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Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Resource Guide Collection

Trustees: New Trustees

Information, resources, and advice for library trustees in Massachusetts.


On this page, you will find information and resources particularly useful to first-time Trustees.

#1 Tip: Don't be afraid to ask questions! Ask your director, ask your fellow board members, ask us at the MBLC.

You are not alone!

If you are feeling a little uncertain in your new role as a library trustee, Tales from a New Trustee is great read for you. This series, available on the website of United for Libraries (the American Library Association's division dedicated to trustees, Friends and other advocates) was written by an Illinois trustee named Dave Hargett about his experiences as a "newbie." These short articles are insightful, honest, and sometimes even funny.

By the way, United For Libraries is another great resource for new trustees. Some of the information on their website is freely available, but it's worth considering a personal membership to ALA and the United for Libraries division. Ask your board if they have a group membership!

Recommended reading for new trustees

Trustee Orientations from MBLC

MBLC runs Trustee Orientations in the spring and fall aimed at new trustees. 

See the Training for Trustees page for more information about Trustee Orientations, including scheduled sessions and registration information.

Local Orientation

A new trustee needs local information to review and consult. Boards are encouraged to prepare their own local orientation kits or board manuals to aid new trustees in becoming acquainted with the board and the library. At the very least, the library director or board chair should provide new trustees with a roster of the full board, a copy of the board's bylaws and any local ordinances which affect the library, the library's long range plan and annual updates, its policy manual, its current budget, and a list of all funding sources and the percentage of revenue each source represents.

Contents of a more thorough local manual may include:

Board information:​
• Description of board members' responsibilities
• Descriptions of duties of officers, committees and charges​
• Annual calendar with program and fiscal planning schedules
• List of board members (with contact info) & terms of office
• Bylaws of the board, articles of incorporation (if applicable)
• Board meeting minutes from the previous year
• List of suggested resources (publications, organizations, etc.)

Personnel info:
• Organizational chart for the library including position descriptions, pay scales, etc.
• Union contract, if applicable
• Staff list with titles, responsibilities, department/location
• Brief bio of the library director
• Procedures for evaluation of library director

Policies and planning:
• History of the library and its current mission, goals and objectives
• Policies of the library and board concerning personnel, internet access, meeting room use, etc.
• Community analyses such as census figures, economic and occupational trends
• Long range plan (which may already include the information above)
• Most recent library annual report, with prior years for comparison
• Statistical reports on circulation, services, etc.
• Promotional materials including selected articles and/or press releases about the library, brochure, website information

Budget and financial info:
• Current budget and financial reports
• Contracts with other libraries or networks

Local government info:
• Local laws, charter sections, and contracts pertaining to library
• Local government information such as list of Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee members, town meeting information, etc.

• Friends of the Library history, including list of current board members
• Volunteer program information, including volunteer policy