When you were hired as the library’s director, you became an employee of your library’s board of trustees. Most of the time, working with your board will be easy, because each of you has a common interest and a common mission: to provide your community with the best possible library service. Good board members will be your best allies in providing superior library service. They will bring ideas, encouragement, and enthusiasm to the library. A director who has a hard-working, knowledgeable group of trustees will find them an invaluable help. Below is a general guide to the relationship between the library board and library director. This document includes information on the role of the board vs. the role of the library director, working with a board, and recruitment and retention of board members.
Knowing answers to these questions will give you a good handle on your library's fiscal situation. Open the Budgeting and Finance document for more information.
Most libraries spend at least half of their budgets on human resources. The people working in the library are its most important resource, as they can make the library a smoothly running, efficient organization, or throw a monkey wrench into everything the library is trying to do. For this reason, the public library, like any organization, requires human resources management.
Human resource management (HR or personnel management) in libraries is intended to maximize employee performance with a view to fulfilling the library’s strategic plan. HR activities typically include employee recruitment, training and development, performance appraisal, and rewards (e.g., managing pay and benefit systems). HR is also concerned with the balancing of best library practices with library policy, government regulations, and labor law.
Human resources management is one of the most challenging of all managerial tasks. It is challenging for two reasons. First, and foremost, it involves working with people, who bring their own needs and agendas to the workplace. Some people have pursued library work because they are interested in the “mission” of the library; some have sought library employment for other reasons. Workers with different levels of commitment to the job may require different levels and styles of management.
In addition to the problems of dealing with a number of different personalities and levels of interest, HR management is also the area where your library is most likely to get into legal trouble. No library should feel that it is small enough to be immune from the legal implications of inadequate personnel procedures. In Idaho, libraries serving even the smallest populations have experienced problems serious enough to result in threatened lawsuits. This means that HR procedures must be equitable for all employees, no matter how small the library.
It is this framework of trying to impose uniformity on diverse personalities that makes human resources work challenging. At the same time, it should be remembered that most personnel problems can be handled with relatively little drama by using good communication techniques and by having equitable procedures.
For more information about Personnel open the Human Resource Files, below.
You don’t have to be an attorney in order to be a library director, but you do need to understand the basics of many state and federal laws that affect your library. You should also know about any local ordinances that might pertain to your library.
Legal requirements that may most seriously affect the library are in its fiscal management, personnel, policy, buildings, and political dealings. When making decisions in these areas, be careful. If some action that the library is about to take seems controversial, it should send up a warning flag and you should consider whether your action might have some legal ramifications.
There is more information about Library Law below.
Planning is an important part of the work of library directors and library boards. With limited resources, it is important that you library use what it has in a strategic, systematic manner. Unplanned changes usually cost more in time and money than changes that are thought out in advance. The following documents provide tips on planning for library directors.
We like to think of libraries as peaceful, quiet places where people are always nice to each other. Much of the time, this is true. There are times, however, when libraries are not so quiet. In fact, sometimes libraries can become downright controversial.
For example, sometimes where are people who do not like some of the books or other materials that a library makes available to the community. Or an employee may feel that she has been treated unfairly. Or somebody's behavior disturbs other patrons. Or someone claims that his books have been returned, although the library's records show that they are still checked out. Read the document below to learn how to respond to these situations and find tips on preparing—or updating—your library's policy manual.
Procedures: Or, Where's the Light Switch?
A brand new director walked into her one-person library for the first time. She had worked in libraries before. She had highly developed library skills. The library board had been lucky to find such a qualified person. They had given her a key and a policy manual. She arrived early enough to open the library with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, no one had thought to tell her where the light switches were located. She looked around as best she could in the dark. Then she tried the telephone, which shared one of several lines with city hall. City hall was closed. She could not get an outside line. Because of the mountains, there was no cell reception.
The new director, whose first day on the job started with every good intention, had to return home to use her land line to call the board president. Unfortunately, the board president did not know where the library’s light switches were located. Two hours later, a city employee was found who knew how to turn on the lights. The library was two and a half hours late in opening. It was not an auspicious start for a new library director.
Whether we like it or not, public libraries, like all organizations, are dependent on routine. We keep regularly scheduled hours; we shelves books consistently in the same manner; we use the same procedures to check out materials and check them back in; we catalog materials using the same system, day in and day out. If we did not follow these routines, our libraries would be disorganized, no one could ever find anything, and our customers would never know what to expect from us.
Read the document below to learn the difference between policies and procedures. Also there are tips on developing a procedures manual.
Statistics: Or, Count On It!
The sites linked below may be useful to anyone interested in library data in other states and at the national level.
COMPASS Ada and Canyon County Maps, etc.
If you would like to schedule a Question-and-Answer Session or a Board Training Session on any of these topics, please contact your ICfL Area Field Consultant, who will be happy to help.
Who is my area field consultant? Find Out Here.