MHLS Home Trustee Resources: Across the Board
Trustee Education & Participation
Fall 2009

Across the Board | Fall 2009| Topic: Trustee Education & Participation - Making the Most of Your Time on the Board
The Mid-Hudson Library System's Quarterly Newsletter for Public Library Trustees

"Even the most knowledgeable and experienced library trustee needs continuing education to stay informed about new laws [and] new possibilities for library service. Library services and library policies must constantly change to keep pace with changing community needs... Library trustees who stay informed of these changes will be better able to provide high-quality library service to their community."
- Trustee Essentials: A Handbook for Wisconsin Public Library Trustees, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

A good heart and an open mind will help most trustees deal with issues brought to the table at board meetings but to do the best job you can for your community it is helpful to be informed about the specifics of your library, the laws that impact it and best practices for public libraries within the System, state and country.There are many opportunities to learn more.

Trustee Education Opportunities - Each year, MHLS provides an education series specifically for member library trustees. Many of those who have attended commented on how valuable it was to meet with and discuss library issues with trustees outside of their own library board.

There are three tiers of trustee education: Essentials, Advanced and Board Leadership. The workshop "Essential Trustee Duties & Responsibilities"* is offered every year in both the Spring and Fall and is conducted by MHLS Staff: Josh Cohen, MHLS Executive Director, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Coordinator of Member Information and Merribeth Advocate, MHLS Outreach & Education Coordinator. It is targeted to people who have been on the board less than a year, but everyone is welcome.

Our "Advanced Session"** is offered in the Fall and the topic changes each year, this session is designed for peer exchange, is devoted to listening to trustees in attendance so you can learn from one another. Since it is an interactive workshop, we recommend that attendees have been on the board for a year or more.

The annual "Board Leadership Forum" is offered once a year and is meant for officers of the board to attend along with their director. The topic is different each year, the 2009 topic was "The Role of the Board President." Stay tuned for the 2010 topic!

Upcoming MHLS Trustee Education Opportunities
Please note: There is a $100 reimbursement to libraries if they send at least three trustees to a Mid-Hudson Library System Trustee Essentials and/or Advanced Workshop. [Registration is required:]

*Essential Trustee Duties & Responsibilities: Attendees will learn effective ways to carry out the nine essential library trustee duties and responsibilities (everything the library board does either falls within one of these duties or is done in support of them). Note: these sessions feature the updated content that was introduced last year.

**2009 Advanced Trustee Education Session: "Dealing with the Current Economic Situation"

A great place to learn more is to read what is affectionately referred to as the "Trustee Bible": The Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State by Jerry Nichols. Available online at or in print. Just ask your director.

As a new trustee, your director and fellow trustees can help orient you to your library. A tour of the building, review of the plan of service, introduction to board policies and procedures and a review of recent board actions is a great place to start.

The Mid-Hudson Library System provides multiple avenues to learn about the structure of libraries in New York State, funding and governance, legal issues, policy development, facility help, board development and building community support. We started with the basics found in the Handbook for Library Trustees and have invested our time in learning what works (and what doesn't!) by observing how member libraries achieve success. With 66 member libraries of all shapes and sizes this gives us a large pool to draw from. We work to convey basics and best practices to member library trustees in a variety of ways:

See Also: On Demand Consultation Menu:

Connecting with your counterparts throughout the System, state and country can also be a great experience. Consider an individual or board membership in:

Board-to-Board Visits: The 15-member board of the Mid-Hudson Library System is made up of three representatives from each of the five counties served by the System. Members of our board visit member library boards to learn your local issues and to share information about the System. Feel free to invite one or all of your county's representatives to your board meeting to make this connection. (Contact MHLS trustees at

MHLS Trustees
Columbia County: Steve Benson, Janet Schnitzer, Frank Tuttle
Dutchess County: John Bickford, Roland Patterson, Marie Smith
Greene County: Bill Conine, Lisa Baker Brill, Caroline Benton Profera
Putnam County: Jean Ehnebuske, Martin Miller, Patricia Miller
Ulster County: Peter Hoffmann, Michael Minor, Sally Rhoads

New York State
NYSALB holds an annual Trustee Institute, usually in May, at different locations around the state. This annual event is completely devoted to public library trustee issues and networking. The details for the 2010 Conference will be coming soon, although we do know it will be held the first weekend in May. Past sessions at the Trustee Institute have included branding your library, budget development and director evaluation. Also, by joining NYSALB you'll receive a quarterly newsletter in the mail. Check out past issues and learn more about NYSALB at

The NYLA conference is held annually in the fall, this year in Niagara Falls (October 14-17) and in Saratoga Springs next year, 2011 and 2012 - not too bad a drive! This is an excellent venue for meeting other trustees from around the state as NYSALB holds multiple sessions for trustees at the NYLA Conference, usually on the Saturday of the conference. You can view the current year's conference program schedule at to get a feel for the types of topics covered; for example, this year there are sessions on personnel policy development, "greening" your library, "21 Ideas for a 21st Century Library," team building and friends groups. Joining NYLA is an important step as a library advocate in New York State, because it is the primary library advocacy group and leads the fight for library and system funding every year in Albany. Membership has its benefits, including a quarterly newsletter. Learn more at their web site:

The national American Library Association Annual Conference offers a broader perspective on library issues - from legal issues such as intellectual freedom and digital rights - to building and technology trends, trends in literature and panels on the future of the book. ALA is known for their Library Advocate training sessions, which any trustee would benefit from attending. Next year's conference will be in Washington D.C. June 24-29. Learn more at

You have lots of options. Formal or informal, local or "abroad," there is something for every trustee no matter how long you've been on the board.

On Demand Consultations
On Demand Consultations allow your board to learn about a topic as a group. All consultations are free of charge, customizable, and can be brought your library at your convenience. Contact Josh Cohen / x217 or Rebekkah Smith Aldrich / x239 to plan a consultation for your board.

Board Basics
Get the basics on trustee responsibilities in two hours or less (includes the role of the director).

Planning for Success
Find out how to become a better library and streamline board decision-making through planning.

Building Your Base
Tools for connecting with your community to build support.

Smart Growth for Your Library
See where your library falls in the Public Library Growth Cycle and find out how your library can evolve to prepare for change.

Sustainable Funding
Learn about your library's options to secure adequate operational funding.

Getting to Yes
Know-how for your library's vote.

Fundraising Facts
Basics and Best Practices.

Make the Most of Your Space
Running out of space? We can help you see your space in a whole new light.

Facilities for the Future
Looking to expand or build new? Start off on the right foot (includes funding options).

Financial Fun
Make sure your board is on the right path: financial policies and budgeting.

Essential Policies
Learn about the policies essential to protecting your library and staff.

Don't see what you need? Just ask!

Got Questions? Ask Josh!
The Winter 2009 edition of Across the Board will feature answers to specific questions from member library trustees. Help your peers in the Mid-Hudson Library System by suggesting a question that you're wondering about or something you wish you'd known sooner when you got on your board. Submit your questions to Rebekkah at or give her a call at 845.471.6060 x239 and we may feature your question.


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