Category Archives: Library Administration

Duties of the Library Board & Library Director

The relationship between the library board and the director works best when each party’s roles and responsibilities are clearly understood and adhered to.

The board is primarily responsible for the big picture; the director administers the day to day operations of the library.

The chart below outlines the basic duties of the board and the director in relation to one another.

  Library Board Library Director
Bylaws Adopt bylaws for board procedures. Develop and review bylaws in consultation with board.
Staff Employ a competent and qualified director. Review the director’s organizational structure, identifying lines of authority and responsibility. Act as technical advisor for the board. Employ and supervise all other staff members. Make recommendations on organizational structure to the board.
Policy Determine and adopt written policies to govern the operation and program of the library. Recommend and draft policies for board action. Carry out adopted policies, delegating responsibilities to staff as needed.
Planning/ capital projects In cooperation with director and staff, develop a long-range plan for commitment of resources to meet the changing needs of the community. Work together with board and staff in preparation of a long-range plan by projecting needs and trends in library service.
Budget Review the annual budget to determine its adequacy for meeting goals and objectives. Work actively for public and official support. Explore all possible revenue sources. Prepare the annual budget draft to achieve objectives as identified with the board. Supply facts and figures to aid in interpreting the library’s financial needs. Attend budget hearings as a resource person.
Finance Review and approve monthly financial statements in context of the annual budget. Prepare and present monthly financial statements and bills for board action.
Public relations Establish, support, and participate in a planned public relations program. Interpret the library’s role and plans to other community boards and committees. Maintain an active program of public relations and public information. Represent the library on other community boards and committees.
Library legislation Know local and state laws. Actively support state and national library legislation. Know local and state laws. Keep board informed of pending legislation, library trends, developments, and standards.
Advocacy Report regularly to governing officials and the general public. Report regularly to the library board, local government officials, the general public, and the state library agency.

Adapted from:

  • Pearlmutter, Jane, and Paul Nelson. Small Public Library Management. Chicago: American Library Association, 2012. Print.

Additional Resources:

Library Advocacy

It is important to always advocate for your library. Because more often than not, libraries easily fall victim to budget cuts (at every level – including federal and state).

There are common misconceptions that libraries are essentially museums for books, nobody uses libraries anymore, and everything libraries offer can instead be accessed online. These could not be further from the truth, but these misconceptions are often the reason libraries need to advocate. It is the responsibility of librarians to dispel these inaccurate misconceptions and to educate folks on the continued importance of libraries.

Advocacy should be an ongoing process, so libraries, librarians, trustees, and other library stakeholders need to be proactive with advocacy. But where does one start? Advocacy can be intimidating for some. Thankfully, there are numerous free resources available online to help you.

Great places to start (in no particular order):

Statistics, numbers, and data:

Statistics and fun facts are a sensible method to prove the worth of libraries. Statistics can be very eye-opening for people who may not know enough about libraries. For example:

  • In 2017, there were more people who visited North Dakota public libraries (2,162,559) than those who attended Minnesota Vikings games (1,099,905).
  • In the United States, there are more public libraries than McDonald’s or Starbucks.
  • Americans visit public, school, and academic libraries more than 3 times as frequently as they go to the movies.

Numbers can really drive the point home. However don’t use too many figures. That may overwhelm folks. Consider doing something fun with the data, like an infographic (which is brief and visual). To view the data from past annual reports, you can view the usage maps (see link below) or you can contact the State Library to get a copy of the raw data in an Excel Spreadsheet.

The State Library creates a fun infographic every year based on the data that is submitted by North Dakota public libraries on their annual reports. The infographics are available as PDFs on the State Library’s website (see link below).

You can also retrieve data and fun facts from national resources, such as ALA and IMLS (see links below).

Legislators:

It is important to know who your local, state, and federal legislators are in case you need to reach out to them. Be on friendly terms and have a positive relationship with your elected officials, as you want them to support libraries.

Importance of libraries:

North Dakota resources:

Additional resources from ALA:

Community Organizations

Want to make your library more visible in the community? Flyers and social media posts tend to only reach the people that are already looking for library information, but one great way to grow that audience is to have library staff and board members become involved in community organizations.

Having a library presence in community organizations allows the library to reach a broader group of people and participate in other aspects of the community that people may not associate with the library. Offering public meeting space, resource collections, and volunteer opportunities are all ways that libraries can assist these organizations that they may not have thought of yet. Additionally, by broadening the network of people you talk to about the library, you expand your knowledge of the community’s needs and can work on creative ways to solve them using library resources and expertise.

Some possible organizations to join are the Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Elks Club, Eagles Club, or Rotary. However, all organizations in your area that you think could benefit from a library staff or board member should be considered.

Acquiring 501(c)(3) Status

Friends of the Library and Library Foundations are excellent groups to help raise money for your library. In order for these organizations to function optimally and to assist with the procurement of grants, it is encouraged for them to obtain a 501(c)(3) status. This means that they are viewed as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that qualifies as a public charity under IRS Code, Section 501(c)(3). Please seek the aid of an attorney or CPA to assist in the process of obtaining 501(c)(3) status as laws and common practices are subject to change.

The process to achieve 501(c)(3) status can take over 6 months to complete. The IRS has created a guide outlining the Life Cycle of a Public Charity that can help lead you through this process. In order to achieve 501(c)(3) status, the group must do the following:

  1. Create an organizing document that contains the following provisions. More information and sample documents can be found here.
    • Limit the organization’s purpose to one of the exempt purposes listed in Section 501(c)(3) of the Code.
    • State that the organization cannot engage in activities that don’t advance the exempt purpose.
    • State that the assets of the organization (money, property, etc.), will be dedicated permanently to the exempt purpose listed.
  2. Establish a Board of Directors and create bylaws for the group.
  3. Once the organization is legally established (see page 9 of IRS Publication 4220), obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS online, by mail, or by phone (1-800-829-4933). Applying for an EIN triggers filing requirements, so do not complete this step until you are prepared to move forward with your other forms.
  4. File Articles of Incorporation for the group with the State of North Dakota as per NDCC 10-33. The paperwork can be found here. There is a $40 filing fee that must accompany the completed form. The ND Secretary of State Office and other state agencies created a guide to beginning and maintaining a nonprofit corporation in ND that can be found here.
  5. Submit the IRS Form 1023-EZ or Form 1023 depending on your eligibility. Eligibility can be determined using the worksheet in the 1023-EZ directions. Directions for the forms can be found here (1023-EZ) or here (1023).

**You may be exempt from this requirement if your organization has gross receipts in each taxable year that are normally not more than $5,000. Please see http://bit.ly/2REnkD0 for more details.**

  1. Before the group can solicit contributions, it may need to be registered as a charitable organization through the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office as per NDCC 50-22. That process can be found here.
  2. The organization will need to follow the tax-code for a 501(c)(3) during the time that their application is in processing. See the IRS page “Tax Law Compliance before Exempt Status is Recognized” for more information. All bank accounts, books, and records for the group need to be separate from the library’s records.

 

Once the group has acquired 501(c)(3) status, they will need to follow all state and federal filing guidelines to maintain that status. This includes the annual filing of Form 990 and other, unrelated income tax filings, state filings, charitable solicitations reporting, donation substantiation reporting, etc. Additionally, records should be kept for things such as executive compensation, transactions with board members, sources of revenue, accomplishments, expense allocations, details of investments, and organization structure. These things help assure that the group will maintain annual compliance. Most records of the 501(c)(3) group will be subject to public disclosure requirements.

 

Helpful Links:

Annual Evaluations

Annual evaluations of staff members are a necessary part of any well-run library. Not only do these reviews allow staff to reflect upon their previous year, but it also opens the door to establish future goals to work towards. Having a scheduled visit between employees and their supervisor lets them discuss their role openly and honestly in a more structured way than they may be able to in a different context.

It is important to note, however, that there should be no surprises during this review time. Any behavioral or work-related issues should be addressed immediately by a supervisor or, in the case of the director, the library board, as soon as they are discovered. These concerns can be addressed during the review as part of a reflection, but the employee should not be blind-sided by these issues.

Evaluations can be conducted many different ways. Some libraries are required to follow their city or county’s review process using their forms, and others have the freedom to adopt their own with board approval. All staff evaluations should be conducted by the staff member’s supervisor, and the director’s review is conducted by the board.

The evaluation process, ideally, has 3–4 steps:

  1. Self-evaluation

In the self-evaluation, staff members are asked to reflect on their previous year. This may be using a numbering system, a meets/exceeds expectations system, or free-answer system. Oftentimes, evaluations relate directly to the employee’s job description, but evaluations can be more general as well.

The self-evaluation will also typically ask the employee to create goals for the future and address their previous goals. To be the most beneficial, goals should be measureable and attainable. This means that instead of saying, “increase user engagement,” the goal would be, “increase user engagement by 12%” or, “increase user engagement by promoting databases twice a week.” From this example, then, the employee would keep track of user engagement throughout the year and then discuss the progress during their next evaluation. A common guideline is to make the goals SMART; Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.

The director’s self-evaluation can also include a broader look at the library such as library highlights, issues of concern, and how the library compares to other libraries of a similar size.

 

  1. Supervisor (or board) evaluation:

The employee’s supervisor should fill out a similar form to the self-evaluation for each of their employees. For the library director, the board should do this portion. For example, if the employee’s self-evaluation asked, “Do you plan ahead with enough time to be able to effectively handle several projects and/or tasks at one time?”, the supervisor’s evaluation of the employee should read, “Does the employee plan ahead with enough time to be able to effectively handle several projects and/or tasks at one time.”

Supervisors should review the goals that the staff members identified to make sure they are SMART and be prepared to discuss them.

 

  1. Staff-evaluation (directors/managers only)

For a staff evaluation, staff members review their manager or director using a similar evaluation form to the self-evaluation. These reviews are submitted to the library board anonymously to provide feedback on the director. Since the library board is not often around during the day-to-day work at the library, staff are seen as a good measure of how a director is doing. Common questions that can be answered by staff better than a board member are questions about communication, timeliness, work-flows, and problem solving.

This type of evaluation is completely optional, and, if the board chooses to go this route, they need to remember the following:

  • Staff-reviews of the director should be read and understood as a whole rather than on an individual basis. This means that if one review indicates a poor communication style and the other seven indicate an excellent communication style, it is likely that one person had a bad experience and is using the evaluation process as a chance to air this grievance.

 

  • Staff should submit their evaluation of the director before their personal evaluation is reviewed. This way, they are unable to retaliate or bolster the director’s evaluation based on the feedback they receive during their review process.

 

  • The director’s evaluation should occur after they evaluate their staff members. This way, staff can be sure that the director isn’t retaliating against or favoring certain employees based on the results of the director’s evaluation.

 

  1. Evaluation review

The final step to the evaluation process is for the employee and the director (or the director and the board) to meet and discuss the evaluations. Typically the manager will go through each element and discuss what they rated compared to the employee. This is a time for both parties to discuss job satisfaction, goals, concerns, answer questions, compensation, and more.

The director’s evaluation review by the library board must follow open meeting laws which means it cannot be closed to executive session as per NDCC 44-04-17.1. For more information on Open Meetings in ND, see https://attorneygeneral.nd.gov/sites/ag/files/documents/Open-Meetings-Guide.pdf

Annual reviews should be signed by both the supervisor and the employee to confirm that they reviewed the document. The signature does not say that the employee agrees with their review, but that it was discussed. A copy of the review should be saved in the employee’s file.

Below are some examples of different library’s evaluations:

Self-Evaluations:

Self Evaluation

Self Evaluation2

Self Evaluation3

Self Evaluation4

 

Supervisor Evaluation:

Supervisor Evaluation

 

Evaluation of Director by Staff:

Director Evaluation—Staff

Director Evaluation—Staff2

Director Evaluation—Staff3

 

Evaluation of Director by Board Members:

Director Evaluation—Board

Director Evaluation—Board2

Director Evaluation—Board3

Teamwork Training

Working with a team can sometimes be difficult. However, it’s one of the most important things we do as librarians. Working together with staff, the public, and local government is an integral part to success for your organization. Below are trainings and webinars to help you and your staff to train to work better as a team.

Universal Class is an online database provided through the state library. Any North Dakota resident can create an account using a library card from their local public library to take the training classes for free. They can be taken for PD credit with tests and a completion certificate or informally without the tests and certificate. Once you make an account, you’ll be able to see the length of each course in hours and sessions as well as a syllabus. Here are a few courses that are relevant to training and working well as a team that can help boost a staff member’s willingness to work with others on their team:

If you have any questions about Universal Class, you can contact the state library at 701-328-4622.

 

Webjunction webinars:

“Our personalities affect how we view and relate to the world. Each of us have different learning and communication styles, fears, insecurities, and defense mechanisms. This presentation will provide you with the tools to recognize your own and others’ differences and become more aware of how they affect your relationships with customers and co-workers.”

“We are all so busy! Who has time to deal with conflict? When conflict occurs, and we are confronted with a colleague, library patron, supervisor, or board member who is frustrated and upset, it can be tempting to identify a quick fix. However, when we do take the time to practice clear communication to uncover what people really need, we can get to better outcomes. Healthy communication involves actions that show you are really listening, communication with people who are angry or upset in a way that their needs can be addressed and resolved, and knowing your own emotions and needs and effective ways to express them. Practicing healthy communication skills will boost your self-confidence and contribute to a happier workplace.”

“Don’t let the pressure of working at the library bring you or your staff down. People want a work environment that is challenging, encourages trial and error, and makes them feel that they matter. It’s time to make the workplace exciting again, all throughout the library’s culture. Here are some things to do to make work fun again.”

Open Records & Meetings Resources

According to the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office website:

North Dakota has “sunshine laws,” which make all government records and meetings open to the public unless a specific law authorizes a record to be withheld or a meeting to be closed.

These laws apply to all state and local government agencies, rural fire and ambulance districts, public schools, private businesses or non-profit organizations that are supported by or expending public funds, and contractors, if the contractor is providing services in place of a public entity rather than to that entity.

The courts are not subject to open records and meetings law.

Anyone has the right to attend meetings of a public entity or to access and obtain copies of the entity’s records, regardless of where they live.

https://attorneygeneral.nd.gov/open-records-meetings

Open records and meetings also apply to libraries.

Below is a list of resources relating to open records and meetings laws and procedures.

General resources (great places to start):

Records Resources:

  • Open Records Guide (PDF) – Office of the Attorney General
  • Open Records Manual (PDF) – Office of the Attorney General
  • Template for a public entity to use when responding to an open records request (PDF) – Office of the Attorney General

Meetings Resources:

Closed Meetings and Executive Sessions Resources:

Attorney General Opinions:

Additional Resources:

Space Needs Assessment

A space needs assessment is a process that documents and analyzes the space needs of a library. A space needs assessment should be conducted by the library director and board. In some instances, a library could also work with a building consultant.

While it is a good practice for all libraries to conduct space needs assessments, not all libraries are required to do so. Please consult the North Dakota Library Coordinating Council (NDLCC) Standards for Public Libraries for additional information on space needs requirements.

Benefits of a Space Needs Assessment:

  • Advocacy – A library could use the findings of an assessment to advocating for new shelving, a new building, new children, teen, or adult spaces, etc.
  • By conducting a space needs assessment, “librarians and trustees can obtain a general estimate of their library’s space needs based on their library’s underlying service goals” (Public Library Space Needs: A Planning Outline).
  • With a space needs assessment, “planners can assess the adequacy of their library’s existing overall square footage…” (Public Library Space Needs: A Planning Outline).
  • “An estimate of the library’s overall space need can be used to evaluate whether the existing space is sufficient or whether an expansion is warranted” (Key Issues in Building Design).

Step-By-Step Resources:

  • Public Library Space Needs: A Planning Outline (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction) – This narrative outline and corresponding worksheet can help public library staff and trustees estimate their library’s future space needs to determine whether more comprehensive facility planning should be conducted.
  • Library Buildings and Construction: Library Space Planning (Connecticut State Library) – Using this Guide and its accompanying Worksheet, librarians and trustees can obtain a general estimate of their library’s space needs, and help initiate a larger facilities planning process.

Additional Resources:

  • Resources for Space Planning in Libraries (WebJunction) – Whether you are planning a new building or renovating an old one, you will need to develop a detailed space plan that takes into account the actual space needs to meet your library’s mission and service plan. Library space planning expert, Linda Demmers of Libris Design has put together a guide to some of the best resources and tools for library space planning as well an an introduction to the lingo.
  • Key Issues in Building Design (IFLA – the space needs section starts on page 6) –Based on the IFLA Library Buildings and Equipment Section’s Library Building Guidelines, this short publication summarizes the key points to take into consideration when designing a new or refurbished library building.

Worksheets, Spreadsheets, & Forms:

Examples:

Trendy Transformations

[updated December 2017]

Another North Dakota Library Association (NDLA) conference is in the books, and what a wonderful conference it was! There were great keynote speakers and sessions. The 2017 theme was: Libraries Transform. The idea of transforming ourselves and libraries was prevalent during the pre-conferences, keynotes, and sessions.

For me, John Spears, Chief Librarian and CEO of the Pikes Peak Library District, kicked off the transformation subject with his pre-conference session “The Nitty-Gritty of Transforming Your Library, Your Community…and Yourself.” In his session, Mr. Spears said don’t transform and seek change just for the sake of doing it. Change for a reason. Transform to meet a need.

So what are some “trending” library transformations? Some trendy transformations include (all of which were discussed at some point at the conference):

Do away with overdue fines

Ask yourself these questions: What is the point of overdue fines? Do overdue fines work?

Basically, library fines exist to punish patrons who did not abide by the rules. The patron is late returning the book and potentially causing another patron to wait even longer for the item. But should libraries be places that punish patrons? Is that their purpose?

Fines function almost as a scare tactic. Patrons can fear fines, and as a result, they can fear libraries. Return the book or else! Return the book or we’ll send the Seinfeld library cop after you! Does this scare tactic work? In one way it does. Think about this: it can scare people away from the library completely.

Fines are stressful (for patrons and libraries). Think about how much time and effort is spent on fines by library staff. Is that time/ effort worth it?

Is this a radical idea that may ruffle some feathers? Possibly. Nobody ever said transformation was easy. But can change result in better outcomes (even if the change seems scary)? Absolutely.

Do some research on this topic and conduct a test to see if this is right for your library. Many libraries across the country are already abolishing fines.

  • Fallon, C. (2017). Libraries are dropping overdue fines – but can they afford to? Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2i9vpmc
  • Graham, R. (2017). Long overdue: Why public libraries are finally eliminating the late-return fine. Slate. Retrieved from http://slate.me/2lfNcEL
  • Marx, A.W. (2017). The case against library fines – according to the head of the New York Public Library. Quartz. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2kkJ5Ju
  • Pyatetsky, J. (2016). The end of overdue fines? Public Libraries Online. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2xDxb6i

Genrefication (do away with Dewey and LC)

Genrefication is the process of organizing, classifying, and categorizing items into genres. This is the bookstore method of organizing books. This classification is much easier for patrons, and this is why bookstores use it. To the bookstores, when patrons can find books easier they have a better experience and are likely to buy more books.

Organizing books by genres and subgenres makes it much easier to browse, and a lot of times this is what patrons want to do. Many patrons do not have experience with Dewey or LC. They may have learned it, but that was many years ago. Or they’ve never learned it so why are they expected to know it?

It is also important to point out that children do not learn about decimals until mid-elementary school.

Genrefication is particularly popular in school libraries and other libraries with smaller collections. Libraries who have switched to this method have reported increased circulation.

SOPAC

A SOPAC, or shared online public access catalog, allows patrons to add their own keywords and subject headings. This was brought up during the John Spears pre-conference. The example he provided is “heart attack.” The official subject heading for “heart attack” is “myocardial infarction.” It’s possible the average patron may now know or remember this. Why not make your online catalog more user-friendly?

Layout

This trendy transformation was discussed on the last day of the conference during Doug Johnson’s keynote: “Changed But Still Critical: Brick and Mortar Libraries in the Digital Age.” Doug Johnson is the Director of Technology for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage (MN) Public Schools. He said during his presentation that the layout of the library matters. Some of the things he said is to do away with the traditional study carrels and invest in short shelving with wheels for improved mobility when the library is reorganized down the road. Basically he said to think outside of the box instead of doing things the old fashioned way.

Why continue to do something because it’s something you’ve always done? If you think about it, that’s not a good reason.

Homeless in the Library

[updated January 2019]

Public libraries are much more than places where an elderly woman, with horn-rimmed glasses and hair in a bun, shushes you every time you even think about speaking (common misconception). Libraries are community and cultural centers where individuals gather to explore, interact, learn, and read.

Also, libraries are often havens for people with nowhere else to go. Public libraries can be sanctuaries for the homeless. Libraries are a safe place for them to use the computers, read, attend programs, learn, utilize library services, etc. (which are the same reasons everyone else visits the library). Libraries have a responsibility to serve the homeless that come through their doors and treat them like any other patron.

Many libraries are making strides to better serve the homeless. Some public libraries now have social workers in their buildings who are there to help the homeless; some libraries have even moved to be open 24 hours a day, but this trend has come with some debate; and other libraries are adjusting their collection development, programming, training, etc.

Homelessness and libraries are even making their way to the big screen. The Public, written and directed by Emilio Estevez, is set in Cincinnati as a brutal cold front moves in, which then prompts a group of homeless patrons to refuse to leave the public library at closing time because they’ve learned the city’s shelters are all full. Check out the movie trailer here: https://youtu.be/HF2NOf3EkgE

According to the American Library Association’s (ALA) Services and Responsibilities of Libraries, ALA “promotes equal access to information for all persons, and recognizes the urgent need to respond to the increasing number of poor children, adults, and families in America… Therefore it is crucial that libraries recognize their role in enabling poor people to participate fully in a democratic society, by utilizing a wide variety of available resources and strategies.”

The Federal definition of a chronically homeless person is “either (1) an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, OR (2) an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years,” and homeless is defined as “a person sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation (e.g. living on the streets, for example) OR living in a homeless emergency shelter” (Defining Chronic Homelessness: A Technical Guide for HUD Programs).

So with all of that in mind, here are some great resources for libraries on providing services to homeless patrons:

State Resources

ALA Resources

Other Resources

Articles

  • Barrows, P.K. (2014). Serving the needs of homeless library patrons: Legal issues, ethical concerns, and practical approaches. SJSU SLIS Student Research Journal. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2oBPSkm
  • Debczak, M. (2016). This library provides social services to homeless patrons. Mental Floss. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2FhTG3r
  • Dowd, R.J. (2018). The librarian’s guide to homelessness. American Libraries. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2JTTFG4
  • Gunderman, R. & Stevens, D. C. (2015). How libraries became the front line of America’s homelessness crisis. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://wapo.st/2D9UOV2
  • Lynch, J. (2016). Spartanburg library, homeless patrons, and the golden rule. TechSoup for Libraries. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2zSqDx6
  • Mars, A. (2013). Library service to the homeless. Public Libraries Online. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2oDv7ED
  • Quinton, S. (2016). Enlisting public libraries to help fight homelessness. Pew Charitable Trusts. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/235JZLQ
  • Ruhlmann, E. (2014). A home to the homeless: Libraries offer refuge and support to those in need and help foster a new community approach to homelessness. American Libraries. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2F85aHN
  • Schencker, L. (2018). Homeless people in the library? Chicago, suburban libraries turn to social workers for help. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from https://trib.in/2D8P8KV
  • Shaw, A. & Rosansky, J. (2016). Services for the homeless at libraries. ProQuest. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2fWbZLA