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Trustee Roles & Responsibilities: Trustee Roles & Responsibilities

Trustee Roles & Responsibilities

The library board is responsible for the library and all that happens in it. That may be a strong statement, but it is both a legal and practical way of looking at the job you accepted as board member. Even though the board delegates the actual day-to-day operation of the library to professional, paid staff, the board never gives up ultimate bottom-line responsibility for the success or failure of the library. To manage that responsibility, the board has six major duties:

  1. Set policies
  2. Hire and evaluate the director
  3. Plan for the future of the library
  4. Submit budgets and monitor finances
  5. Monitor and evaluate the overall effectiveness of the library
  6. Advocate for the library in the community

See statutory powers and duties of Nevada library trustees in NRS 379.025.

Library Directors

The director is responsible for administering all functions of the library. Just as there is sometimes confusion about the role of the library board member, there may be confusion about the director's role on the board team. The director is first an employee of the board, but the relationship between the board and the director is not the typical employer/employee relationship. The library board members' job is to make sure the library operates well and in the best interest of those the library serves, not to demonstrate expertise in managing a library. The board must hire a qualified director, who possesses the required professional library education and experience, to manage the day-to-day operations.

Board Officers

Board leaders facilitate good group decisions. Any group that expects to accomplish anything must have leaders to keep the group organized, help the group discipline itself, prod the group to move ahead, and facilitate the work of the group to make good decisions. That's the function of all board officers.

Boards grow from different traditions and have different ideas about the type and number of officers they need. The job responsibilities of your board's officers may vary.

Someone has to be the board's leader and that person is the board chairperson. The job description for the chairperson is relatively simple, but the job can be complex.

First of all the board chairperson must be understood to have no power beyond that of any other board member unless the full board has granted that power to the chairperson. For example, the board may delegate specific powers to the board chairperson, such as managing board meetings, crafting the agenda with the Library Director, speaking to the public on behalf of the board, or signing contracts or the director's timesheet on behalf of the board.

Any powers exercised by the board chairperson must first be granted by the full board in policy, or in commonly accepted and understood practice of the board. In other words, the board president does not speak for the board unless the full board has formally or informally delegated that privilege to the chairperson.

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