Written policies are essential for efficient library operation. To do your board member job well, you must understand policy because that's where you'll be spending your time. You will be making policies, wrestling with policy issues, interpreting policies, monitoring policy effectiveness, enforcing policy, setting direction for the library through policies, and protecting yourself and the library through a good set of policies.
An effective set of written board policies:
Informs every one of board intent, goals, and aspirations
Promotes consistency of board action
Eliminates the need for instant (crisis) policy-making
Reduces criticism of the board and management
Improves public relations
Clarifies board member, director, and staff roles
Gives the director a clear direction from the board
A board policy is a carefully designed, written general statement of direction for the library, formally adopted by a majority vote of the board at a legally constituted board meeting. Good policy is "developed" not just written. Good policy grows out of a lengthy process of studying issues and needs, gathering facts, deliberating the issues, writing the policy and reviewing the policy annually.
Board policies are not laws. There is little need to repeat in board policy those statutes that already have the force of state or federal law unless the board policy spells out some special manner in which the library will implement or comply with a law. For example, if state law prescribes when your fiscal year will begin, there is no need to repeat that law in a board policy.
Bylaws are a higher and more permanent set of guidelines for how the board will operate. They do not cover the broad scope of library management.
Before developing library policies and procedures all relevant laws and regulations must be reviewed to ensure that there is no conflict with local, state, or federal legislation and rules. At a minimum every library must have current policies on personnel matters, use of facilities, and, most importantly, services -- especially in the areas of selection of materials and collection development, intellectual freedom, privacy and confidentiality of patron records, and interlibrary loan.
The list below is not intended as a comprehensive checklist of all library policies but a few examples of the types of policies that fall within various categories.
Programs and services offered
Selection of materials
Public Internet access
Community use of facilities
News media relations
Public solicitation and advertising in the library
Naming of facilities
Reduction in force
Salary and benefits
Personnel policies and procedures of county or city governments may also apply.