Understanding your role

Congratulations. You are a library trustee! You may be asking yourself….now what? First, consider this; you are here because you have a passion for literacy, a desire to strengthen your community’s services. Only you know why you decided to take on this responsibility. As a new trustee you need to think about the obligations that come with the role. You need to be certain that you:

  • Want to serve - with passion – as a library trustee
  • Endorse – without reservation – the mission of your library
  • Believe - with commitment – in the value of libraries.

Your legal obligations

  1. Use the same care, skill and expertise to manage the library’s affairs as you would your own personal and professional affairs. If, for example, you are a lawyer or an accountant, you are expected to use your professional knowledge when dealing with legal or financial matters.
  2. Know your Board’s business including legislation and policy affecting the library. This means being fully prepared for meetings, asking questions about what you don’t understand and reading background information. Take advantage of orientation and other learning opportunities available to you.
  3. Put the best interests of the library before your own or those of any other individual or organization. This is very important with Regional System Boards. While participating in a Regional System Board meeting, you must do what is best for the Regional System, based on your knowledge of System needs.
  4. You must not personally profit from any activity of the Board. If you stand to gain in any way, you must declare your interest and not participate in the discussion or vote. Remember that perception is reality. If there is a chance people may think you could profit from a decision, then you need to explain this to your Board.
  5. You must not agree in advance to vote a certain way with another trustee. Sometimes this is called “contracting your vote”.

Your legal protection

As a trustee, you are not personally responsible for library debts and obligations. However, you can be sued for losses the library experiences if:

  • You are negligent (fail to provide a proper or reasonable level of care)
  • You breach your duty as a trustee
  • You knowingly collaborate with someone who has committed such a breach.

Video: Three Hats: Roles and Responsibilities

Video: Cautions: Knowing your roles and responsibilities

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