Friday, October 16, 2015

Updating Trustee Essentials: Déjà Vu All Over Again

We've just finished some necessary tweaks and updates to Trustee Essentials, our Wisconsin handbook for public library boards.  So if this post is about the updated Trustee Essentials, then what's an image of the old Arabut Ludlow Memorial Library in Monroe, Wisconsin doing here? Trust me, there is a connection - at least within my fevered brain.

Arabut Ludlow Memorial Library, Monroe, Wisconsin
(courtesy of Monroe Public Library)
I've always been extremely grateful that my very first library job was in this stately Carnegie "clone."  Although it was the mid-1970s, the interior of the library was largely unchanged from when it was built in 1904.  There were beautiful large windows, an enormous stationary circulation desk, tall wooden bookcases, non-existent office spaces, and a steep narrow staircase leading down to creepy storage areas.

Nearly everything I did as a Library Page - shelving materials, dusting, shelf reading, and helping patrons - revolved around the advantages and limitations of the physical space. Each time I went to work, I felt as if I was walking back in time - or onto a film set.  I half expected Shirley Jones in her role as Marian the Librarian to step out of the stacks!

Back in March when I was working on a Wisconsin Libraries for Everyone blog post on the 1902 Hand Book of Library Organization ("Three States and a Hand Book"), I kept having flashbacks to my days working in that lovely, frustrating library space.  In that March blog post I referred to the 1902 Hand Book as a "great-grandmother" of Trustee Essentials and it is.  It contains sample library bylaws, discusses effective library administration practices, and offers some interesting advice on what to look for when selecting library board members:
  • eminence in executive ability
  • business sagacity
  • unblemished integrity
  • political power
  • mere literary knowledge
To give you an idea of how being a library trustee has evolved, the 1902 Hand Book consists of 75 pages and an index.  The current version of Trustee Essentials weighs in at over 170 pages!  Today's trustees certainly need to have a grasp of technology that was unknown to their 1902 ancestors.  However, the bottom line is that being a library trustee is a very tough job and it still requires all the ability, sagacity, integrity, power, and knowledge that you can bring to it!

Also, if you're curious why my hometown of Monroe refused Andrew Carnegie's money for a library building, check out the article by John Evangelist Walsh on the Monroe Public Library's website. Talk about political power!

Written by:
Denise Anton Wright, Public Library Development