meetings, sets the time, sets the agenda, and chairs meetings according to procedure accepted by the Board.
Calls meetings to order and adjourns them within the appointed times.
Pursues knowledge of Board and chair responsibilities, appropriate legislation, bylaws, policies, and rules of order through ongoing development and education opportunities.
Summarizes and brings closure to discussion, without introducing personal opinions and biases.
Facilitates the contribution of all trustees to Board business.
Ensures that Board plans are followed, adhering to legislation, bylaws, and policy.
Ensures that proper records are kept and signs adopted minutes of meetings.
Has signing authority for library accounts.
Implements the decisions of the Board, usually assigning specific tasks or delegating to committee.
Ensures that committee chairs are in place, and may appoint committee chairs.
Assumes duties of the chair in the absence of the chair.
May have signing authority on library accounts.
May have on-going assigned duties, such as trustee recruitment or orientation.
Records minutes of Board meetings and provides copies to trustees at least one week prior to next meeting, together with agendas and other required materials.
Maintains a file of original minutes and copies of reports, correspondence, etc., at the library.
Notifies Board members of meetings.
Handles library correspondence as directed by the Board.
May hold signing authority for library accounts.
Acts as chair if both chair and vice-chair are absent.
Confirms locations for meetings.
Brings required materials (Board manual, minutes, and reports) to meetings.
Assists chair in developing agenda.
Note: Boards may choose to have a non-trustee recording secretary who may be staff or a volunteer; if staff, duties must be in job description and time is paid.
Chairs finance committee; prepares agenda for finance committee meetings.
Sets up and/or monitors bookkeeping/accounting procedures.
Is familiar with current accounting practice and applicable legislation.
Submits a financial summary and status report to Board meetings.
Has, with two or three others, signing authority for library accounts.
Prepares, with the senior staff person, an annual financial report.
Ensures the annual report required by Public Library Services Branch Development is properly properly prepared and submitted.
Maintains a file of potential revenue sources, including application criteria, procedures, and deadlines, and ensures that grants and special funding are correctly applied for.
Presents the Board’s budget and estimate of funds to council and other funding bodies.
Spearheads the development of Board financial policy.
Takes advantage of training opportunities to enhance knowledge of library financial management.
Some boards may choose to combine the positions of secretary and treasurer into one position, however, that person will perform all of the duties outlined above.
Trustee Recruitment and Orientation
Library trustees can only be appointed by the municipal council that established the board. Most councils would probably welcome the Board’s active assistance, especially if the Board has developed a strong partnership with the council. The Board could offer to participate in a recruitment committee, thereby ensuring that the Board’s needs for individuals with the necessary interests and expertise will be met.
For more information, refer to the Appendix A: Board Job Descriptions and various Board Development Resources in Appendix B: Further Resources
No business would expect to hire a new employee and not supply background information about the organization, specialized training, and necessary updates. Boards, however, often appear to expect trustees to be able to govern the complexities of the public library with little or no related background or education.
Library boards are required to have an orientation policy. Through an ongoing orientation process, the Board ensures that a new trustee has enough information to quickly become an effective and contributing member. Making orientation a regular part of Board business also helps more experienced trustees remain up-to-date on important changes, issues, and developments – an excellent beginning to trustee education!
Lacombe Library Board has an orientation module available: https://librarytrustees.ab.ca/boardtrusteeorientationanddevelopment/
Brooks Trustee Board also has an orientation module available: https://brooks.shortgrass.ca/sites/bro/media/Files/policies/G-2_%20Trustee%20Orientation%20and%20Education.pdf
Makes a new trustee feel welcome and needed.
Increases efficiency and saves time.
Helps every member of the Board utilize skills fully and explore interests.
Fosters a sense of unified purpose.
The orientation process should include:
A meeting with the Board Chair or Vice-Chair prior to the first Board meeting.
A tour of the library and review of the services and programs it offers.
An explanation of library funding.
An explanation of Board operations, including meeting schedules, committee structure and responsibilities, and trustee roles and responsibilities.
A review of the Board Manual: Vision, Mission, bylaws, policies, budget, legislation, etc.
Pairing with an experienced trustee for the first few meetings.
A scheduled orientation from time to time for the entire Board.
Basics of a Board Manual
Every trustee should have a current copy of the Board Manual, which should contain:
The Board’s Vision, Mission, Bylaws, and Goals and Objectives (Plan of Service).
The municipal bylaw under which the library was established.
A brief history of the library.
Self-governance, operational, and advocacy policies.
Names, contact information, and brief biographies of current Board members.
Standing committee terms of reference and members.
Calendar of Board, committee, and other library related meetings and events.
List of library programs and types of resources.
Community profile and needs assessment summary.
Rules of order, rules of the table, and procedures
governing conduct of meetings adopted by the Board.
Budget and three previous financial reports.
Minutes of the three most recent Board meetings.
Annual Board report.
Libraries Act and Libraries Regulation.
Alberta Library Trustees’ Association Handbook.
Assembling such a manual is a huge task, best done over an extended period. The key to keeping it current is to set aside a portion of every Board and committee meeting to review, evaluate, and update it. Ten to fifteen minutes should be enough. Doing this on a regular basis ensures you won’t be faced with doing it all at once – an almost impossible job!
Orientation is only the beginning of the education you need. Effective trustees look for opportunities to enhance their skills. Some ways to cultivate excellence might include:
Developing skills in policy development by participating in trustee training opportunities, checking out sample policies from other libraries, and studying library legislation and resources.
Learning to make effective presentations to councils, other funders, and the community.
Soliciting policy-related recommendations from staff and patrons.
Becoming involved in provincial, national, and international trustee organizations.
Participating in library-related conferences, workshops, and meetings, and networking with other library folk whenever possible.
Talking – and listening – to your community about your library at every opportunity.
Transferring personal growth and skill development from other areas of your life to your work as a trustee.
You can learn to be a more effective trustee through:
The annual Alberta Library Conference every spring.
The Trustee Workshops, sponsored by ALTA, and other workshops presented by or sponsored by ALTA.
Library Board Basics Workshops, on topics such as the Libraries Act, roles & responsibilities of library trustees, and more, offered by the Public Library Services Branch of Alberta Municipal Affairs.
The online resources on many aspects of library trusteeship listed in the Trustee Resource Centre on the ALTA website.
The Online Trustee Education Modules, a series of modules on topics critical to effective trusteeship.
Workshops and conferences presented by regional library systems.
Other library events, conferences, and seminars.
Seminars, workshops, and other personal growth and adult education opportunities, as they arise.
Excellent trustees continually qualify themselves for the job as they serve. It is up to the Board to facilitate their efforts. This means including money for trustee education in the budget.
Section III: The Library Board
The Work of the Board
Municipal, intermunicipal, and library system Boards govern the management and regulation of the library services they offer. This means directing organizational development and promotion, as well as maintaining careful policy development and well-informed decision making.
Boards accomplish their work primarily in meetings, so it is important that trustees understand how to manage meetings to maximize effectiveness.
Under The Libraries Act, Boards are required to meet at least once every four months, and should meet as often as is necessary to accomplish the required business.
Most Boards meet nine to twelve times per year and each meeting should be designed to maximize Board and staff input through effective use or available resources.
Your Board goal should be to hold meetings that move briskly, stick to the desired timelines, take care of business and issues, and yield useful decisions.
Role and Responsibilities of the Board
The library Board is an autonomous legal entity, deriving its authority as a corporation from the The Alberta Libraries Act. The library board is a governing board, that is not only accountable to council, but to all citizens of the municipality and provincial government.
The Board is responsible for:
Determining the priorities of the library service and creating a plan of service based on a community needs assessment.
Securing funding by requesting funds from stakeholders and applying for provincial grants.
Keeping financial records and bank accounts and manages the budget and the board must undergo an annual financial review. The reviewer cannot be on the library board, and municipal council must approve the qualifications of the reviewer and set the level of financial review.
Creating bylaws which must be submitted to council for acceptance. Council can disallow a bylaw, but they cannot change it. Copies of bylaws accepted by municipal council should be sent to Public Library Services Branch, Alberta Municipal Affairs.
Creating the policies that enable the delivery of library services to the municipality.
Hiring and evaluating a senior staff member.
Complying with the Libraries Act and Regulation.
Participating in the development of framework, governance, and operational policies.
Helping to develop goals and objectives congruent with the library’s vision and mission.
Regularly evaluating and reviewing bylaws, policies, goals and objectives, and amending as required.
Ensuring adequate funds from government and other sources to carry out the goals and objectives.
Participating in the organization and implementation of marketing plans and activities.
Participating in the financial management of the library.
Participating in lobbying all levels of government for positive action for libraries.
Assisting in the formation of partnerships with other community organizations.
Board Meeting Agendas
Setting the agenda is the responsibility of the Chair (whether Board or committee), with input from other trustees, committee members, and senior staff. An agenda provides advance information, with a meeting outline.
It is recommended agendas be distributed with supporting documentation (minutes, financial reports, etc.) a week to ten days in advance of the meeting. The method of distribution may be any combination of Member pick up, mail, or email.
The date of the Agenda package completion and method of distribution should be decided at the organizational meeting. The agenda package should include:
The name of the group and kind of meeting (regular, special, committee, etc.).
The meeting location and time: day, month, year, and hour.
Items for information, discussion, and decision, including unfinished and new business.
Reports (special, committees, senior staff, etc.) and correspondence.
Next meeting and adjournment.
Optional items such as a list of participants and guests, a meeting timeline, the vision and mission of the Board, and the objective of the meeting.
Agendas generally follow a fairly standard format, which can help Board members know what to expect.
Agendas should facilitate the work of the Board. For instance, after adoption of the agenda and approved minutes, items for information may lead into items for decision, and to discussion for future decision items, to be followed by regular reports and correspondence, etc.
Deal first with high-priority items, to ensure focus of the Board’s energy and enthusiasm, and keep things in logical sequence!
It may be preferable to delegate some of the work of the Board to either standing committees, (that are struck to form recommendations on ongoing issues, e.g. finances) or to an ad-hoc committee for new or time-sensitive issues.
The Board should then require that these committees provide a recommendation for decision to the Board.
At each regular meeting, the Board should address:
Achievement of goals and objectives.
Issues and problems including concerns brought forward by the senior staff person.
Long-range planning objectives.
SAMPLE AGENDA I:
SAMPLE AGENDA 2:
If a Board needs to discuss a confidential matter a motion must be made to go in camera. Confidential matters are legal matters, security matters, personnel matters, or labour relations, as outlined in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Nothing discussed while in camera may be repeated. No motion may be made by the Board while in camera, however once a motion has been made to come out of camera a resolution can be forwarded regarding items discussed while in camera.
A calendar of Board and committee meetings, key events and timelines, conferences, training, and workshops makes it easier for trustees and Boards to plan their time. The calendar should be updated at every meeting. Some dates to include:
Regular Board and committee meetings
Annual election of Board executive (this is normally done at the Organizational meeting which is normally held at the first meeting following the Municipal Council’s Organizational meeting during which Board members are assigned)
Alberta Library Conference
Regional Library training opportunities
Municipal council meetings
Deadlines: Annual Report of Public Libraries, budget submission to council, and grant applications
Special events and fund raising activities
A Board which does not keep accurate, organized records will find that its work will be lost, forgotten, duplicated, or – worst of all – need to be repeated again and again. Good records ensure continuity of governance and administration.
Recommended records include:
Minutes of Board and committee meetings
Bylaws, policies, and committee terms of reference (mandate statements)
Plan of service and goals and objectives
Library use statistics
Board member information
Library Board and committee minutes are public documents, and are the official record of the business of the Board. When minutes of a meeting are approved, The Libraries Act requires that the presiding chair sign them, and this official copy must be kept on file at the library in books kept by the Board for that purpose.
Copies of system Board minutes must be sent to the Public Library Services Branch of Alberta Municipal Affairs. The signed minutes are the official version accepted in a court of law.
Minutes should be numbered to conform to the agenda. Committees should submit, if not minutes, at least written reports, as a record of their activity and actions. It’s probably a good idea to keep a separate running numbered and dated record of all motions passed.
Minutes should include:
Name of the Board or committee and kind of meeting (regular, special)
Date, time, and place of the meeting
Full names of presiding Chair, and those present, absent, or absent with regrets
Guests, if any
Minutes of previous meeting approved as circulated, amended, or corrected
Items discussed and reported on, including main points of discussion, and decisions
All motions, who made them, and whether they were carried, defeated, or tabled
Time and place of next meeting, if set
Time of adjournment
Name and position of person recording the minutes
Date of approval and signature of presiding Chair
Board and Staff Functions
Boards are responsible for the governance of the library service they provide, but not for the day-to-day operations. The Board sets directions, goals and objectives, bylaws, and policies, while the staff members administer library operations accordingly.
The Board is responsible for:
Identifying the community’s needs and developing a Plan of Service.
Determining a budget and securing adequate funds to meet it.
Hiring, monitoring, and evaluating the senior staff person.
Developing long- and short-term goals, objectives, and plans.
Monitoring and evaluating the library service provided.
Promoting the library in the community.
The senior staff person has full responsibility for:
Interpreting Board directions and developing programs and services to meet community needs.
Making recommendations for policy changes based on staff and community feedback.
Purchasing equipment and materials within the operating budget.
Selecting and managing other personnel.
Implementing Board plans.
Evaluating program achievements.
Appointing the Senior Staff Person
One of the most important tasks the Board faces is choosing, monitoring, and evaluating the senior staff person. This individual will have more influence than any other over the tone and climate of library operations, and the quality of the programs and services offered.
Generally, the process includes:
Developing a selection process that meshes the Board’s needs with personnel policy, including job description, remuneration, and benefits.
Conducting a search for suitable candidates.
Making an offer of employment.
Providing orientation and training.
Establishing a plan for performance management and evaluation.
The senior staff person is responsible for hiring, training, monitoring, and evaluating all other staff, both paid and volunteer.
The Board and Senior Staff Person Relationship
The partnership between the Board and senior staff person must be based on mutual trust and respect. Channels of communication must remain open and easy in a spirit of free discussion and negotiation. The library’s vision, mission, and goals and objectives must remain uppermost.
The Board Chair or designate is responsible for monitoring the work of the senior staff person, presenting the directives of the Board in a manner that is accurate and fair.
The effectiveness of the partnership will influence how well the library runs, the happiness and productivity of other staff, and the Board’s relations with municipal officials and funding agencies. The senior staff person must be acknowledged by the Board and the public as the professional manager of the services the library provides.
The senior staff person is not a trustee, but should attend, but not required to, all Board meetings, and may attend committee meetings, conferences, and training events as appropriate. This is included in the job description, and is thus part of the paid responsibilities of the position.
A HR Performance Review template is available to trustees! Refer to the section titled “HR Performance Review” located within Appendix B: Further Resources.
Direct criticism of staff by Board members is never appropriate. Such feedback should come through Board or committee channels to be dealt with as part of the performance management process. Nor is it appropriate for the senior staff person to criticize the Board or its policies to the rest of the staff, to individual trustees, or to the public. Again, such feedback should go through channels established by the Board.
The line of authority goes from the Board to the senior staff position, through the Chair or designate, and from there to all other paid and volunteer staff.
Feedback from library patrons and staff comes back the same way. In the event of failure of the normal channels of communication established by the Board, another avenue must be made available. This applies both to the senior staff position and to all other staff.
Board volunteers have a fiduciary duty to provide oversight and good governance to the organizations that they serve.
Conversely, some Boards may be overwhelmed by the tasks they face, or unaware of their responsibilities. Boards should be alert to unsatisfactory situations some of which include the following:
Board does everything and does not allow staff to do what they should.
Board does nothing, offloading even Board work on staff.
Board micro-manages staff.
Board is managed and dominated by staff.
Board is dominated by one or two trustees who take on all work and authority.
Board abdicates all responsibility to one or two trustees.
Municipal council dominates Board function and decisions.
Board and municipal council are antagonistic.
Plan of Service
The Plan of Service is a strategic plan that allows a board to connect with its community and ensure library service aligns with local needs. All library boards in Alberta are required to regularly complete a Plan of Service. More than a legal requirement, a Plan of Service is a powerful tool that helps boards govern more effectively.
BENEFITS OF A PLAN OF SERVICE
Helps maintain a focus of what’s most important in your community.
Helps prioritize activities and ensure funds are allocated efficiently and according to plan.
Helps keep board, management and staff on the same page working toward common goals established in the strategic plan.
Helps communicate to the public and stakeholders what the library offers.
All boards must have a current Plan of Service on file with Public Library Services Branch. PLSB tracks when plans will expire, notifying boards when a new Plan of Service needs to be implemented and submitted. The Libraries Regulation defines the requirements for the Plan of Service:
Boards must regularly complete a new plan – at least every 5 years for municipal and inter municipal boards; at least every 3 years for system library boards.
The plan must include a mission statement.
The plan must include goals and objectives.
The plan must be based on a needs assessment of the community served.
The plan must be reviewed by the board at least annually.
By creating an effective Plan of Service board have a guiding principal for governing the libraries within their communities and ensuring the needs of those communities are being met. A Plan of service is meant to be a living document that changes along with the communities it serves. Remember goals and objectives can be flexible and boards are meant to learn from those and modify them as necessary to continue excellent service to their communities.
A needs assessment is a critical step to creating an effective Plan of Service. Libraries Regulation requires that a boards Plan of Service be based on a needs assessment. A Needs assessment allows boards to understand their community and better guide library service and allocate resources. It is essential to ensure that a needs assessment addresses and reflects the whole community.
Needs assessment typically consists of two parts:
Community engagement – it is vital to talk to people to find out how the library can better serve them, there are multiple methods boards can utilize and boards are encouraged to employ multiple methods:
Social Media engagement
Community discussion at events
Environmental Scan – looking at other sources of library and community information to better understand needs.
Community needs assessment work done by other organization, e.g. your municipality, volunteer associations, community service groups.
Community profiles, demographic data.
Library usage statistics (to better understand how your library is currently being used).
Trends in the broader library world.
Whatever methods a board choses be sure to engage users and not users. Make a concerted effort to reach underserved groups in the community (Indigenous people, individuals with disabilities, new Canadians, etc.) Even if you do not hear from particular groups, it does not mean they do not exist – it then becomes important to rely on other sources of information to fill in those gaps.
There is no right or wrong way to conduct a needs assessment – boards must find what works best for their community as well as their available time and resources. Reach out to fellow trustees in the province to find out how they did their Plan of Services. Collaboration is key and additional support and assistance is also available from Public Library Services Branch.
Responding to Community Needs: Developing your Plan of Service
Based on the results of the needs assessment, boards determine the service priorities (often called “service responses”) they would like to focus on over the course of their Plan of Service. These broadly define the types of programs and services a library will offer:
Examples include: Early literacy, career support and development, lifelong learning, etc.
Boards choose a limited number of priority areas, typically no more than 3 or 4.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Referencing the Needs Assessment goals and objectives must be created as part of your Plan of Service to develop the methods in which your board will put the service priorities into actions. Remember:
Goals typically describe the things the library will do and the benefit the community will receive as a result.
Objectives typically describe the way in which the library will measure its success in achieving those goals.
It is important that your library can easily review and measure its success at achieving the goals, so the board can easily determine what does and doesn’t work for the community being served.
DEVELOPING YOUR PLAN
Once your service priorities, goals and objectives have been identified you can start to bring your Plan together. By keeping these in mind your board can create a mission statement for the library over the course of the new Plan of Service. Now your board is ready to put all these parts together in your Plan of Service document:
There is no required format: it can be standard text document, a brochure, poster or something else. (contact other libraries and see what they are doing for ideas).
Once completed, a copy must be filed with Public Library Services Branch.
Your Plan of Service is a living document and can and should be adjusted as necessary.
Boards must review their Plan of Service at least annually but should ideally review more frequently.
Reviewing the Plan of Service regularly keeps it top of mind for board trustees and ensures the library is always on track to keep the needs of its community as the priority.
Policies should be clear statements expressed in broad terms, with input from trustees, staff, and the community. The Board’s Vision, Mission, and goals and objectives or plan of service are the basis of all Board policies. The library manager should usually take the lead in developing board procedures. Other staff should implement those procedures. The board should only monitor and supervise the library manager, not other library staff.
Help is available from the Public Library Services Branch, Alberta Municipal Affairs, and from your regional library system, including advice and sample policies. Legislatively required policies and policy changes must be filed with the Branch. Boards are responsible for staying abreast of changes in library legislation.
The following is a direct quote from Section 7 of the Libraries Regulation stating which policies are required for library boards:
(1) Subject to section 36 of the Libraries Regulation Act, every board shall establish policies with respect to the following:
(a) confidentiality of user records, except where disclosure is required by law;
(b) orientation and continuing education of board members and staff, including expenses for attendance at library meetings, conference workshops and courses and for memberships in library associations;
(c) finance, including designation of expenses for which board members and staff will be reimbursed, the form and manner in which those expenses shall be claimed and the appointment of signing officers for the board.
(2) Every board that operates a library service point shall, in addition to establishing policies under subsection (1), establish policies with respect to the following:
(a) personnel, including job descriptions and performance appraisals for employees and volunteers, qualifications for staff positions, working hours, conditions of employment and a grievance procedure;
(b) selection, acquisition, purchase and disposition of library resources, including a policy respecting gifts and donations;
(c) resource sharing, including participation in a provincial resource sharing network and the conditions that apply to the acquisition of library resources and information from other sources, including inter-library loans and information in electronic databases;
(d) provision of library resources to persons unable to use conventional print resources, including provision in co-operation with community agencies;
(e) the terms and conditions under which library resources will be loaned to members of the library for use in a location other than the library;
(f) hours of service at each library service point;
(g) the terms and conditions for use of any areas of a building managed by the board that are not normally used for library purposes, including who may use those areas.
(3) A library system board shall also establish a policy with respect to the provision of municipal library services to any member municipality that does not have a municipal board and shall ensure that by-laws under section 3 and policies under subsections (1) and (2) apply to those library services.
Framework Policies (not required) clarifies the library’s purpose and identifies who it exists to serve and why. It includes:
Values and beliefs
Vision and mission
Strategic directions, goals and objectives, plan of service
Board self-governance policies (not required) sets out how the Board goes about its business. It defines, in broad terms, the roles, responsibilities, and functions of the Board, trustees, committees, and staff, and includes:
Policy format and process (Policy on policy making)
Type of Board and Board structure
Rules of order and the “rules of the table” unique to this Board
Record keeping methodology
Job descriptions for trustees and Board positions
Terms of reference for committees (mandate statements)
Trustee orientation, training, and evaluation
Trustee code of conduct (e.g. ALTA Code of Ethics)
Development and maintenance of a comprehensive Board Manual
Operational Policies (not required) governance deals with specific areas of operation in a broad manner. It ensures uniform and consistent practice, prevents “spur-of-the- moment” decisions, and provides continuity. It is not specific procedures of day-to-day operations.
Needs assessment cycle to ensure program relevance
Program planning cycle, basis for the operational procedures developed by staff
Strategy to achieve mission and goals
Allocation of resources
Monitoring and evaluation of results
Personnel (required, bot not all):
Relationship with and required skills, authority, role, responsibilities, and functions of the senior staff person
Hiring, evaluation, and firing of senior staff position
Conditions of employment, compensation, and benefits for senior staff position and all other staff
Policy for volunteer staff
Staff job descriptions
Adherence to Alberta Employment Standards and other applicable legislation
Budget development and review, and financial reporting
Ensuring sufficient funds to meet the budget
Monitoring resource allocation, including replacement and capital needs
Contracts, leases, insurance
Reimbursement for expenses (trustees, staff, and volunteers)
Advocacy Policies (not required): aims to create positive interrelationships between the library and Board and the community, government, and other organizations.
Community awareness and support of the library
Responsiveness to the community
Representing the library to all other organizations, business, and government Forging partnerships to enhance library service
Monitoring legislation and interacting with elected officials
The Board, is responsible for ensuring sufficient funds to meet the budget, and for allocating them wisely while working with the senior staff person. One of the major issues facing Boards is how to utilize tax-based funding alongside other forms of revenue, such as fundraising and private donations. Once funding policy is developed, the Board must consider
Justification of the need to fund long-range goals and annual objectives.
Changes and improvements recommended by the senior staff person.
A level of remuneration that will attract and keep people with the necessary skills.
Priorities of the municipal council(s), who will accept or reject the library’s request for funds at the annual budget presentation.
The moral and legal obligations surrounding public funds.
The annual grant application to the Public Library Services Branch, including the budget and financial review.
Administration of trust funds and/or donations in accordance with the wishes of the donors, to the maximum benefit of the library and the community.
Agreements and contracts with agencies or individuals who provide services, equipment, or materials to the library.
Alternative sources of funding.
The majority of public library funding comes from municipalities.
The remainder comes from the provincial government and other funding sources, such as lotteries, other grants, private foundations, corporate sponsors, other community agencies, fundraising activities, and individuals.
The Political Process
Library trustees and the political process are inseparable. We represent the interests of patrons and supporters at the same time as we represent the library to the community.
Competition for municipal, provincial, and lottery funding is always fierce. Because we serve a public trust, we must be as accountable as any other publicly funded organization, both in how we govern the library and in how we most effectively benefit the community.
The Board must present a unified front, establishing a broad base for community need, with emphasis on how many people gain from current and expanded services.
Design your plans well, ensuring they are compatible with political goals. A sense of realism and a healthy sense of humour are valuable tools. Timing is crucial.
The first step is identifying the existing power structure, whether at the municipal, provincial, or federal level, and working through it, rather than against it. Instead of demanding political cooperation when you want something, remain in regular, year-round contact with your elected officials.
Political activity has the most impact when it is accompanied by the support of many citizens over a long period of time. This means letter writing campaigns and personal contact.
Most importantly, acknowledge support and show appreciation to those who have helped the library. Say “thank you.” Don’t write off those who did not support you – there is always a next time!
The Library Association of Alberta has an excellent resource, “Advocacy: Talk about libraries and influence the political process,” available at: https://www.laa.ca/Advocacy%20 Kit%202013%20update.pdf.
Appendix A: Board Job Description
Job descriptions for Board trustees and Board positions are an important component of Board self-governance. Use them in recruitment, orientation, and evaluation. The following representative samples will help you develop your own.
SAMPLE TRUSTEE JOB DESCRIPTION
Organization (Name of Municipality) Library Board
Position Board Trustee
Area of Authority
(Name of Municipality) Library Board is the legal authority for the (Name of Municipality) Public Library, and is collectively responsible for governing all aspects of library operation. A Board member is a volunteer on the library’s Board of trustees, representing the interests of the community, and is entrusted by the community to manage the library effectively. Each trustee is responsible for actively participating in discussion, policy development, and decision making.
Requirements for Membership
Belief in the importance of libraries and commitment to the vision and mission
Willingness to serve, and to sit on one or more Board committees. (Time commitment varies with number of meetings, conferences, etc., each month)
Skill or knowledge in one or more areas of Board governance: policy, program, personnel, finance, or advocacy
Become aware of and fully informed on library matters, issues, and legislation
Contribute to discussion and decision making and foster positive relations among Board members, committees, staff, and community
Accept responsibility for library affairs and governance
Develop, approve, monitor, review, and evaluate policy, bylaws, budget, and plan of service
Develop skills through attendance at workshops, conferences, trainings, etc.
Monitor Board and trustee effectiveness
Appointment Appointment to the Board is made by the Municipal Council for a term of three years and may be renewed, as set out in The Alberta Libraries Act.
Evaluation Each trustee shall annually participate in an evaluation of his or her performance of Board duties and responsibilities, using a checklist and standards agreed upon by the Board. Self-evaluation after each meeting is encouraged.
Termination Termination of trusteeship (as specified in The Libraries Act) may occur at the conclusion of the appointed term; after three consecutive missed Board meetings not pre-authorized by the Board; by a decision of Council; or by resignation.
Review This policy was approved on [date], and will be reviewed annually.
Information Bulletins, The Board Development Program publishes information bulletins on a variety of board- related issues relevant to nonprofit board members and senior staff looking for information about improving skills in governance; includes writing grant proposals, budgeting, financials etc. Take a look: https://www.alberta.ca/en-board-development-program-info-bulletins.aspx
Board Development Workbooks Produced by the Board Development Program and the Muttart Foundation. Titles include:
Developing Job Descriptions
Drafting and Revising Bylaws
Board Building: Recruiting and Developing Effective Board Members
Hiring and Performance Appraisal of the Executive Director
Trustee Orientation, video and workbook By Iris English and Patricia McNamee, Alberta Library Trustees’ Association, 2000. ISBN: 0968733417. Every Alberta public library received a copy when these materials were published in 2000.
Marketing and Funds Development: A Kit for Alberta Public Libraries By Darryl Goede, Alberta Public Libraries Marketing Implementation Team, 1993.
Giving voice to a ‘quiet’ majority: Final report to the Alberta Public Libraries Marketing Task Force By Calder Bateman Communications, 1991.
The Effective Trustee Handbook By Sue Dutton and the Canadian Library Association, 1987.
Free Management Library A complete online library for non-profits and for-profits, to be freely printed and used. https://managementhelp.org/
Recruiting Volunteers: The Grizzly Creek Solution: A How-to Workshop for Recruiters of Volunteers Video produced by the Boy Scouts of Canada, 1988.
Handbook for the Canadian Library Trustee: On Being a Library Trustee By the Canadian Library Trustees Association, 1995.
Friends for Small Libraries By Margaret Law, published by the Canadian Library Association, 1991. ISBN: 0888022646.
A Handbook for Cultural Trustees: A Guide to the Role, Responsibilities and Functions of Boards of Trustees of Cultural Organizations in Canada By Marion Paquet with Rory Ralston and Donna Cardinal. University of Waterloo Press. 1991. ISBN: 0888980795.
The Library Trustee: A Practical Guidebook. Fifth Edition Edited by Virginia Young. American Library Association, 1995. ISBN: 0838906591.
The Trustee of a Small Public Library. Second Edition Edited by Virginia Young. American Library Association, 1992. ISBN: 083895748X.
Alberta Foundation for the Arts Under Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, lottery revenues are distributed to individual artists and arts organizations in the visual, performing, and literary arts, and cultural industries. Libraries fall under Community Support Organizations. https://www.affta.ab.ca/
Canadian Fundraising Directory Formerly the Canada Grants Service. This is a directory of Canadian Grants, subsidies, prizes, and awards, available from government & private sectors. The most recent edition may be available at your library, or you may be able to access an online subscription. http://www.icecaps.ca/CanadaGrantsFoundations.aspx
Joan Garry Consulting – great set of resources and short blog posts with examples, on a variety of board-trustee-director topics. Keep in mind, US based so not all applicable. https://blog.joangarry.com/