The library board is responsible for approving policies used for managing the library operations and business. Policies are enforceable only if they are in writing and have been adopted by the board.
The library director advises the board of policies that need to be implemented or changed. Usually, the director will create the policy and bring it to the board for their consideration and approval. Typically, library policies fall into three categories: board, personnel, and operations.
The board should routinely review all policies to ensure that they are still current, legal, and applicable. A handy tool for this is an Annual Calendar to project when policies will be reviewed and what activities will be handled each month. See these
Having policies and procedures in place will help:
- indicate appropriate behavior: cell phone usage, email/Internet usage, etc.
- provide guidance on handling various situations: travel expenditures, reporting work time, purchasing merchandise for library use, etc.
- keep the library in compliance with governmental policies and laws: ADA, FMLA, EEOC, minimum wage, etc.
- protect the library legally: harassment, non-discriminatory hiring/promotion practices, etc.
- establish consistent work standards, rules and regulations: safety, discipline, etc. 6
- provide standards of fair and consistent treatment: patron borrowing rules, benefit eligibility for staff, various types of leave, etc.
When putting together a policy or procedures manual, the general guidelines below may help. Also see the
Governance of Kentucky Public Libraries training that is part of the Trustee Certification Program for more information on policies and procedures.
General Policy Development
Keep in mind when creating a policy that there is a hierarchy of law and that each level must correspond and not contradict the level above it. An illustration of this hierarchy is:
Questions to ask in creating and reviewing policies are:
- Are your policies in alignment with the library’s mission and goals?
- Are your policies reflective of actual practice?
Tips for successful policies:
- Review and update on a regular schedule
- Language is concise and easy to understand
- Written to enable successful implementation
- Comply with local, state, and federal laws
- Consistently applied and nondiscriminatory
- Policy statements are internally consistent and do not contradict each other
- Clear delineation between and among policies, procedures, and guidelines
Here are some definitions to help determine which type of document you need:
Bylaws: Rules written and adopted by the library board to provide the structure for how the board will conduct its business. Bylaws are a framework for board operations. Bylaws are based on legal requirements and rarely change
Policy: Statements of basic principles guiding decisions and providing direction on how the library operates. They ensure that the library is operating in ways that are consistent with its mission, goals, and objectives. Policies are updated as needed.
Procedure: A written step-by-step description of how staff will implement a policy. Procedures are more flexible than policy and will change as needs and tools available to staff change. Procedures are developed in consultation with staff and managers.
Practice: The way things are actually done. Practice may not be supported by policy. Practice can be an oral tradition and very subjective.