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Ethics & Liability: Ethics & Liability


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Ethics & Liability

As a board member of a public library, you are a public servant. Beyond the strict legal definition of how board members should conduct themselves, there are board member ethics. The public expects that your performance will always be above question and for the public good, not for your own interest or another special interest. Most professional employees are covered by a code of ethics or standards of practice. The following is a suggested code of ethical conduct [ALTA (Homepage of ALA) (12 May 2003) (online),, date accessed 27 May 2003.] for library trustees:

As a member of the library board I will:

  • Promote the highest level of library service while observing ethical standards
  • Declare any conflict of interests between my personal life and my position on the library board and avoid voting on issues that appear to be a conflict of interest
  • Avoid situations in which personal interests might be served or financial benefits gained at the expense of library users, colleagues or the institution
  • Distinguish clearly in my actions and statements between my personal philosophies and attitudes and those of the institution
  • Respect the confidential nature of library business while being aware of, and in compliance with, the Freedom of Information Act
  • Be prepared to support to the fullest, the efforts of librarians in resisting censorship of library materials by groups or individuals

Trustees who accept appointment to a library board are expected to perform the duties and responsibilities of Trustee. As a member of the library board I will not:

  • Be critical, in or outside of the board meeting, of fellow board members or their opinions
  • Use any part of the library for my personal advantage or the personal advantage of my friends or relatives
  • Discuss the confidential proceedings of the board outside the board meeting
  • Promise prior to a meeting how I will vote on any issue in the meeting
  • Interfere with the duties of the director or undermine the director's authority