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Handbook for Library Trustees of New York


Welcome to the 2018 revision of the Handbook.  Most notable in this revision is our attempt to provide clarity on the questions surrounding the Library Treasurer and Library District Clerk positions; as well as further commentary on procurement policies and the “claims audit” procedure.  In addition, you will find new information about the position of the Library Director as an “Officer of the Corporation” and the suggestion that the Library Director take the Oath of Office, just as public library trustees do.  You will also find additional clarification on quorums and voting for association library boards. In addition to some minor edits, links are cited to several brand-new webinars that will help you do your job as a trustee. The State Library routinely adds new on-demand webinars that you can watch at your convenience so be sure to check their web site for new additions to their menu of options. As always, we invite your continued questions and comments!

The purpose of this Handbook is to assist both the new and experienced public library trustee in New York State to better understand their job and to present the basic information they need to provide quality library service to their community. It offers advice on the philosophy of governing a library and on the practical aspects of responsible trusteeship. The information provided is based on the laws and regulations governing public libraries in our state and on the proven “best practices” in the field.  As always, you should consult your attorney, accountant, insurance and other professional advisors regarding specific matters within their area of expertise.

This is but an introduction to the many aspects of trusteeship and should be considered simply as one of the many resources necessary to do the job well. Be advised that it should not be considered as final authority on any legal or financial aspects of library administration.  Library Boards should consult with their attorney or financial advisor on any legal or fiscal issue before them.  Commentary on library law is based on actual law or established opinion by State agencies.

The printed version of the Handbook is intended to be kept in a binder or folder along with other important documents such as the Library’s Bylaws, Policy Manual, and Long-Range Plan, so that updated information can be added as needed.

This online version includes live web links and is an important companion to this Handbook.

All trustees should be aware that the New York State Library provides information on a range of topics on their website. The New York State Library Division of Library Development website deals specifically with public library issues.  This site includes links to a number of informative webinars specifically designed for the public library trustee.

The Library Trustees Association of New York State (LTA) and the Mid-Hudson Library System both provide excellent and continually evolving resources for trustee education. Your regional public library system's website will also provide you with critical information that will help you do your job. 

The effective trustee must be well versed in good governance practices that will enable them to meet the challenges presented by a rapidly changing political, social and cultural environment. Public libraries in our state are faced with an increasingly complex regulatory environment, contradictory laws and regulations, new technologies and emerging competitors for the library's customers. At the same time they have never been more vital to the well-being of our society. It is indeed an exciting time to be a library trustee.

Many individuals and organizations across New York State share the goal of improving and extending library service; but individual trustees, acting as part of a library board of trustees in partnership with the Library Director, ultimately bear the responsibility for achieving that goal. This manual is intended to provide an introduction to the practical and philosophical information that trustees will need to augment the common sense and good judgment they exercise in the course of their service.