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Trustee Support Resources

Board-Director Relationships

The healthy board-director relationship is about mutual understanding and respect. The healthy relationship is demonstrated in the following ways:

  • The board and the director recognize that each has an important role to play in providing library services.
  • The board provides the director with a written job description and evaluates the director's work in a constructive way at least annually.
  • The board does not interfere with the daily operation of the library unless specifically asked to do so by the director. In other words, the board allows the director to do the job she or he was hired to perform.
  • The director keeps the board adequately informed about the operation of the library. He or she recognizes when a decision goes beyond the authority of the library's staff and takes these issues to the board.
  • The board solicits the director's opinions about all issues upon which it will act. The board will always show the director the professional courtesy of asking her or him how a specific decision might impact the day-to-day operation of the library.
  • The director carries out policy set by the board even if he or she does not agree with it. The director, in other words, recognizes that the board has the ultimate legal authority for governing the library. (N.B.: In some states, the library board is advisory, not governing.)
  • When disagreements occur, they are discussed openly and honestly between the library's director and board in regular or special board meetings held pursuant to their state's open meeting law. Neither the board members nor the director discusses these problems with other members of the public behind each other's back.

In order for the trustee-director relationship to work, trustees need to adhere to the following principles:

  • The staff is directed only by the library director, who interprets board-approved policies to the staff and carries out the total library program as accepted by the board.
  • Individual trustees never give orders or instructions to the staff.
  • Trustees wishing to comment on the performance of the staff make these comments directly to the library director.
  • Trustees never interfere in the hiring process other than to agree to job descriptions and personnel policies.
  • The board is a final recourse for employees who have exhausted accepted appeals channels.
  • The Director was hired to run the library and has supervisory authority over the library's other employees.
  • Chain of command is to be respected without exception.