Public libraries are an important part of their communities. They provide education, entertainment, computer and WiFi capabilities, research, notary services, programs, and more to those in their service areas. In order to make sure that libraries are supporting their communities and mission, all public libraries in North Dakota are required to be governed by a library board as laid out in NDCC §40-38-03.
Library boards in North Dakota are governing boards which means that they have a responsibility to conduct the library's business in accordance with local, state, and federal laws. This guide compiles information on major topics as they relate to library boards, but it is not comprehensive. Please consult the State Library with general questions or your local attorney for further interpretations of law.
The powers and duties of the library board of directors are laid out in NDCC §40-38-04.
The board of directors shall have the following powers and duties:
According to the North Dakota Library Trustee Manual, the library board is expected to also do the following:
NDCC §40-38-03 outlines the appointment of trustees, terms of office, vacancies, and the general organization of the board. The general guidelines are below. Please see the actual statute for the full text.
Trustee Appointment: "The governing body...shall appoint a board...to govern the library and reading room." This means that the city council or county commission needs to officially appoint all trustees to the library board.
Number of Trustees: "...five directors who must be residents of the municipality or county, as the case may be..." (If the library board is a joint city-county library or resides in a community with a home-rule charter, this may be different. See information on Home Rule or joint libraries in §40-38-11 and contact the State Library or an attorney with questions.)
Term Limits: "...each director may hold office for a term of three years...no member of the board may serve for more than two consecutive terms, after which an interval of one year must elapse before the same member may be reappointed."
Many libraries have multiple service areas either through contracts or joint library mergers. Libraries that have been established as "city-county" libraries or "merged" libraries have different board requirements; they are outlined in NDCC §40-38-11.
Trustee Appointment: "...appoint a single joint library board to govern public library services..."
Number of Trustees: "The method of representation on the joint library board...shall be determined in the agreement. Provided, the joint library board shall consist of an equal number of appointees from each party to the agreement and, in any case, shall consist of not less than five members nor more than eleven members."
Term Limits: "...no member of the board shall serve for more than two consecutive three-year terms, after which an interval of one year must elapse before the same member may be reappointed."
"All vacancies on the board...must be reported by the board to the governing body of the municipality or the board of county commissioners...and must be filled thereby. An appointment to fill an unexpired term may be for the residue of the term only." —NDCC §40-38-03 #2.
A vacancy on the board can occur in several ways:
In order to fill a vacancy on the board, another eligible trustee will need to be appointed by the governing body. This trustee will complete the remainder of the vacant term. After the partial term, they will still be eligible for 2 consecutive 3-year terms.
"This collection of eight videos, produced by the Utah State Library in 2009, features library trustees sharing their experiences and thoughts on topics that every library board faces."
Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.