Resources: Q&A with Ron at Newark Library on June 8, 2023

What is the Role of a Public Library Treasurer?

The office of Treasurer varies greatly, depending upon the library’s legal structure. School district and most special legislative district libraries must appoint (hire) an independent Treasurer who is not a member of the Board. Under the provisions of Education Law § 259 (1) (a) this independent officer reports to the board and is responsible for the receipt and disbursement of tax monies after Board approval.

Special legislative district libraries should refer to their enabling legislation for clarification. In the case of school district libraries, the school district treasurer is required to act in this capacity unless the library board appoints its own Treasurer.

Municipal libraries that exercise their right under Education Law § 259 (1) (a) to request their tax appropriations be paid over to the library are strongly advised to appoint an independent Treasurer. In the case of municipal libraries where tax funds are held, and invoices are paid by the municipality, the Treasurer of the municipality serves in this capacity.

The State Comptroller has repeatedly opined that the doctrine of ‘incompatibility of office’ applies to school district, municipal and special legislative district libraries (according to their enabling legislation). This is often applied to the appointment of a board member to the office of Treasurer.

In such cases it is considered a best practice to appoint (hire) an independent Treasurer and appoint a trustee as the board’s ‘&inance Officer’ who would oversee the regular audit of claims, chair the board budget committee and otherwise serve in such a capacity.

Association libraries are not governed by these restrictions and may appoint a trustee as Treasurer to oversee the receipt and disbursement of library funds, report to the board and otherwise fulfill the duties of Treasurer.” Source: Trustee Handbook, pg. 95

Typical Duties of a Public Library Treasurer:
  • Reconciliation of bank statements
  • Preparation of Monthly Report to the Board of Receipts & Disbursements
  • Signing checks for payment after Board approval
  • Oversight of Investments
The full board is still responsible for reviewing expenditures made by the library. They have ultimate fiduciary responsibility.

Do workshops about programs, starting bookclubs, and required harassment training count towards the NYS Trustee Education Requirement?

No. Only training that covers financial oversight, accountability, fiduciary responsibilities, and the general powers and duties of a library trustee will count for Education Law Section 260-D, Board of Trustees Continuing Education.

What happens if a Trustee fails to complete the two hours of required training?

The State Library recommends that a Library Board address this topic in its Board-approved trustee education policy and procedures. In addition, the Library Board may wish to amend the library’s by-laws to specifically address trustee education requirements and compliance. For assistance and for sample policies and bylaws, please contact your Public Library System.

Should our library carry D&O insurance?

Risk management has several components. The most obvious is insurance. The library must carry property and general liability insurance appropriate to the size and scope of its operations. Errors and omissions insurance, also known as directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance, insures the library and the board against real or perceived errors of judgment. Such insurance will usually cover legal costs and judgments against the library. Workers' compensation insurance is required by law. Other coverage, such as flood insurance, may be appropriate in some situations. The library's entire insurance package should be reviewed thoroughly and regularly for cost and adequacy of coverage.

What happens if a library does not meet Minimum Standards?

If there is a good reason for failing to meet one or more minimum standards, the library may be eligible to file a temporary variance. Failing to meet one or more minimum standards could jeopardize the library's charter if there is no good reason. Losing a library charter would set of a chain reaction of dissolution for the library.

How is being a Trustee of a Library Different from other volunteer positions?

A volunteer is a person who donates time to a charitable or non-profit organization, generally out of altruism or community good.

A trustee is a person to whom property and financial assets are legally committed in trust. A Library Trustee is volunteering to be elected or appointed, however, a significant amount of responsibility comes along with this position.

A family member of one of the Trustees works at the library. What do we do in this instance?

This is an issue of nepotism. Inherent in a trustee’s/board member’s fiduciary duty of loyalty is the responsibility to avoid nepotism in hiring, purchasing, and other institutional decisions. Care must be taken at all times to ensure that family and/or personal relationships do not inappropriately influence a trustee’s/board member’s decision-making. Any decisions based on personal/family influence rather than the institution's best interests constitute a breach of fiduciary duty and may result in a trustee’s/board member’s removal from the board. Institutions should adopt and enforce policies prohibiting impermissible nepotism in hiring and other institutional business including provisions for disclosure of such interests and recusal from voting. In the case of school districts, BOCES, and public libraries such policies must be consistent with the provisions in the General Municipal Law, which permit a trustee/board member to vote on employment contracts for spouses, minor children, and dependents, and the Education Law which requires a 2/3 vote of a board of education to employ a teacher who is related to a board member by blood or marriage. To ensure legal consistency, anti-nepotism policies and provisions should be reviewed and discussed with the institution’s attorneys and auditors before adoption.

What happens if one Trustee votes no on a motion?

A "no" vote is not an issue. If a majority of Trustees vote in favor of a motion, it passes. All votes should be noted in minutes. Due to Collective Authority, Trustees who vote no on a motion are still obligated to carry out the actions determined by the board, even if they disagree with the motion.

Does the Board President have a vote on motions?

Yes, while they are the board's presiding members, they receive a vote on every motion.

Do Trustees need to take the Sexual Harassment Training?

Yes. All New York State employees and employers must adopt an Anti-Sexual Harassment/Non-Discrimination Policy and take the Sexual Harassment Prevention training. The board is the employer of the Library Director, this qualifies them to take the training.

Note: This training does not count towards the required two hours of Trustee Training outlined in Education Law Section 260-D.
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