Do you want to be more involved in your community? Becoming a Trustee with Surrey LibrariesSurrey Libraries, Information Package for Prospective Library Trustees (p.1)
can be a rewarding way to help shape this valued community service. This guide offers
information about the role of the Library Board and how to become involved.
This is an appointed position with rights and responsibilities as per the Library Act of British Columbia. As a member of the Squamish Public Library Board, you are a citizen who along with other members of the Board have been given trust to care for its library. This implies a challenge, an obligation and an opportunity.
Your responsibility is to represent the public interest in libraries. You will be asked to give freely of your time, talents and energy. This will involve establishing effective working relationships with local government, library staff and fellow trustees. It will require becoming a part of a team (the Library Board) whose mandate is to fulfill the following: …Squamish Public Library, Trustee Recruitment Information Package (p.6)
Trustees bring a breadth of experiences, skills, knowledge, and questions to public library board work. Board policies and practices vary across the province and BCLTA is focused on issues of common concern for board development. We support trustees with the “why” and “how” of governance so that each board can respond with the best “what” for their public library and their community. Your board chair, your library director, and BCLTA all have a role in helping you find further resources specific to your needs. The BC Public Libraries Branch staff are also available for your questions, particularly those regarding the Library Act.
Note that this Discussion Starter will be of most use for municipal and public library association (PLA) boards.
Your board recruitment discussions might cover a wide range of topics such as:
- The role and responsibilities of the board, of individual trustees, of the board chair, and of the library director for successful governance. Know the role of the board before having recruitment discussions with others.
- Trends in public library strategic directions, policies, and governance practices. You will want to share with others in the community, including local government, what the current issues and potential areas of growth are for the board to generate interest in public library governance. (See BCLTA Discussion Starters regarding Justice,Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Reconciliation, Intellectual Freedom and Climate Crisis).
- The legislative framework (beginning with the Library Act) for public library governance and what that might mean for any possible recruitment initiatives, such as how you communicate with the membership (PLA) or with local government about the role and responsibilities of the board.
- Current and future board needs and strengths. This discussion is richer if it moves beyond recruiting for learned skills, such as financial acumen, to including how the board can develop a more inclusive and diverse board that is reflective of the community it serves and is stronger by having a broader range of thinking, ideas, and experiences.
- The unique recruitment and succession planning challenges for your board such as local socioeconomics or demographics, level of board or community engagement, and the library’s relationship with influencers and decision makers such as local government.
- Board responsibility for the stewardship of the public library and accountability to the community for the continuity of the public library. Even if the board is appointed by the municipality, the board has a responsibility for identifying board composition needs for the governance of the public library.
- The important role of your library director in the process.
Consider board recruitment as an ongoing initiative. Don’t wait for the month before your AGM or for the municipal announcement for applications. See it as an opportunity to engage your community and local, regional, and First Nation governments in the value of the public library and the value of your volunteer governance work.
Board Roles and Responsibilities
The more trustees understand their role and responsibilities in governing the public library the
more success they will have in demonstrating the importance of the public library board and in
engaging others to consider being a trustee.
BC Public Library Governance: A Quick Guide for Library Trustees
- This four-page guide is a starting point for learning about BC public library governance
Wise Practices: Trustee Orientation Checklist
- A template developed with the input of boards and library directors that can be easily tailored for your board’s specific welcome and orientation needs.
North Vancouver District Public Library, Duties and Responsibilities of the Library Board
- A guiding principles approach to establishing the boards governance and oversight roles and responsibilities and the library director’s operational management role and responsibilities
West Vancouver Memorial Library, WVML Library Board
- Clear description of municipal library board governance
- Useful links such as the one-pager Governance of West Vancouver Memorial Library Board
Succession Planning: know what you are recruiting for
Succession planning is connected to board evaluation and development. Knowing how and what your board needs for successful governance, including having trustees with a diversity of life experiences, thinking, and ideas is key for building a sustainable and highly functioning board.
A strong and credible public library board candidate is someone who broadens and strengthens the board’s development and governance work. They are open and curious about the unique role of the public library in their community and about commonly held public library values and principles such as intellectual freedom, equity, inclusion, diversity, access, privacy, and reconciliation. They understand or are keen to learn about the moral and legal importance of governance principles such as transparency, accountability, fiduciary responsibility, and duty of care.
For boards that are appointed, rather than elected, succession planning has its own unique set of challenges, but the principle for succession planning remains the same; know what your board needs for successful governance and communicate that to potential trustees and to those who participate in the process of recruitment and appointment.
The Power of Board Succession Planning, Board Effect
- Sonia J. Stamm, July 8, 2016
- Stresses the impact of board leadership and abilities for setting and sustaining the culture of the organization
Succession Planning for Nonprofits – Managing Leadership Transitions, National Council of Non-Profits (n.d.)
- 10 Planning Tips for Leadership Transition – quick bulleted points and adaptable to BC public libraries
- Focus on the importance of being intentional with, and prepared for, board and staff leadership changes
Nonprofit Board Diversity isn’t a Checklist, Boardable, August 2, 2019
- The difference between recruiting for an inclusive board and “checking a box for diversity”
Recruitment and Communication
All public library boards increase the likelihood of having a breadth of candidates for successful elections or appointments by sharing appropriate information about the board and board work through a variety of communication channels.
These channels include speaking with local government and community partners, making use
of traditional media, having information available at the library, and through wise use of social
A key communication channel is the board section on the library’s website. The board section
on the website, which is a tool for demonstrating transparency and accountability, should at the
very least include:
- Names of current trustees and the board chair (if possible individual photos or a group photo) (Stewart Public Library, Smithers Public Library, Nelson Public Library, and Burnaby Public Library)
- Methods for contacting the board chair (email: boardchair@publiclibrary or phone: library administrative number)
- Roles and responsibilities of the board (North Vancouver District Public Library)
- Process for being a delegate to board meetings (Fraser Valley Regional Library)
- Meeting schedules (Creston Valley Public Library)
- Meeting agendas (Fort St. John Public Library)
- Meeting minutes, including AGM minutes (Salt Spring Public Library)
Up-to-date strategic plan (Elkford Public Library, 2018 – 2022, North Vancouver City
Library, 2018 – 2021) and recent annual reports (Kitimat Public Library, Squamish
Additionally, all public libraries should have information on their website as to how trustees
come to be on the board. An open and transparent process executed with integrity will give the
community, local government, and funders reason to view the board as having credibility and
the authority to govern.
Municipal Library Boards:
- Cranbrook Public Library, Library Board Applicant Information Package
- Squamish Public Library, Trustee Recruitment Information Package
- Surrey Libraries, Information for Prospective Library Trustees
Public Library Associations (PLAs) Boards
- Pender Island Public Library Board Trustee Application Package
- Hazelton Public Library, Board of Trustees
- Grand Forks and District Public Library, Board Members
Please send any recommended resources or board documents to be added to this Discussion Starter to Babs Kelly at email@example.com.
© 2022 British Columbia Library Trustees Association. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 License.