As a lawyer of twenty-five (25)years, a library system Trustee, and owner of a law firm that frequently represents Boards of Directors, I am frequently asked about priorities. That is, what is the most important thing a library’s Board of Directors can do to help its library? The answer? Written policies.
A Board of Trustees should have an active Policy Committee that is routinely reviewing and amending its various policies so that when a situation comes up, the appropriate policy is clear, accessible, and in writing. For example: what if someone is using a library computer to look at nude images and another patron complains? What should the staff on duty do?
Answer: They should follow the library’s on-site computer use policy. That policy will typically require a written acknowledgment of the specific rules for using that public computer, what types of material are forbidden, and notice of sanction; that is, failure to follow the policy can result in denial of service.
In the absence of a formal policy, such critical issues become situational – that is, each staff member makes up her own rule under the stress of the moment –a formula for both frustration and lawsuits.
Apply this principle to issues related to Conflicts of Interest, Attendance, Media Relations, Whistleblowers, and Document Retention(just to name a few), and it is clear that a rigorous battery of written policies can resolve most issues before they spin out of control.
Frank Housh, Esq., is the Owner of Housh Law Offices, PLLC, with offices n Buffalo and Rochester. He is Past Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.