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Updated: May 18, 2012

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The Basic Sites for OWLS Public Library Trustees

Public Library Development Team
This is the public library development page for the Division for Libraries, Technology and Community Learning of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). It is full of absolutely essential information for trustees and librarians. Here's where you can find the latest information on library-related legislation, library automation, librarian certification, statistics, LSTA grant money, county planning, and much more. It includes a very comprehensive list of links of interest to librarians and trustees.

The following links from the DPI site will be of particular interest to library trustees:

Trustee Essentials: A Handbook for Wisconsin Public Library Trustees
The single most important document for trustees to be familiar with. This newly-revised handbook covers the basic information needed by trustees to serve their community effectively. It can be used to orient new trustees. In addition, each of the chapters (Essentials) can help structure short continuing education sessions during regular board meetings because even experienced trustees (and directors!) benefit from a review of the issues essential to library board operations and trustee duties.

Frequently Asked Questions on Public Library Administration and Governance
"This page provides an index to questions from library trustees that have been published, along with answers, in issues of Channel, the bimonthly newsletter of the Wisconsin Division for Libraries, Technology, and Community Learning (DLTCL). Also included are links to articles on library law and administration relevant to public library trustees and library directors." A great way to find answers to the most commonly asked library administration questions!

Wisconsin Library Trustee Resource Page
The Wisconsin Library Trustee Resource Page provides tools and resources of value to trustees. Some of these are trustee training modules (see below), state statistics, and library director certification.

You can use the trustee training modules above either with the full version of Microsoft PowerPoint, or with the free version of PowerPoint Viewer. You can download the free installer for PowerPoint Viewer 2003 from Microsoft's site. Feel free to print and copy these modules for use in trustee training or continuing education as well.

Trustee Tale
The newsletter for trustees published jointly by the Outagamie Waupaca Library System and the Winnefox Library System.

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Trustee Organizations

Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF)
This organization is a division of the American Library Association, and its other pages are well worth examining, as well. Of particular interest are the American Library Association's home page,) and the web site of the Public Library Association.

Wisconsin Library Trustee Association (WLTA)
This is a division of the Wisconsin Library Association. Be sure to notice the Advocacy Guidelines and Advocacy Links.

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Trustee Manuals

These manuals and handbooks are valuable resources for trustees and library directors in Wisconsin. It's important to remember that circumstances vary from state to state, so no one should assume that everything in these manuals is applicable in Wisconsin. This is particularly true in relation to laws, board organization, and finances. At the same time there is a great deal of information that is relevant, either directly or as a comparison to "the way we do things."

The Michigan Public Library Trustee Manual
Some chapters: trustees' rights and responsibilities; board organization and policymaking; library planning, role setting, and budgeting; the library director; intellectual freedom; public relations and trustees.

The Virginia Public Library Trustee Handbook Adobe Acrobat format
This has served as a model for trustee manuals produced by other states. Some sections: becoming a trustee, policy making (Basics of Policy Making and Types of Library Policies: External and Internal), personnel, finances, legal responsibilities of governing boards, library planning, trustees and the political process (Lobbying and The ABC's of Lobbying for Library Trustees), public relations, Friends of the Library. The Appendix contains some interesting documents, e.g., Eleven Points to Effective Lobbying, Ethics Statements for Public Library Trustees, and Golden Rules for Board Members.

The Rhode Island Public Library Trustee Handbook Adobe Acrobat format
What I like about this Handbook is the combination of clear writing and brevity, as well as its practicality. There are useful lists and examples, including tips and questions for the Board to ask itself. Some chapters: Library Planning, Planning Library Buildings, Effective Policy Making, and Personnel Practices.

The Utah Public Library Trustee Handbook
Another friendly resource to try when you're thinking about a trustee's duties and concerns.

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Of Related Interest

A Library Board's Practical Guide to Finding the Right Library Director Adobe Acrobat format
This 31-page how-to manual was put together by a group of Michigan libraries in Spring 2005 as a tool for library boards undertaking their most important responsibility, hiring a director. Topics addressed include having an interim plan, deciding whether to use a consultant, the budget, salary and benefits, legal issues, selling the position and the community, advertising and posting the job, selecting candidates, checking references, and interviewing and evaluating candidates. The appendices offer a sample job description, sample job posting, sample interview questions, and a short bibliography. Highly recommended. See also Trustee Essentials #5.

Library Law
The text of the laws governing Wisconsin public libraries, as well as aids to searching and interpreting them.

Wisconsin Public Library Standards
Useful to complement local planning, the Standards help you see the current condition of the library and define possible areas to improve. Each public library has received two printed copies, but you may download a copy for yourself, or write for a copy from:

Division for Libraries, Technology, and Community Learning
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
125 S. Webster Street
P.O. Box 7841
Madison 53707-7841
Phone: (608) 267-9222

Estimating Service Population
A Links for Libraries page describing how to estimate service population with estimates for OWLS libraries. See also: Chapter 2 of the Wisconsin Public Library Standards.

Library Boards and Municipal Governing Bodies
This article, one of the FAQs addressed by the League of Municipalities, describes the authority of the Library Board. Take a look, as well, at the other Frequently Asked Municipal Legal Questions for a variety of information that can prove useful to you as a trustee.

A Guide to Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law
The guide and a list of frequently asked questions, prepared and newly revised by the Department of Justice, are available at this site. You may want to look, as well, at Open Meetings Law and Library Board Closed Sessions and the League of Municipality's FAQ on the open meetings law.

Developing the Library Budget and Managing the Library's Money
Power Point presentations developed by Appleton Public Library Director Terry Dawson to use with his board of trustees. Posted with his permission.

Financial Management Reference Guide
From the Library of Michigan. An extremely useful manual that includes chapters on accounting for libraries, fund balance/net assets, budgeting, financial reporting, property taxes, state funded revenue, investments, financing, audit process, internal control, and GASB43 for libraries. Remember that this material is written for Michigan residents, but much of it is useful for anyone seeking to understand financial management better, e.g., the modified accrual method of accounting, types of budgets, sample financial reports, and a questionnaire that will help you determine whether your internal controls are weak or could be improved.

Inside the System: A Primer for Trustees
This is an article by James Swan, Director of the Central Kansas Library System and the Great Bend (Kansas) Public Library, that was originally published in Wilson Library Bulletin. It provides an overview of the major responsibilities of a trustee.

101+ Commonly Asked Interview Questions
From handouts at an Illinois Library Association conference. You can browse this list in order to make your own short list of questions to ask candidates.

Public Library Trustee Information
A topically-arranged list of resources from the Wisconsin Valley Library System.


This organization, formerly the Center for NonProfit Boards, is dedicated to "building strong and effective nonprofit boards." It has some excellent publications. Note especially the Board Q&As, where you'll find questions and answers on issues relevant to all kinds of nonprofit boards. Remember, this is not library specific or Wisconsin specific, so you'll need to evaluate whether and how the information you get here is relevant to your situation.

Free Complete Toolkit for Boards
This is an extensive site of information for all kinds of boards, non-profit, for-profit, and government boards. You can learn a lot by browsing this site, but again you need to adapt what you find to your particular situation.

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