Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Public Library Trustee Tidbits

The structure and governance of public libraries varies widely from state to state.  As a result, the roles and responsibilities of public library trustees also varies widely.  Within Wisconsin, spring is the time when public libraries welcome new board members, so now's a perfect opportunity to discuss some important trustee tidbits:

Chapter 43 - this is the chapter of the Wisconsin State Statutes that addresses public libraries and regional public library systems.  While other chapters impact public libraries (for example, Open Meetings, Public Records, etc.), Chapter 43 is the "big kahuna" when it comes to the governance of public libraries.

Photo of finger puppets
Photo of finger puppets courtesy of Denise Anton Wright
Appointed boards - within Wisconsin our public libraries have been established by villages, towns, cities, counties, and tribal governments.  Each public library is governed by a library board appointed by the parent government(s) that established the library.

Citizen control - citizen boards govern our public libraries in Wisconsin.  Citizen governance helps to isolate the operation of the public library from political pressures and allows for representation from a cross section of the community.

Exclusive control - one of the key elements that sets Wisconsin public library boards apart from other branches of local government is the level of control over library finances / library property granted to them by state statutes.

School district representation - state statutes require that one library board member be a school district administrator (or the administrator's representative), to represent the public school district(s) in which the public library is located.

Representation from the municipal governing body - while it is not required by state statutes, a member of the municipal governing body may be appointed to the library board - but not more than one can serve at the same time.

Terms of office - every public library trustee is appointed for a three-year term unless the appointment is to fill an unexpired term.  Special terms of office apply for a newly formed library.

Library Board officers - state statutes only require that a library board elect a president.  Other officers are certainly allowed but not required.

More information for Wisconsin public library trustees can be found in Trustee Essentials, our state's trustee handbook.


Written by:
Denise Anton Wright, Public Library Development Team