MHLS Home Trustee Resources: Across the Board
Personnel Policies
Winter 2007

Across the Board | Winter 2007 | Topic: Personnel Policies
The Mid-Hudson Library System's Quarterly Newsletter for Public Library Trustees

"Although the relationship between the library board and the library staff is primarily through the [director], the more positive the relationship between the library board and library staff - the more effective the board will be in achieving its objects."
-Southern Ontario Library System, Trustee Tips, March 1996

Personnel Policies
The most valuable resource your library has is its staff. Quality library service can only be accomplished if your library's team is motivated and positive about their working environment. The boards' involvement in the creation, revision and review of the library's personnel policy can have a significant influence on the customer service delivered to your community by creating a cooperative and mutually understanding environment.

A personnel policy will also insure objectivity when written policies and procedures are in place. This will inform staff of what the rights and conditions of employment are and demonstrate fairness and equity.

Personnel policy is also a crucial element for risk management. According to the Council of Community Services of New York State (CCSNYS) more than 85% of all lawsuits brought against nonprofit organizations in New York are personnel related. Your policy is the first line of defense.

Elements of a Personnel Policy

Worker Definitions
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that employers classify jobs as either exempt or nonexempt. Positions in your library are categorized based on a test* to identify who meets the defined criteria for exempt, i.e. executive, administrative or professional work, or non-exempt, i.e. salaried. The definition of an exempt worker is one who:

1. Is "engaged in work which is primarily intellectual, managerial, or creative," and "which requires exercise of discretion and independent judgment," and
2. Is paid a monthly salary equivalent to at least twice the state minimum wage for full time employees. [FindLaw]
*To access the tests to fully explore which positions at your library are exempt use the "Duties Tests" links on the MHLS web site

These classifications define employees' rights in the area of wage and hour standards under FLSA: Non-exempt employees are entitled to the minimum wage and to overtime compensation when working over forty hours in a workweek. Employees who meet defined criteria are exempt from the basic wage and hour standards.

Beyond minimum wage and overtime compensation, other FLSA rights and protections are related to restrictions on child labor, and the prohibition of sex discrimination in wages paid to men and women.

Independent contractor or employee?
For federal tax purposes it is important to know the difference between an independent contractor and employee. You must withhold income tax, social security and Medicare for a person who is an employee or be liable for those monies at a later date.) There are three categories of determination:

Other General Definitions

All libraries, regardless of size offer some benefits to their staff whether it's just vacation and sick days or a full complement of health and retirement benefits. Benefits need to be spelled out in your personnel policy to ensure it is clear who receives benefits and at what rate. Creating a structure for dealing with all types of leave will help your director treat everyone fairly.

Training and development give employees the skills and knowledge they need to perform effectively at their jobs. Your policy should create an environment conducive to both new and long-time employees receiving the continuing education they need. Equally important is to budget for training for staff. This includes paying staff for the time they spend in training, traveling to training, and providing funds for coverage for the staff person out of the building for training.

Standards of Behavior
Just as you have expectations of patron behavior in your library, you have expectations of staff behavior as well. Part of ensuring that quality library service is provided in the way you hope it will be is to define standards of behavior for staff in relation to patrons and co-workers. Items often included in this section of the policy are:

Performance Evaluation
While the board is only responsible for directly evaluating one employee, the director, it is important that a culture of evaluation is infused throughout your organization. Including a staff evaluation schedule in your personnel policy gives your director the framework and board support for staff evaluations. Evaluations provide the opportunity for an employee and supervisor to have a forthright discussion about job expectations and to either encourage a good employee to continue the good work or to help a struggling employee improve. There should be an evaluation at the end of a new hire's introductory period (suggested length of introductory period: 90 days) and annually thereafter.

Progressive Discipline
When an employee is not doing well at their job or is violating library policy it is important that the personnel policy define disciplinary action. Progressive Discipline (PD) is a process for dealing with employee behavior that does not meet stated expectations. PD is a stepped approach:

1. Verbal warning

2. Two written warnings* (saved in the employees personnel file) that define

a. Steps needed to rectify the situation
b. A timeframe within which those steps need to be completed

3. Optional: Suspend benefits; dock pay; suspend without pay

4. Termination

Using a corrective, active approach to a problem employee helps protect your investment of time, energy and money in that person. PD also helps your director create the necessary paper trail to demonstrate a pattern of problem behavior that could be called upon in the case of firing an employee. The burden of proof is on the library, even though New York is an "employment at-will" state.
* template can be found on the MHLS web site

Other items that should be included in your policy:


Personnel policy development tips and samples are available on the MHLS Trustee Resources. Give us a call at 845.471.6060 if you have any questions.


Home | Public Library Catalog | Calendar | Contacts | Services | Bulletins | Member Libraries | MHLS Board of Trustees | Web Site Index

Administration & Management | Resource Sharing & Millennium | Reference & Collection Development | Library Programming | Professional Development | Marketing, Advocacy & Funding | Youth Services | Trustee Resources