“Trustee/board members owe allegiance to the institution and must act in good faith with the best interest of the institution in mind. The conduct of a trustee/board member must, at all times, further the institution's goals…” -- Statement on the Governance Role of a Trustee or Board Member, New York State Board of Regents.
A trustee is a person to whom property is legally committed in trust. A library trustee's commitment is to both the physical property and resources of the library and the services it provides. The library board has the final responsibility to see that its library provides the best possible service to its community.
The New York State Board of Regents, the institution responsible for the chartering and oversight of education corporations in New York, describes the duties of trustees as those of “Care, Loyalty and Obedience.” All actions must be taken with these principles in mind.
A trustee or board member must act in good faith and exercise the degree of diligence, care and skill that an ordinary prudent individual would use under similar circumstances in a like position.
Trustees/board members owe allegiance to the institution and must act in good faith with the best interest of the organization in mind. The conduct of a trustee/board member must, at all times, further the institution’s goals and not the member’s personal or business interests…A trustee/board member should avoid even the appearance of impropriety…. Acts of self-dealing constitute a breach of fiduciary responsibility that could result in personal liability and removal from the board.
A trustee/board member has a responsibility to insure that the institution’s resources are dedicated to the fulfillment of its mission. The member also has a duty to ensure that the institution complies with all applicable laws and does not engage in any unauthorized activities.
In addition, the Regents charge the Trustee to “ensure that financial resources are being used efficiently and effectively toward meeting the institution’s goals”; and to “hire a CEO to manage the operation of the institution and evaluate his/her overall performance.”.
(All excerpts from: Statement on the Governance Role of a Trustee or Board Member; New York State Board of Regents)
The responsibilities of trustees are few in number but broad in scope. They are:
Every trustee makes a personal commitment to contribute the time and energy to faithfully carry out these duties. Although the board is legally responsible for all aspects of the library as an institution, it is unreasonable to expect a trustee or the whole board to be an expert on every activity or concern that affects the library. Sometimes the most important thing a board can do is acknowledge that it does not have enough information or resources, and to ask for help.
A trustee must make decisions based on the best information available. It is often wise to consult with your public library system staff or specialists such as lawyers, accountants, architects, insurance professionals, IT professionals and other knowledgeable experts.
Under New York State law, library boards have broad and almost exclusive powers and authority to administer the library. The board should not only be concerned with the internal operations of the organization but also alert to external trends and changes that can affect the library’s program of services. Being proactive and open to change is imperative in order to survive and thrive in a world in which change is the only constant.