Board of Trustees Roles & Responsibilities


The governing library board and library director work as team. Building a long-term, effective relationship between the board and director requires a clear understanding of their different roles and responsibilities and a willingness to negotiate differences of opinion, when needed.

The board establishes the library mission, long-range plan, and policies. The director establishes service directions based on the mission, administers the policies, and accomplishes the long range plan.

The board hires only one employee–the library director–and develops an annual work plan with the director’s participation. The director is responsible to the whole board, not individual board members.

Board members must always be aware of their special status in relation to the public and library staff. The board must not undermine the authority of the director. However, the board must also be sure that staff is well supported by appropriate policies, adequate resources, continuing education, and personal encouragement.

Following are brief lists of the complementary duties of a governing board and the library director.


  • Know community needs, keep abreast of library trends, and actively participate in state and national library associations.
  • Set up an organizational structure for the library board and adopt bylaws that meet Open Public Meetings laws.
  • Assure that board minutes, library policies, plans, and other information or reports are available to the public as required by law.
  • Once the board adopts a policy or plan all members support the decision and support staff who implement decisions.
  • In coordination with the director, develop and adopt the library's mission statement, long-range, strategic and annual plans.
  • Know local, state, and federal laws related to libraries.
  • Employ a competent and qualified director, maintain a current job description, and evaluate the director annually on previously agreed upon criteria.
  • Clearly delegate operations to library director avoiding procedural micromanaging.
  • Discuss, adopt, and periodically review policies.

A board establishes the library mission, long-range plan and policies. The director establishes service directions based on the mission, administers the policies, and accomplishes the long-range plan.


Clear and honest communication between the director and the board is essential to success.

 Review and adopt the annual library budget or levy, assuring that long-range plan goals will be addressed by the budget priorities.

    • Adopt a clear materials selection policy that supports the diverse needs and interests of the community.
    • Plan for, secure, and maintain adequate funding for the library within legal limits of library funding.
    • Adopt adequate salary scales, benefits, and continuing education opportunities for library staff within budget limits.
    • Actively communicate and discuss library policy issues with the public.
    • Support the library public relations program.


    Develop and administer the library service program for the entire community based on board adopted mission, policies, and plans.

    • Provide complete and regular reports about the library management, progress, and needs at board meetings.
    • Serve as the board's technical advisor attending all regular and special board meetings, as well as executive meetings when invited by the board.
    • Keep the board informed about emerging critical issues.
    • Know local, state, and federal laws informing the board about pending legislation that may impact the library.
    • Develop background information and recommend policies and plans for board action; carry out adopted policies and plans.
    • Hire, supervise, and provide for continuing education and evaluation of library staff.
    • Prepare the proposed annual library budget for board consideration.
    • Administer the library budget, staying within fiscal restraints.
    • Supervise maintenance, operation, remodeling or construction of library facilities.
    • Communicate with the public about library related issues.
    • Actively market the library and maintain a public relations program.
    • Actively participate in state and national library organizations.
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    Made possible with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Washington State Library, Office of the Secretary of State.