Resources: Q&A with Ron at Stevens Memorial Library on July 10, 2023

Can Trustees attend Board Meetings remotely?

No. Unless the Board does some upfront work. There are two methods to allow for remote participation.

First, the location of the remote participant can be published with the legal notice of the Board Meeting. This allows for the Trustee to videoconference into the meeting, make motions, vote, etc. This also allows the public to attend the Board Meeting at both locations.

Second, the Board may pass a motion, resolution, and rules to allow remote participation for "extraordinary circumstances." The Board may define what this means. These meetings will also need to be recorded, added to the library's website, and maintained for five years. This option expires July 1, 2024.

In both scenarios, a quorum (a majority of the whole, including vacancies) of the Board is required to be in the same location. This also must be videoconferencing. A phone call or camera off is not allowed.

What are the responsibilities between the Director and the Board of Trustees?

The Board governs the library, and the Director makes the day-to-day decisions.

  Library Director Trustees Friends
General Administration Direct responsibility for administration of the library within the framework of the board’s plan, policies, and budget. Reports at each board meeting and keeps the board informed of the library’s progress and problems. Recruit and employ a qualified library director; maintain an ongoing evaluation process for the director. Routinely keep in touch with what is going on through director’s reports, personal use of the library and feedback from the public. Support quality library service in the community through fundraising, volunteerism and serving as advocates for the library.
Policy Apprise the board of the need for new policies as well as policy revisions. Implement the policies of the library as adopted by the board. Identify and adopt written policies to govern the internal and external operations of the library. Support the policies of the library as adopted by the library board.
Planning Coordinate and implement a strategic plan with library board, Friends, staff, and community. Ensure that the library has a strategic plan with implementation and evaluation components. Provide input into the library’s strategic plan and support its implementation.
Fiscal Prepare an annual budget for the library in consultation with the board; make the Friends aware of the special financial needs of the library. Decide on use of money based on the approved budget. Secure adequate funds to carry out library operations. Assist in the preparation and presentation of the annual budget. Authorize expenditures in accordance with the budget. Conduct fundraising to support the library’s mission and plans.
Advocacy Promote the mission of the library within the community. Educate the library board, Friends and community regarding local, state, and federal issues that impact the library. Promote the mission of the library within the community and in society in general. Promote the mission of the library within the community. Advocate for the library to legislators. Advocate for the passage of the library’s budget vote.
Meetings Participate in library board and Friends meetings. Ensure that there is a liaison from the board to the Friends and vice versa. Participate in all board meetings. Follow Open Meetings Law. Appoint a liaison to the Friends Board and become a member of the Friends. Maintain a liaison to the library board. Include the library director and board liaison in Friends meetings.
Networking Encourage trustees and Friends to join state and national professional organizations and make them aware of educational opportunities. Join the Library Trustees Association Section of the New York Library Association (NYLA) and United for Libraries (ALA). Attend continuing education sessions at the public library system. Join Friends of Libraries Section (NYLA) and United for Libraries (ALA). Attend continuing education sessions at the public library system.

Chart adapted from the Trustee Handbook.

How much of the library's funding should come from their local tax levy?

It is recommended by the Division of Library Development and OWWL Library System that at least 90% of the library's overall budget should come from a local tax levy.

What are a few key components of the budget that a library should consider?

  1. Personnel - A high-functioning library considers the needs of its staff. This includes salary and benefits. Budget for this since personnel costs are always increasing.
  2. Technology - Libraries should have a multi-year technology plan with an appropriate purchasing schedule to make sure they have up-to-date computers and networking devices for staff and patrons.
  3. Materials - Another area of high importance for libraries is their collections. Appropriate funding has been directly linked to circulation.
  4. Facilities - Much like technology, your building will wear out and break over time. The library board must consider facility upgrades and replacements regularly.
  5. Plans - Your library's long-range plan/strategic plan/master plan will have items that need to be budgeted. It should have a corresponding budget line if it's in a plan.

Can the Library Collect Money for the Friends of the Library?

It's not a good idea. The library should not handle another entity's money, affairs, or transactions, even the Friends.

Suppose the limited capacity of the Friends means the library must help with cash handling (facilitating sales, accepting donations, and forwarding the money to the Friends). In that case, both organizations should have a policy addressing this approach.

I reached out to our attorney on this one, and she put together the start of a sample policy:
Fiscal Controls When Collaborating with Another Entity

To reduce costs and avoid risk, whenever possible, the Library will not serve as the agent for collecting donations or revenue for another entity it is jointly providing programming with.

However, from time to time, the Library may jointly help present an event that requires the coordinated payment, acceptance, and transfer of money or in-kind donations between the Library and the collaborating party. When that is the case, to ensure adherence to all relevant laws, regulations, and policies, every such event shall be governed by written, signed terms for the handling of such moneys. Such written, singed terms shall be tailored to the specific circumstances of the event and shall set out the manner in which the parties will abide by all relevant policies, including but not limited to:
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Fiscal Controls (including those governing cash handling, acceptance of payment, payments, approved credit card use, acceptance of credit cards/PCI compliance, deposit, remission of funds)
  • Bar on political activity
  • Relevant tax considerations

The written agreement shall be reviewed and approved by the Treasurer before being signed by the Director, no less than two weeks before the event.

For entities that frequently collaborate with the Library (local charities, Friends, etc) a standing agreement reviewed once per year by the respective organizations may be used, so long as it contemplates all forms of accepting and remitting money, and confirms the process for the sharing or remission of same.

2023.07.05 Accepting Payments on Behalf of Outside Organizations.pdf
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