The Library Board and Management: Their Roles

There are varying notions on what the Library Board does and its areas of responsibility.  Who is the Employer?  What is our Management’s role in delivering policy?  The following item was lifted from the BCLTA Spring newsletter 2010.  It helps to clarify some of our questions.

“A board is an organized group of people with the authority collectively to control and foster an institution that is usuallyadministered by a qualified executive and staff.” – Cyril O. Houle
“Governing is about setting the course and directing the progress.” – Ginette Johnstone

  • The purpose of a board is to represent and balance member or stakeholder interests. Standing in for those to whom the organization belongs, boards must decide and act as their constituents would, if they had the time, energy, experience, and knowledge to do so on their own behalf.
  • Simply put, the board governs on behalf of persons who are not seated at the board table.
  • Strictly speaking, a board exists only when it is meeting. Individually, they are members of the board, but collectively, in a properly called meeting, they become the board of directors. The board’s decision-making ability lies in its group structure.
  • Boards are where the buck stops. Although ultimately responsible for their organizations, boards are part-time and do not run the day- to-day operations.  As a consequence, boards must retain, direct, and oversee, professional management.
  • Boards are the owners’ agents.
  • Management is the board’s agent.
  • Collectively, the board of directors is the legal entity responsible as a group, for the proper conduct of the organization’s affairs.
  • The board provides leadership and direction to the organization.  The board of directors is charged with achieving the delicate balance between acting on direction from the membership, who are the ultimate decision makers, and providing the leadership necessary to move the organization forward.

In its attempt to meet the needs of the membership, the board will conduct appropriate research, consult the members and think through the results of their actions.
It is important to keep in mind that:

  • The Board of Directors collectively reports to the Membership
  • The Executive Director reports to the Board
  • The Staff report to the Executive Director Committees may report to either the Membership or the Board

The Board(Governance)
Establish policy Implement policy
Issues affecting the whole organization     I
Doing the right thing
Long term

The Executive Director (City Librarian)  (Management)
Implement & adhere to board Implement operations in process policies compliance with board policy
Issues affecting individuals
Doing things right

John F. Noonan, PRP, ASP, CGA
in solidarity