Developing Library Policies

Policy Basics

Policymaking is perhaps the most difficult part of a trustee’s job, requiring an open mind, a thoughtful study of the issues involved and a deep understanding of the library’s mission and of the community it serves. In addition, clearly reasoned and written, up-to-date policies provide the Library with critical legal protection. Trustee Handbook, pg. 38
  • Policies are the rules and the principles that guide the operation and the use of the library.
  • They are required by Education Department Regulations (8 NYCRR) ยง 90.2 as part of the public library minimum standards.
  • Must be reviewed every five years.
  • Must be posted on the library’s website.
  • The library board is responsible for creating such policies, reviewing, and revising them
  • The library board is ultimately enforcing them with the assistance of the library staff.
  • Policies must be clearly written and understandable.
  • All policies should be able to stand alone and be dated for the original adoption and review and/or revision dates.
  • Policies should be recorded, compiled, and organized for ready access in a policy manual.
  • Each trustee should have a copy of the policy manual and an understanding of what it contains.

Policy Types

Internal Polices
  • Internal policies govern the operations and interactions of how the Board, director, and staff interact with the organization.
    • Staff Handbook,
    • Code of Ethics,
    • Continuing Education,
    • Claims Auditing, etc.
External Policies
  • External policies govern the interactions that the community has with the library.
    • Customer Service,
    • Collection Development,
    • Unattended Children,
    • Patron Complaints,
    • Meeting Room Policies, etc.
Policy vs. Procedure
  • Policies are the local law of an organization;
  • Procedures are how policies are carried out (an administrative function and describe how things are done).
  • A policy will always carry more authority than a procedure.
What You Will Need

Policy Development

Identify Need
  • Policies should be developed based on organizational needs.
  • Development can happen as a response to a need or in anticipation of a need.
  • It is best to constantly assess the library's activities, responsibilities, and the community to develop appropriate policies before they are needed.
  • Think critically about what the library may encounter in order to develop appropriate policies.
Identify Responsibly
  • Policy developed by committee is inefficient.
  • One person should be in charge of the initial draft.
Gather Information
  • Consider laws, other policies, existing procedures, and the community when implementing drafting policies.
Draft Policy
  • Make sure that the policy is worded in a way that is appropriate to those who will be expected to implement it.
Consult with Trustees and Staff
  • Review draft policies with the Policy Committee for varying perspectives.
  • Bring the draft to the staff who will be implementing it for comment and review.
Develop Coorospoinding Procedures
  • Many policies require additional procedures to outline how a policy should be implemented.
Present to the Board
  • Many policies require additional procedures to outline how a policy should be implemented.
Communicate to Employees
  • Once approved, communicate the change to employees so they can implement the policy.
Add to Website
Review and Revise
  • Policies need to be reviewed every five years or earlier;
  • Revised when they are no longer relevant;
  • Amended if they do not match existing procedures.

Other Considerations

When establishing a new policy the board should seek from the director sufficient information to discuss the issue with confidence. This should include:
  • A description of the issue that requires policy consideration;
  • A statement describing how a policy would contribute to the accomplishment of the library's goals and objectives;
  • A list of existing policies related to or affected by the proposed policy;
  • A list of the policy options available, with appropriate analysis (including effects of enforcing the policy, legal ramifications, and costs to resources, facilities, and staff);
  • A recommendation, accompanied by the justification for changes in any existing policies.
When an existing policy is under review the board should ask themselves if the policy is:
  • In compliance with all laws and regulations;
  • Consistent with the library's charter, mission, goals, and plans;
  • Consistent with the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement;
  • Complete, clearly written, and easily understandable;
  • In the best interest of the community at large, devoid of politics, prejudice, or favoritism;
  • Easily enforceable without undue burden on the library staff;
  • Designed to maximize library services and access for the greatest number of users.
Policy Pitfalls to Avoid
  • Writing too few policies.
  • Writing too many policies.
  • Writing policies for one stand-alone instance.
  • Not informing staff of the policies.
  • Hiding behind policy and not reconsidering if outdated.
  • Confusing policy and procedure.

Policy Resources

March 16, 2021 Recording

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