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Public Library Board of Trustees: Working with the Library Director

Separation of Board and Director Duties

The board and the library director need to work together. In order to do so, it is important that there is a clear separation of responsibilities.

The library director is responsible for all operations of the library. In order to support the work of the board, the director provides information and research, proposes options, drafts policies, or makes other recommendations for board consideration. The director supplies staff work, coordinates major efforts such as a long-range planning process, raises questions, describes programs, and assesses both the successes and failures of the library program. The director may also provide, or arrange for, continuing education for trustees.

The library board, on the other hand, is responsible for the library on a broader scale. They adopt and approve policies, but they do not enforce the policies. They examine the budget and recommend changes, help direct the library through the strategic planning process and adoption of a mission and vision statement, and aid in the advocacy efforts on behalf of the library. They also communicate with the director about any concerns regarding staff, the collection, or the role of the library in the community.

Communication between the board and director is very important. The table below is from pages 13–14 of the North Dakota Public Library Trustee Manual to help understand the separation of duties:

  Duties of the Board Duties of the Director
Staff Employ a competent and qualified librarian. Includes recruiting, hiring, and annually evaluating the Director based upon a well-defined job description and expectations. Adopt personnel policy and set adequate salary and benefits for all staff.  Recruit, hire, and annually evaluate library staff based upon well-defined job descriptions and expectations. Suggest improvements needed in salaries, working conditions, and personnel policy. 
Policy Determine and adopt written policies to govern the operation of the library.  Carry out the policies of the library as adopted by the Board. Recommend policies to Library Board.
Planning/ Management Determine the direction of the library by studying community needs. See that a plan is developed for meeting needs and that the plan is carried out.  Suggest and carry out plans for library services. Manage the day-to-day operation of the library. Design library services to meet community needs/interests. Report library’s progress and future needs to the Board.


Examine the budget proposed by the Director; make revisions as needed; officially adopt the budget; present library budget to mayor/city council. Review expenditures in accordance with the budget, amending line items within the budget if needed. Prepare and submit to Library Board a budget request based on present and anticipated needs. Maintain complete and accurate records of finances. Expend funds based on the approved budget.
Advocacy  Advocate for the library through contacts with the general public, civic organizations, and public officials. Attend city council meetings to keep the council informed on library activities. Work to secure adequate funds to carry out the library’s services. Advocate for the library through contacts with general public, civic organizations, and public officials. Attend city council and/or county supervisor meetings. Work to secure adequate funds to carry out the library’s services.
Legal Issues Be familiar with library ordinance as well as state and federal laws affecting the library. Be familiar with library ordinance and keep Board informed on laws affecting the library.
Continuing Education Participate in continuing education activities and encourage the Library Director to do the same. Participate in the orientation of new Trustees.  Participate in continuing education activities and professional organizations; encourage continuing education for library staff. Participate in the orientation of new Trustees. Provide and/or see that new Trustees receive an orientation to the library.
Communication Communicate with the library director Communicate with the library board
Collection Development Adopt collection development policy. Select and order all books and other library materials and resources. 
Board Meetings Regularly attend Board meetings; conduct affairs of Board at regularly scheduled meetings. Attend Board meetings; prepare written progress report; provide information as needed/requested by Board.
Board Member Recruitment Recommend qualifications and candidates for Board to mayor/city council. Notify city of Board vacancies.  Assist in developing qualifications for new Trustees.