Policies (Board Positions)

How Many Head of Trustee You Got?

You regularly hear about working outside of the box. However, to do so you need a box. This is where policies come in. You get your boss, the library board, to write down the important things so you know the start and when you need to consult your boss before going outside the box. Policies and procedures are necessary for any library, even the smallest, most isolated public library. Policies need to be in place to run an efficient library and for everyone at the library to know where the library is heading and how different situations will be handled. From oft convoluted Board By-Laws and Materials Selection policies to simple Posting and Hours policies; when both the staff and the public know what is expected of them, everyone is better off.

Many policies are necessary for legal and liability reasons, others are necessary as guidelines to follow in the slim chance of tragedies occurring. The everyday policies libraries use the most regard behavior in the library and basic functions such as circulation and membership. Write simple, easy to understand policies looking through them to get rid of anything you can. Policies requiring staff time to enforce and implement are not the most effective or efficient use of limited staff time! Be as general and universally applicable as possible since the easier the policy is to remember the more likely it is to be used in the library on a day-to-day basis. Let the people you pay make the interpretations of the policies; the director sets the example and provides sample situations for employees to practice.

Who Runs the Library - Board vs. Director

Medieval rulers had their trusted advisors — library boards have their director. You may need to relocate, but at least you never have to worry about losing your head like those advisors of yore. Make sure a severance or continuation clause is in any contract or agreement you have with the board. Yes, being a library director is as dangerous as advising kings in the middle ages, but it is also just as rewarding. You are entrusted with one of the most valuable resources of any community and it is up to you to keep the library focused and invigorated. Without plenty of work, the library will be unresponsive to the community's needs and unable to provide help and a place of pride.

In general, the board sets the budget, mission, goals, and policies of the library and also hires, evaluates, and, if necessary, changes directors. Boards insisting on doing more in the day-to-day operation of the library are taking over what they pay the director lots of money to do. Work with your state library organization, or local large library, and familiarize yourself with their trustee manual or handbook. Review the entire document with new board members and highlight key points from it at board meetings for the benefit of everyone. If you do not have access to a trustee manual or handbook, borrow Iowa's at http://www.silo.lib.ia.us/for-ia-libraries/Trustees/2003trusteehandbook.pdf. Read any existing Board By Laws carefully and make suggestions for necessary changes; check out the example of Franklin Public Library at http://www.franklin.mi.us/library/bylaws.htm. Boards are oft changeable and can be quite schizophrenic when multiple personalities work together to guide a library. Keep any relationship with the board as a whole separate from relationships with individual board members; while you want to keep them happy and content, an individual board member should have no more clout at the library than any other patron.

4 Tests for a Locally Enforceable Policy

1. Does the policy conform to current law? - pay for competent legal counsel to review your policies
2. Is the policy reasonable?
3. Can the policy be enforced in a nondiscriminatory manner? - i.e. giggling teens should not be treated harsher than loud talking adults
4. Is the enforcement of the policy measurable? - patrons and staff need to know what breaking the policy is, state specific numbers whenever possible

NOTE: Policies must be in writing and formally adopted at an open meeting.

Communicate with Staff

1. Organize the policy manual - A table of contents, regularly updated and distributed to all employees, lists all policies and the date they were issued or revised.
2. Publish and distribute policies internally - This can be on disk, an intranet, or the Internet. Include any new or changed policies in your next staff meeting along with time for comment.
3. Train staff - Train if new policies are a departure from past practice, require using new equipment or completing new forms, or give certain staff new duties.
4. Obtain needed supplies, forms, etc. - Print or order needed signs, flyers, brochures, or bookmarks for the public and recycle out-of-date materials.

Having a comprehensive, current policy manual is an important task — find the time for it! Look at what other libraries are doing and what is accepted as the best current practice; never do it from scratch if you can copy the basics from someone else. Anyone can write the draft for a policy or revision so pick someone with knowledge and hands-on experience in the area affected by the policy, whether from the governing body, staff, Friends of the Library, or elsewhere. Never select a group to write drafts; groups and committees get involved once a draft or two is already complete and ready for their comments and suggestions. All affected staff should be involved in the creation and review of policies.

All policies are guidelines for employees and the public to follow. Good judgment should always be allowed in implementing and enforcing library policies. Trust the staff to make correct decisions when dealing with the public and each other.

Following are basic policies every small public library should have with links to online policies representing excellent work in each area. Forms and procedures relating to day-to-day implementation are covered in Chapter 5, Procedures. To review more on the general concepts of setting policies, see the Montana Public Library Trustee Handbook at http://msl.state.mt.us/slr/Trustee/Chap13.htm. You may also want to review Wisconsin's Sample Library Policies for the Small Public Library at http://www.owls.lib.wi.us/info/3ps/policies/sample_policies.htm. The policies discussed in this chapter are divided into three areas: policies for employees, policies for the public, and policies for library finances.

Policies for Employees

Staff should sign an agreement to abide by the library's policies and must face consequences if they do not. When an employee signs stating they have read and understood the library's policies, they also agree to the final dispute arbitration stated in the policies. The bottom of the Fulton County Public Library Personnel Policy Manual at http://www.fulco.lib.in.us/Policies/Staff%20Policy%20Manual%201-04.pdf has a sample form. If any of the following policies are not detailed enough, stop by http://www.cslib.org/perpolcy.pdf from the Connecticut State Library or http://www.iola.lib.ks.us/personnl.html from the Southeast Kansas Library System for more personnel policy information.

Anti-Harassment Policy

The policy needs to discuss what harassment is and the procedures for making and dealing with harassment complaints. Harassment is likely to never occur, but if it does you need to deal with the problem in a controlled and planned manner. Do not tolerate harassment; tolerate people. This includes harassment among employees, employees toward the public, the public toward employees, and among the public while they are in the library. Harassment is not in keeping with the general openness and inviting feel public libraries want. See the thorough example from North Judson-Wayne Twp. Public Library at http://www.njwt.lib.in.us/personnel.htm#harass. The difference between teasing and harassment is often a fine line. You need to leave it up to the person at the receiving end of the teasing; they will know when it is no longer good-natured fun.


While this can be broken down into many different policies for each specific benefit, I recommend one policy with a section for benefits everyone receives as well as sections for each employee classification receiving benefits beyond the basic ones. Benefits for all employees usually include getting the first chance to check out new materials, paying no fines for late returns, taking new magazines home for a night, purchasing materials at the library's discount, getting the first chance to purchase books from any used book sales, and getting the first chance to purchase equipment being released by the library. These benefits might also include using the meeting room for personal functions, receiving equipment and supplies for use while working at home, accessing the Internet and server from home, or flexing their schedule using comp time. You may want to share many of these benefits with your board members too since they also work for the library.

Employees classified as full-time will receive greater benefits often including paid holidays, vacation days, sick and/or personal days, medical coverage, and a retirement plan or pension. Full-time employees could also receive dental coverage, vision coverage, bonus pay after many years at the library, life insurance, or disability insurance. Mention if vacation, sick, and/or personal days can be carried over from year to year and the maximum one can save. If employees are required to pay for part or all of their premiums to receive the benefit, mention the percentage. Employees might also be able to pay for additional vacation days, coverage, and insurance not offered as part of their package. Offer employees cash payments for not taking coverage and insurance included in their benefits package.

Requests for vacation days must be written and submitted to the director at least two weeks prior. Vacation requests received by the last staff meeting of the year receive first priority with the senior employee getting first choice when requests overlap. If you have comp time, set limits; do not allow saving more than a day at a time or holding time for more than a month. If employees need more time off, it is not comp time; refer to library policy on benefits, vacation or sick days, or leaves of absence. Leave with and without pay can also be covered in this policy or in a separate leave policy later in the chapter. An example of a brief benefits policy is available from Bell County Public Libraries at http://www.tcnet.net/~pinevillelib/Policies.html#benefits.


Full-time employees work 35 or more hours per week while part-time employees work less, anywhere from 10 to 20 hours a week up to full-time. Those under 10 to 20 hours a week will generally be classified as substitutes or pages and you can define more classes such as temporary or summer help. Schedules may fluctuate and go over or drop under the hours listed for an employee's classification without the employee automatically switching classifications. If this change becomes permanent or goes over a month or two, switch the employee to the new classification. There is an excellent example of this policy available from the Women's Business Center at http://www.onlinewbc.gov/docs/manage/hrpol_cat.html.

Confidentiality of People Using the Library

This policy can be called many things, including a privacy policy or confidentiality of requests and records, but they all refer to library employees keeping the specifics regarding people who use the library to themselves. All library patrons' use will be kept private and confidential between the patron and any staff member involved; there must be no way to connect the people involved to stories or situations discussed by staff. Even members of the same family should not be told what other members of the family are using at the library. Look at the guidelines for a confidentiality policy from ALA at http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/ifissues/privacyconfidentiality.htm. People have a right to read, research, and peruse what they like. The individual citizen's freedom is important in this country and in bringing a variety of opinions and viewpoints into public discussions. Public libraries need to respect this right to privacy and safeguard it.

Some states require you to inform the person who signed for the library card if they ask what is out or has been requested on an account. Other states allow parents or guardians to fill out a form requesting a child's account information. In these cases, this policy needs to be supplemented with a procedure and possibly a form for handling requests.

Conflict of Interest

This is your general ethics statement for the library and includes things such as nepotism, gifts to employees, doing business with relatives, receiving favors from businesses, and other cases where there is a possibility of hiring and business decisions being made for gain instead of being made for the best and/or lowest cost option. These are all judgment calls, but you need to have a policy stating conflicts of interest need to be shared with the rest of the library when they do occur. Check out the policy from Russell Library at http://ct.webjunction.org/do/DisplayContent?id=7072. I believe conflicts of interest should not be avoided, but should be made public information. The employee may be able to keep what they were given, or they may have to give it to the library for general use, but at least everyone now knows about it. Inform people if you are interviewing a relative or someone you know for a job at the library and be willing to invite other people in to their interview or have someone else conduct the interview and review the entire pool of candidates. If bids come in from a company you have connections with, have someone else look over the pool of bidders with you and possibly make the decision as well; in any case, be sure to state on the record that you are receiving no personal benefit from the awarding of this bid.

Customer Service

This establishes the basic expectations for the public when using your library and covers how the staff deal with the public including time limits for working with an individual person, or on a single question, before making an appointment or letting them know we will get back with them at a later date.

Sample Customer Service Policy

Patrons are why we're here! To the end of making their experience here enjoyable and making your job manageable, the following policy has been put in place.

The most important thing any of us can do here is to help another person. Do your best to drop whatever you are doing and focus entirely on the person at the desk. Offer to walk them over to the computer sign in or out into the stacks in search of a book instead of just giving directions. Remember, most people find libraries confusing and daunting. The last thing many want to do is have to ask for help. Your prime responsibility is to make the public's visit to the library pleasant and productive. Do your best to give them a smiling, pleasant face, a listening ear, and a caring heart.

1. People are not an interruption in our work, they are our work.
2. Every library patron deserves to be treated with the same consideration, kindness, and respect.
3. Time permitting, walk patrons to the answer.
4. What patrons check out, look up, and ask about is confidential and not to be shared in conjunction with their name or any connecting information.
5. Help people to use the catalog, place their own holds, set up email, scan and send pictures, and do other technological tasks. Remind them we cannot always do this for them.
6. People at the library in person always take precedence over phone calls. Let voice mail get calls while helping someone. Limit your time on the phone to 5 minutes per call.
7. If the task cannot be completed in less than 10 minutes, offer to take their contact information and arrange for additional help, i.e. a computer tutor or reference appointment.
8. Smile and say hello to people entering the library or approaching you. Offer to help.
9. Smile, say hello, and offer to help people in the library who appear lost or confused.
10. No matter what you are working on, pay attention to what is going on around you and to people who may need help.
11. All patrons respect and are considerate of the staff. Remind patrons ignoring this of our behavior policy and feel free to give them a warning.
12. Use your best judgment in all situations. This policy is a guide, not a hard and fast set of rules.

Remember, you choose your own attitude! Choose to make this a great place to work and an amazing place to visit. Have fun with your work! Make the patron's day! Involve them in the fun and let them know they are always welcome and encouraged to explore. Be completely present in each interaction with others, patrons and staff. Pay total attention to the person in front of you, putting off other thoughts and worries until another time.

Another sample customer service policy can be found at Meriden Public Library's web site, http://www.cityofmeriden.org/services/library/customer-service-policy.asp. There is a great customer service discussion from W.J. Schroer at http://www.socialmarketing.org/newsletter/issues/customer_service.htm.

Disciplinary Actions

This policy deals with employees who are not performing their job or not meeting their job description and expectations. Work with these employees to improve their performance, but set limits on how long an employee has to turn their problems around.

Employee problems impact the entire library and the public you serve. Employers may offer referrals to counseling or treatment programs. If the steps toward improvement all fail, this policy covers what happens next, up to and including letting that employee go. Mention how many warnings an employee gets before termination occurs and that they always have the option of quitting or resigning. See the Athens Regional Library System for a sample policy at http://www.clarke.public.lib.ga.us/policies/personnel/discipline.htm.

Emergencies and Disasters

The policy every library needs, but every library hopes they will never ever have to use. It covers medical emergencies occurring at the library and how employees handle them, from bleeding to broken limbs to heart attacks; it also covers what to do in case a fire breaks out, pipes break, the roof caves in, or natural disasters occur, i.e. save a prioritized list of irreplaceable resources your library contains. Don't forget to discuss those unique man-made emergencies such as violent angry people, with or without guns. Cover many things that might go wrong in broad, general terms and talk about how you recover afterwards putting a plan in place to offer temporary services with your intact resources. In many of these cases, the best response is to call in someone else, preferably an expert, to deal with it and the recovery so keep a handy list several safe places. A single policy can cover fire, tornadoes, severe weather, and other emergencies like Waupaca Library's at http://www.waupacalibrary.org/aboutus/policies/disasters.htm. For more detailed information and a comprehensive emergency management policy and procedure visit Beaufort County Public Library System at http://www.co.beaufort.sc.us/bftlib/emergency.htm.

Employment at Will

Employment is voluntary and indefinite; employees may quit at any time and the library may let them go at any time, either for any reason or no reason at all. Mention the general expectations both sides in this agreement can expect will be met, especially what the standard notice is for quitting or letting an employee go. Fired employees should immediately be relieved of duties, but paid for the notice period. Have a form for employees to sign at their time of hire agreeing to this policy.

Evaluation of Employees

A policy and form need to be in place for recording employee evaluations which is based on job descriptions and how well employees are performing their jobs. The supervisor looks at the entire length of the evaluation period, not just what the employee has done recently. You need a goal setting section where the employee can list areas to be improved, either in themselves or in the library generally; employees set their goals and are held responsible for making progress toward meeting them. An employee's raises reflect how well they are: doing their job in the library, meeting their goals, and developing as a library employee. Having a sample evaluation form filled out and included in the evaluation procedure helps all supervisors stay on the same page when evaluating employees.

Sample Evaluation of Employees Policy

Evaluations will be conducted annually to help employees establish goals and objectives. The evaluation is an opportunity to discuss how things went in the previous year and plan for an even better year to come. Work together and develop employees so both they and the library improve. Employee success is determined based on how you defined it on the previous year's evaluation looking at how they met their job description and at their success meeting their goals and objectives. The director or supervisor performs and keeps records of all the employees' evaluations with the library board conducting the director's evaluation. At the board meeting prior to the director's evaluation, everyone shares their completed evaluation forms. During the director's evaluation next month, the board and director will create a single, official evaluation through discussion and goal setting.

Friends of the Library

This policy makes clear the relationship between any Friends group, the library board, and the staff. Encourage everyone to join the Friends, remembering conflicts of interest exist when board or staff members are officers in your Friends organization. A representative from the Friends should attend all board meetings for coordination and communication. The Friends exist to support the library and expand the reach of the library through advocacy, fundraising, and community involvement. Friends groups take their lead from the staff and work off staff lists for replacements and purchases. Many things the library would like to do are questionable when paid for with tax dollars, but perfectly fine when funded through the Friends, i.e. prizes for programs and recognition/receptions for staff and board members. There is a paragraph on Friends in the Wisconsin sample policies for small public libraries at http://www.owls.lib.wi.us/info/3ps/policies/sample_policies.htm#volunteers. Give your Friends group credit for their help and support at every opportunity.

Interacting with the Media

This may also be handled with just a procedure without adding to the policy manual. The Media policy deals with how to handle contacts and requests for information from the media: regular reference questions can be handled by anyone capable of answering them, however, if the media wants a comment from the library or a statement on an issue, the director or an employee dealing with public relations will reply. The media is always welcome to leave messages or schedule appointments. The library only takes positions on issues referred to by policy or discussed with the board, otherwise feel free to share information on both sides of an issue. If people are looking to record video, take pictures, or record audio at the library for public use, they should ask permission of the board or director ahead of time. Anyone recorded must be informed of possible uses of the recording and given a chance to decline. To look at a detailed media policy visit Scarborough Public Library at http://www.library.scarborough.me.us/sitemap.html and click in the middle column where it says Public Information.

Job Descriptions

There are seven typical components to a job description. According to author Paula Singer1 these elements compose a good job description:

1. Job Summary. Position purpose and objectives along with expected results.
2. Essential Functions. "The tasks, duties, and responsibilities of the position that are most important to get the job done; required to comply with ADA."
3. Additional or Nonessential Functions.
4. Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities.
5. Supervisory Responsibilities.
6. Working Conditions. "The environment in which the job is performed, especially any unique conditions beyond those found in a normal office or library environment; in conjunction with the essential functions, required by the ADA."
7. Minimum Qualifications. May also include desired years of experience, education, and certification.

Simply searching the web for public library job descriptions brings up many pages of sample descriptions you can adapt to your own situation. I recommend each job description remind people of the main drive behind public libraries, helping people, and also relate to the mission and goals of the library as a whole, contributing in as many ways as possible. Mention good areas for development and training in different positions to help employees with their personal goal setting. The Montana State Library has many nice job descriptions available to start you off. Their library clerk job description is at http://msl.state.mt.us/ldd/Samples/PositionDescriptions/libclerk1.html. The entire listing of sample positions descriptions is at http://msl.state.mt.us/ldd/Samples/PositionDescriptions/librarypds.html.

Leaves of Absence

Include here all reasons for which unpaid leaves of absence will generally be granted: severe illness or death in the family, jury duty, military service, loss of transportation or daycare, etc. If any of these leaves are paid leave, they should be mentioned in the benefits section instead. Personal disasters and recovery from them need to be allowed for like emergencies and disasters which may befall the library itself. Boards can decide to provide for sabbatical leave to employees interested in research or exploration of library and related problems — a great way to broaden and enhance your staff and encourage involvement and volunteerism in the larger world. Reasons for leaves of absence can also be left up to the judgment of the director and, in the director's case, the board or governing body. In general, make unpaid leaves of absence fairly easy to get for all the vagaries of life that can impact your employees. Starting at the page on maternity leave, http://www.onlinewbc.gov/docs/manage/hrpol_pg.html, the Women's Business Center also covers funeral, jury duty, and military service leave by clicking on the open book stating "Turn page to the next chapter." Athens Regional Library System ably covers all types of leave at http://www.clarke.public.lib.ga.us/policies/personnel/otherleave.htm.

Materials Selection / Collection Development

See the wonderful online introduction to collection development from Arizona State Library at http://www.lib.az.us/cdt/collman.htm. What does the library collect, where does the library focus, and what is the priority for spending the money available for materials? Likely demand or customer suggestions are the main consideration while still trying to offer a diverse collection reflecting major viewpoints. Limit what the library will collect to a handful of formats and list them prominently in the policy, including cost limits for each that may be exceeded with board or director approval. The budget, staff, or individual board members do not determine your collection, this policy does. Do not forget weeding which is covered in Chapter 7, Marketing & Public Relations. Weeding should be performed at least once a year with anything not checking out in the last five years considered for removal, two or three years for more popularly oriented sections such as fiction and AV.

Include in this policy whether multiple copies, popular videos, popular music, and textbooks will be purchased; in general only purchasing them to meet general interest over the long term. Also include what materials, such as genealogy and local history, your library will purchase whether there is likely demand or not, including a separate section or policy for any special collections you are building. Discuss already available services to your community and how the library plans to avoid duplicating them; you can rely on other, larger libraries for items likely to experience only one or two uses in your community.

Firstly, within these limits, base all purchases on the needs and wants of the community you are serving. No matter how great and amazing an item may be, unless the people you serve and who support your library use it there is no reason to purchase it. You are doing everyone a disservice by buying unused resources. Likewise, do not purchase an item if you only expect one patron to use it. The library serves the community as a whole and does not have the resources to cater to unique individual tastes. Donations are a similar matter as it takes time and supplies to process donations into the library collection — unless it is something you feel the community needs or wants, do not process it.

Secondly, look at professional review sources, leaning toward those serving the bookstore industry where bad offerings are appropriately labeled. Bookstores want items in demand or items they can build a demand for based on their quality; they want to reach their customers and libraries need to do the same thing.

Finally, try to round out the collection and provide up-to-date, accurate information in a variety of areas. Cover the general areas and purchase overviews instead of going in depth. Interlibrary loan can satisfy the person trying to learn everything about a particular topic. With so much information available through the Internet, albeit a large slice horrible, reference material and traditional non-fiction series have seen a huge decrease in usage. People in general will go online for any piece of information they seek since it is easier to go online than to get in your car, drive to the library, find a parking spot, make it inside, locate the reference collection, figure out what book to look in, and get the information. On your web page provide links to as many reputable reference and information sites as you can including linking to the web site lists of bigger libraries and letting them maintain the service for you and your patrons; subject based organization as well as searchable databases of links are both desired. Make sure you have an obvious link on your home page to a dictionary and encyclopedia available online.

Do not avoid items that may cause controversy, but feel free to avoid purchasing items whose only purpose is to create controversy, to shock, or to arouse; there are plenty of controversial items with greater aims, such as sharing a meaningful story or opening people's eyes to a situation or event. A good library will have something to offend every member of the community in it, from the most conservative to the most liberal. Refer to your Freedom of Information or Intellectual Freedom policy here.

Collection development or selection policies are often the most complex and far-reaching policy at a small public library. Collection development policies provide guidelines for the director and all other staff when building the library's collection and must encourage purchasing a wide variety while always trying to meet the needs and wants of your community and matching the demand as best you can with the supply you can make available. See a sample policy at http://www.woodplacelibrary.org/Policy.html#Selection%20and%20Acquisition%20Policy%20for%20Wood%20Place%20Public%20Library from Wood Place Public Library.


Often called an Equal Employment Opportunity statement, this version deals with a broader field. Much like the Anti-Harassment policy, this policy needs to discuss what discrimination is and specify the steps for dealing with discrimination complaints. Include a statement that the library supports and adheres to the Equal Employment Opportunity Acts, Civil Rights Acts, Americans with Disabilities Acts, fair employment practices, and other federal and state laws and regulations dealing with non-discrimination — do not tolerate discrimination. Unless it affects directly on the performance of the job even when accommodations are in place, the library will not discriminate for any reason: sex, age, color, "race", political views, sexual preference, religious preference, height, weight, grooming, etc. This policy applies to employees' dealings with the public too since everyone has a right to use the library if they follow your behavior policy which is enforced consistently and equally for everyone from babies to centenarians. Discrimination is not in keeping with the general openness and inviting feel public libraries want to have. For an example, see the Marshalltown Public Library's policy at http://www.neilsa.org/policy_manual/equal.html.

Personnel Records

All personnel files are kept locked and under the control of the director with the secretary of the library board responsible for keeping the director's personnel file in a safe place along with all the board's important documents. At any time an employee may request a copy of their personnel record or simply ask to view it. When viewing the original file, the director or supervisor remains with the employee so nothing happens to the file. See the policy from the Illinois State Library at http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/library/isl/ref/readyref/policy/policies/personrec.htm. Personnel records include:

* any employment application or resume,
* copies of I-9 and W-4 forms,
* other required forms,
* signed form stating the employee has received and read the policy manual,
* copies of continuing education certificates and degrees awarded,
* all of the employees evaluations, and
* any disciplinary actions or commendations received.

You may also want to include any complaints, praise, or suggestions they have received from the library public.

Problem Resolution / Grievance

State the path for problems and grievances to work themselves through the library, hopefully being resolved early and satisfactorily. This path definitely starts by talking with the person who the problem or grievance is with. If this does not work, talk with your manager, who will either talk to the other party or their manager, to start a resolution. The complaint path ends with the library board or an arbitration board who can reach a final answer, even if it is not what every party wants. A sample policy is available from Bell County Public Libraries at http://www.tcnet.net/~pinevillelib/Policies.html#grievance.

Staff Development and Training

This can also be called a Continuing Education policy. Staff are encouraged to develop their skills and abilities to improve the level of service and expertise available at the library. The board expects all employees to develop and to receive ongoing training while working at the library. There are new developments and programs occurring daily at libraries throughout the world and each community deserves to get the best developments meeting their local needs and situations. Employees need to keep up with developments in the library world and to read widely in many areas, especially fiction. As new technology and new mediums infiltrate the library, train employees and encourage them to learn how the technologies and mediums work — employees cannot help the patrons unless they can use what is in the library. Time is provided weekly for employees to explore on the computer and use the available programs. The library, to a certain extent, covers the cost of this development and training. Days will be set aside each year for development and training and each employee's schedule will include weekly time for them to explore. The library pays for board member and employee memberships in the American Library Association or related professional organizations. A limit to the total number of employees and board members belonging to each organization encourages a wide variety of memberships and reduces the overlap of materials. The board sets yearly focus areas for staff development to reflect overall library goals and objectives and to work on underdeveloped or problem areas. Opportunities should be sought out to send staff to workshops and conferences covering these areas so information may be learned and brought back to the entire staff. The Iowa State Library has collected several excellent policies at http://www.neilsa.org/policy_manual/education.html.

Termination of Employment

This policy handles all the paperwork when an employee leaves the library's service, including the exit interview if your library performs one. The intention to quit, resign, or retire needs to be submitted in writing to the employee's supervisor. Mention any benefits or pension possibly available to the employee and if they will be paid for any remaining vacation or sick days. The policy lists all the things an exiting employee needs to turn in before they go: keys, security codes, computer passwords, library property, name tags, etc. A nicely detailed policy can be found at North Judson-Wayne Twp. Public Library, http://www.njwt.lib.in.us/personnel.htm#terminate.

Travel Expenses

What are reimbursable expenses for doing library business, attending workshops and conferences, etc.? A mileage rate or flat fee for travel needs to be determine and lodging, meals, and all direct expenses (such as fees, tolls, and parking) must also be covered. With limited budgets, it may be best to set a daily fee to cover mileage and meals with a separate fee for lodging — a maximum for any single trip is advisable. If an employee still wants to attend a more expensive conference or event, then they may do so knowing they will personally pay some of the cost. Every employee is allowed to travel, not just the professional staff and, at the least, each employee visits other libraries to see how they operate. Board members should have the option of postage, long distance calls, copying, and other expenses being reimbursed. Use rates set by other bodies or mention the board will set expense rates at their annual meeting. Finally, a form is needed for staff and board members to document their expenses and sign, swearing that all included expenses were incurred only for library business. You can see a conference travel policy from East Orange Public Library at http://www.eopl.org/conferencepolicy.html.


Job descriptions can be written for each distinct volunteer position you identify, such as shelving, tutoring, helping with programs, and processing. You still need a general policy regarding volunteers covering who is allowed to volunteer, background checks, interviews, or age limits. Expectations of volunteers and what they can expect from the library need to be written. At a minimum, volunteers need to follow library policy and ask questions whenever they are unsure of what to do and the library needs to orient and train volunteers as they do new employees. If volunteers do not meet expectations then follow the disciplinary procedure as with employees.

One library staff member oversees all volunteer positions making sure volunteers receive appropriate training, recognition for their efforts, and calls if they miss a scheduled volunteer time. Treat your volunteers well as they free up library resources for other tasks, but do not use volunteers to replace employee hours. See a sample policy from the City of Louisville Public Library at http://www.ci.louisville.co.us/library/volunteer.asp. Have a volunteer application form similar to any employment application you use. Athens-Clarke County Library has a volunteer application form online at http://www.clarke.public.lib.ga.us/policies/personnel/other.htm and then scroll down to Article Z - Volunteers.

Wage Schedule

This policy lists the various job descriptions with their range of wages, the most detailed listing the starting wage and incremental steps for advancement and raises within each position. Wages generally increase at the end of the probationary period and yearly on the anniversary of an employee's hire or when the new budget year begins. Wages can be salaried, hourly, or all listed at their hourly equivalent. If overtime is paid, mention the rate paid and how many hours in a week must be worked before you start earning overtime. In small libraries it is possible, and perhaps desirable, to keep the director's salary below three times the clerks' with pages/shelvers usually receiving minimum wage. Look at your local school system and other area libraries to review the schedule every couple years and adjust it as needed.

Working Conditions and Standards

The general management philosophy of the library can be shared in this policy, such as working to link the motivation of each individual to the goals and objectives of the library, with more philosophies mentioned and discussed in Chapter 6, Management. The library works to create a safe environment for their employees; an environment where they can work to reach their full potential free from danger, harassment, etc. Specify what a typical workweek is, mentioning weekend and evening hours are standard for every employee. Employees cannot use library work time for any other jobs or volunteer positions they have separate from the library.

Late arrivals should be communicated as soon as they are known. If an employee does not call and does not show for a scheduled shift within 15 minutes of their start time, attempt to reach them. Missed days too should be communicated to the library as far in advance as possible, but no later than the morning of the absence. Lunch breaks are unpaid, taken by any employee working over six hours straight, and range from half an hour to an hour. For every four hours worked, an employee may take a fifteen minute paid break of their choosing, but breaks not used when they are earned disappear into the ether.

Policies for the Public

Enforce all policies fairly and consistently.


Sample Behavior Policy

To protect the rights of everyone using __ Library the following rules are hereby posted and will be enforced.

1. Treat everyone with consideration, kindness, and respect.
2. Keep your conversations so they cannot be heard outside of your immediate area
3. Walk casually in the library.
4. Treat the library, library property, and personal property with respect.
5. Only remove from the library items you have checked out.
6. Supervise all children you bring into the library.
7. Respect the privacy of others.
8. Respect copyright.
9. Avoid material harmful to minors as children and adults share this public space.
10. Only engage in legal behavior.

Those violating these rules will be given one verbal warning. Anyone continuing to violate these rules after their warning must leave the library for the remainder of the day. Regular violators may be banned from the library for longer periods at the discretion of the library board.

"Those using the library have the right to work in an environment that is conducive to its legitimate use,"2 which varies depending on your mission statement. If someone's behavior or even odor bothers other library patrons, let the offender know so they can work to fix it and be able to provide referrals to other social services if they are needed. With all of the correct behavior in one place, it makes the policy easy for the public to know and the staff to enforce. To comply with CIPA, a separate policy on Internet Access is still required. If you would prefer to list what is not allowed, see the Customer Conduct Policy of Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library at http://www.tscpl.org/Information/policies/CCP.htm.

Borrower's Responsibilities

Let everyone know what they agree to when borrowing materials from the library, i.e. patrons will:

1. Return borrowed materials on time or renew them.
2. Return borrowed materials in good condition.
3. Pay any fines for overdue materials and any fees for damaged or lost materials charged to their library card.
4. Pick up any holds, interlibrary loans, or other requested materials within a week of their arrival.
5. Keep track of their library card and inform the library if they lose it.

Patrons approve anyone with their card to use it and therefore are responsible for the materials checked out on it and any resulting fines or fees. If you can sneak in that each borrower is responsible for bringing in lunch to the staff one day a year, you will be living well. Create a form for patrons to sign agreeing to these responsibilities when they receive their library card. A sample policy can be found online from Saint Peter Public Library at http://www.ci.st-peter.mn.us/library/responsibilities.php3.

WARNING: The ideas, thoughts, and opinions expressed in materials available at the public library have been known to change lives, reawaken souls, and shake up sleepy worlds.

Denial of Privileges

People can be denied the privilege of borrowing materials, using the computers, or even visiting the library altogether. Deny people who run up excessive fines and fees, routinely cause disruptions, routinely violate policies, are deemed a danger to library staff or to the public, or cannot stay away from pornography on the computers. Allow people to earn their library privileges back in non-monetary ways, such as doing library or community service. You can set a level of charges on a patron's card above which they no longer can check out materials or use the computers. Remember to charge people for overdue items after they have been overdue for several months so the library can purchase replacement copies. The director can ban people or deny privileges until board action can be taken, usually at the next board meeting. Create a form to document problems with patrons and show actions taken by the library and the board. See a sample policy from Stanley County Public Library at http://www.stanlylib.org/policies1.html#excl.

Fees and Fines

The library board will set fees and fines for use of library facilities and equipment. Fines for overdue items will be set for each type of material and accrue per item/per day not counting days the library is closed with a maximum overdue charge for each type. Your library may choose to not have any overdue fines since the important thing is getting the library materials returned. Set a fee or percentage of replacement cost for any materials returned damaged and charge the cost of any lost materials to the borrower's account. Fees for printing and copying will be set for each machine and be per page printed, whether you end up keeping said page or not. In depth research by library staff will be charged at a flat hourly fee and additional services and supplies offered by the library may also involve a charge. Carbondale Public Library has their fee policy online at http://www.carbondale.lib.il.us/lending_policy_and_fine_policy.htm along with their lending policy for various types of materials.

Programs are open to all and should always have a registration so you can call people a few days before to remind them of the program and see if they are still attending. Limit the number of participants to what can easily be handled by those running the program. Sometimes it works better to have a small fee of a few dollars for the program as people who have paid to attend, however small the fee, are much more likely to show up. The library will work with people to ensure money is not an obstacle to anyone receiving service. If you do not agree with the charges placed on your account, please refer to the Suggestions and Complaints policy for the steps to follow.

Freedom of Information

The library supports the freedom of information and will do what it can to make available local government information, including the library's financial statements and minutes from all meetings, and other local organization information of interest. Much of this information is being posted to web sites now and can be provided through links off of a library web page.

This policy easily doubles as an intellectual freedom policy. People are encouraged to explore and look into whatever ideas and possibilities they want. The library is not here to limit what people can read or view from our collection; everyone has a right to read and research what interests or entertains them. Any patron can check out circulating materials and if patrons do not want their children checking out certain materials, they should not sign for their child's library card and instead use the library with their children. Statements that the library will try to provide material on every side of an argument or issue and to represent all points of view can be reiterated here. The American Library Association has a wide array of information on Intellectual Freedom and Freedom of Information at their web site, http://www.ala.org, try these:

* Freedom to Read Statement: http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/statementspols/ftrstatement/
* Freedom of Information Act: http://www.ftrf.org/foia.html
* Freedom to View Statement: http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/statementspols/ftvstatement/
* Intellectual Freedom Issues: http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/ifissues/
* Library Bill of Rights: http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/statementspols/statementsif/

Gifts and Donations

The library determines what to do with gifts and donations; all gifts become library property and will be processed and disposed of as the library sees fit, so there can be no guarantee an item will become a part of the collection or stay in the collection forever. The library can only provide a receipt stating they received the gift or donation and can place no value on it as they do not employ experts in appraisal. See example Gift and Donation policies at:

* Cook Memorial Public Library: http://www.cooklib.org/library/pol_gifts.htm
* Hennepin County Library: http://www.hennepin.lib.mn.us/extranet/admin_policy/gift_policy.html
* Northeast Iowa Library Service Area: http://www.neilsa.org/consulting/XYZ/gifts.html

Hours and Closings

The board sets the philosophy of the library regarding when it is open and for whose convenience — hint, it's not for the employees' convenience. The library should be open as many evening and weekend hours as possible given their resources. Of course, only being open evening and weekend hours would not be convenient for everyone, so a balance needs to be found. The driving force should be the convenience of the public you serve.

List the holidays the library closes for along with how their date is calculated each year, i.e. Thanksgiving equals the fourth Thursday in November. Decide what will happen if a holiday falls on a day the library is already closed, like being closed the first work day after or the last work day before the holiday. The library will close at least two days each year for staff development and in-service since it is extremely important for the staff to have time to work together on improving their skills and building teamwork. See the Albert Wisner Public Library's Policy at http://www.albertwisnerlibrary.org/hours.htm.

Include a section on emergency closings covering how an emergency closing is determined and how it is then communicated to the staff and public. Utility failures at the library and/or local school district closings for bad weather may be a basis for closing the library. Once the director makes the determination inform local radio and TV stations, post signs at the library door, and change the message on your phones.

Interlibrary Loan

Materials must be returned by their due date unless you contact the library a week before the due date to arrange a renewal since we must request a renewal from the lending library and then wait to hear back from them. Limit the number of interlibrary loans a patron can request possibly using a yearly limit per patron. Patrons desiring more loans could then pay a flat fee per extra loan based on staff and postage/delivery costs. Prince William Public Library's ILL Policy can be viewed at http://www.co.prince-william.va.us/library/illiad/ill_policy.html.

Internet Access and Computers

With the use of computers and the Internet, continue to enforce all other library policies along with any additional ones specific to this realm. The more you limit on your computers, the harder it is to enforce the policy. I recommend telling people about the dangers involved and informing them of what is unsafe activity on the Internet and computers then letting patrons deal with the consequences of their own behavior. Any information, from useful to purposefully misleading, can and has been put on the Internet.

Allow as much access as you can without compromising the security and stability of your computer system. Let people use their own disks, drives, devices, and software with your computers. All libraries should allow people to use e-mail as it is no longer a luxury, but the way many people communicate on a daily basis. Residents of your community with no other access and visitors passing through all need a place to check in with the wider world. Instant messaging is heading in the same direction and may soon be a vital and necessary service.

Sample Internet and Computer Policy

1. Do not engage in unlawful activities, this includes, but is not limited to: accessing material deemed harmful to minors (if a minor), hacking and other unauthorized access, violating copyrights, and harassing others.
2. Patrons may only engage in safe behavior while using the Internet. Remember the mantra, "Don't talk to strangers."
3. People under the age of 18 should not share their personal information with anyone on the Internet or meet with anyone they know only from online.
4. A filter, or other technology, is used to "protect against access by adults and minors to visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or — with respect to use of computers with Internet access by minors — harmful to minors. It may be disabled for adults engaged in bona fide research or other lawful purposes."3
5. Filters are not 100% effective. The best way to keep an eye on what your children do on the Internet, is to use the computers with them and be involved in their online activities. Get to know their online friends as well as their in-person friends.
6. Peripherals attached to a specific computer should remain attached there and not be moved.
7. Patrons are guaranteed only 30 minutes a session, but may keep working until a waiting list forms.
8. Respect the privacy of other computer users in the library and do not peer over their shoulder to see what they are doing.

Patrons violating this policy will have to give up their computer and will not be allowed on the computers for the remainder of the day. Continued violation of the policy will result in removal of computer privileges, subject to board action.

After point 5 your policy complies with CIPA once your governing authority has held a public hearing regarding the filter and this policy. You might want to include a maximum amount of computer time per day for each patron. A very usable, and CIPA compliant, Internet Use Policy is available online from the Missouri Research and Education Network at http://www.more.net/services/cipa/iup01.html. Check with other libraries in your area or your state library agency to be sure you are in compliance with state laws and regulations.

Meeting Room

First off, decide who may use the meeting room: only non-profits, only community groups, non-profits for free and all others for a fee, or some other criteria. Private functions or for profit use might be a good way to bring people into the library and raise money through meeting room fees. "Policies can limit times and days the meeting room is available, frequency of use, minimum and maximum size of group, charging of fees, and type of event;" but they may not limit the content of the meeting.4 Consider not letting groups use the meeting room for converting people to their way of thinking, encouraging or advocating people to break the law, or encouraging hate and intolerance. A good way to limit meeting room use is to inform people that all meetings will be posted on the library's bulletin board or sign and all people will be welcome to visit and see what the meeting is about. Post a notice outside the meeting room stating, "use of the meeting room does not imply endorsement, support, or co-sponsorship by the library of the activities that take place in the meeting room or of the beliefs of the group using the meeting room."5 Let everyone know library use of the meeting room receives first priority and may interfere with regularly scheduled meetings. If a group does not get a completed application in within a week after calling about a reservation, consider the reservation cancelled. A sample policy is online at http://esopuslibrary.org/about.htm#comm, from the Esopus Library.

All groups are responsible for setting up, taking down, and cleaning up after themselves and, if any damage or theft occurs, they must pay for it. If possible, let groups bring in food or have meetings catered and, if the building is designed for it, use the meeting room before or after library hours. Consider whether you will require groups to have insurance in order to use your meeting room.

Posting Materials at the Library

This policy is easiest to enforce if the majority of bulletin boards are reserved for the library and Friends of the Library with only one or two near the entrance for the public. It is a good idea to require all public postings be dated so they can then be removed after the event or after a couple of months. Encourage informational and public service postings along with concerts, art openings and shows, and theater performances. Many libraries do not allow political campaign postings, personal job offers, advertisements, and solicitations. Alternatively, the determination could be the same as who may use the meeting room for free. Regularly go through the postings and discard all of the old information. An example policy covering display cases exists at http://www.thayerpubliclibrary.org/displays.html thanks to Thayer Public Library. The easiest way to handle display cases is to simply state the library does not allow unsolicited exhibits.

Qualifying for Membership

Although it is sometimes hard to convince people, letting as many people as possible freely use your public library benefits everyone. If you limit it to only the people supporting the library with their taxes, others in the area lose a reason to visit town and spend time and money there. Even with no restrictions at all, the vast majority of library cardholders will come from the supporting area. Public libraries exist to help people, not to help people paying them, and only serving supporters would make libraries businesses instead of public services. We tax a large group to pool their resources and provide something wonderful for all to share.

A photo ID, or parent or guardian with a photo ID willing to sign for you, is normally the first step in qualifying and sometimes the only step. Libraries can also require proof of residency, ownership, or employment in their support area. Those not meeting the requirements have to pay a yearly fee, set by the board, to use the library. Those losing their library card need to have a photo ID or someone to vouch for them and to pay a small replacement fee. Be willing to look up patron's records from a photo ID or other identification if they forget their library card and, if you personally know them, feel free to skip the ID.

Membership allows people to check out items up to limits set by the library. For added security, only allow people to check out a few items until you mail their library card to their address. Alfred Dickey Public Library has a good example policy online at http://www.adpl.org/borrowers.htm.


Soliciting is not allowed on library property. Library events and functions, including Friends of the Library, are allowed to sell items and raise money along with books and related materials for a speaker or visiting author. Any sales need to be approved by the director before taking place. A sample policy from Beloit Public Library is at http://als.lib.wi.us/BPL/canvassingandsellingpolicy.htm.

Suggestions and Complaints

Suggestions and communication on how the library is doing are encouraged. Staff will respond within ten working days and will contact the patron directly if contact information was included. Patrons may resubmit their suggestion or complaint to the director if they do not like the employee's answer. If the responses received from the staff and director do not satisfy the patron, they have the option of resubmitting it along with the staff responses to the board for discussion at their next meeting.

The board needs something for their director to fall back on. When things come to push and shove, the director needs to have the support of the board and know the board will back them. Spell out in the policies what the board's stand is on Internet filtering, freedom of information, privacy and confidentiality, and other hot issues in the library world. Keep an eye on the library journals to see what hot issues are developing where a board statement would be advisable.

Unattended Children

This is a big no-no. There should never be any unattended children in the library. The legal system often will have already established the age at which a child left alone is considered abandoned, so check with your local law enforcement. Those under this age need a parent, guardian, or other responsible adult present in the library with them and feel free to remind people of the dangers of leaving young children in public places. Do not blame the child, as they are often the victim in these situations. Post the following:

The Library welcomes children to use its facilities and services. However, responsibility for children using the library rests with the parent, guardian, or assigned chaperon, not with library personnel.

If the children misbehave at all, the adult must then remain in the same library area within easy reach as they are responsible for ensuring the children follow the Behavior policy of the library. If the children still do not follow the Behavior policy and must leave, the adult attending them also needs to leave. See the Bernardsville Public Library policy at http://www.bernardsville.org/policies/children-policy.htm.

Policies for Library Finances

You don't need a detailed, involved collection of policies to deal with the library's finances. Check out what the Appleton Public Library has put together at http://www.apl.org/policies/financial.html. This policy handles all the basic financial questions at most libraries such as budget, expenditures, revenues and receipts, audit, disposal of property, grants, and donations.

Credit Card

Any library credit card remains property of the library and may only be used for library business. The director should be the only one authorized to use the credit card with director approval required for any other person to use it. Require receipts and a signed expense report for all credit card usage. See the Medicine Hat Public Library Credit Card Policy at http://www.shortgrass-lib.ab.ca/mhpl/PDFDocs/creditcard.pdf.

Disposal of Equipment

Bloomfield Township Public Library has a succinct Fixed Asset Disposal Policy at http://www.btpl.org/About_Us/Fixed_Asset_Disposal_Policy/fixed_asset_disposal_policy.html stating in part: "Board should be provided with a list of equipment to be disposed of and approve the items on the list. Materials from the library collection should be disposed at the discretion of the director. Both of these should always be completed in the manner provided for by law."

Gifts, Endowments, and Investments

This policy specifies how the money going into an endowment is handled, where it is deposited, and how it is to be invested. It can also contain stipulations on recognition, levels of giving, and other procedural details. See the New London Public Library Gift and Endowment Policy at http://www.owls.lib.wi.us/nlp/about/policies/gift.asp and the Delphi Public Library Investment Policy at http://www.carlnet.org/dpl/invest.html.


This is a simple, general policy stating how often inventories are performed of the library's collections, furnishings, and equipment; usually a time frame from 3 to 5 years. Completed inventories of furnishings and equipment should be safely stored offsite along with other important library documents.


This policy covers the actions of staff, the director, the board, volunteers, and the public. Negligence can occur so be covered. See the Delphi Public Library General Policy Statement at http://www.carlnet.org/dpl/general.html, which says: "Each year, the board shall purchase a comprehensive Directors and Officers Liability Insurance policy to protect the Directors, officers, trustees, employees and volunteers of the library for the decisions made every day concerning the library. The policy should include employment practices liability coverage to help protect the organization from damages arising from claims of harassment, discrimination, and unfair hiring practices. This insurance policy shall be reviewed each year to ensure adequate coverage."

Petty Cash

Set the amount for petty cash where receipts and cash on hand should always equal this amount. Specify what petty cash may be used for if desired; some common uses are conference fees, travel expenses, postage, and items immediately needed. Always require receipts for any use of petty cash. The Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library Purchasing Policy, from http://www.zionsville.lib.in.us/plan_policy/purchasing.html, includes an excellent section on cash receipts and petty cash.

Purchasing / Bidding

All libraries must follow a competitive bid process for large purchases. Establish a monetary level above which bidding must be used to award the purchase or contract, such as $5,000. Even with materials vendors, consider negotiating for the best discount or joining forces with other libraries for even greater bargaining power. This policy may already be in place if you are part of a larger organization, if not you can borrow and modify the policy of another government organization in your area. See the Jefferson County Public Library Procurement Policy at http://info.jefferson.lib.co.us/pdf/ProcurementPolicy.pdf and the Delphi Public Library Public Purchasing Policy at http://www.carlnet.org/dpl/purchase.html.


1. Paula M. Singer, Developing a Compensation Plan for Your Library (Chicago: American Library Association, 2002): 41-42.
2. Jeanette Larson and Herman L. Totten, Model Policies for Small and Medium Public Libraries (New York: Neal-Schuman, 1998): 138.
3. Children's Internet Protection Act Requirements (Undertaking Action), May 2, 2003, available at http://www.sl.universalservice.org/reference/cipa.asp. Accessed 1 October 2004.
4. Jeanette Larson and Herman L. Totten, Model Policies for Small and Medium Public Libraries (New York: Neal-Schuman, 1998): 126.
5. Jeanette Larson and Herman L. Totten, Model Policies for Small and Medium Public Libraries (New York: Neal-Schuman, 1998): 128.


* Carver, John. Boards that Make a Difference: A New Design for Leadership in Nonprofit and Public Organizations, Second Edition. New York: Jossey-Bass, 1997. An overview of John Carver's policy governance model is available on his web site at http://www.carvergovernance.com/model.htm.
* Larson, Jeanette and Herman L. Totten. Model Policies for Small and Medium Public Libraries. New York: Neal-Schuman, 1998.
* Nelson, Sandra and June Garcia. Creating Policies for Results: From Chaos to Clarity. Chicago: American Library Association, 2003. All workforms and instructions for this title are available online from eLearn Libraries at http://www.elearnlibraries.com/workforms/creating_policies_for_results.html.

© Edward J. Elsner, 2005

Edward Elsner Library Consulting

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