Internal Policies Development Tips & Samples
The library boards’ ultimate responsibility is to ensure and protect the reputation of the institution – best realized through the adoption of clearly written library policies. Written policies provide consistency for patrons and staff, help to resolve misunderstandings, reduce incidents of conflict and help to protect from litigation.
The MHLS Public Library Policies Development Tips & Samples is divided into four key parts:
Policy Basics | Internal Policies | External Policies | Essential Documents
Policies that impact library operations.
- How often will the Board meet and where?
- How many make up the Board’s quorum?
- How can special meetings of the Board be called and how will the members and the community be notified?
- Note that NYS Open Meeting Law must be observed, including proper use of executive sessions.
- Absenteeism of Board members: acceptable excuses, reporting of planned absences, removal of a trustee
- Filling mid-term vacancies.
- Who will take the meeting minutes? OF what will the meeting minutes consist?
- Procedures for managing public comment period.
- Does they library subscribe to the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association?
- What type of experience do you hope a patron has at your library?
- Consider issues such as cell phones, food or drinks, concealable weapons and animals (besides service animals) in the library.
- What behavior is unacceptable in the library on on library property?
- How are patrons made aware of the code of conduct for your library?
- What should a staff person do if a patron is not following your code of conduct policy?
- Under what circumstances would the police be brought in?
- What would the appeal process be for a patron that has been ejected under your policy?
- A library’s conflict of interest policy must comply with the NYS Nonprofit Revitalization Act that went into effect in July 2014. It must include:
- a definition of the circumstances that constitute a conflict of interest;
- procedures for disclosing a conflict to the audit committee or, if no audit committee, to the board;
- a requirement that the person with the conflict not be present at or participate in board/committee deliberation or vote on the matter giving rise to the conflict;
- a prohibition against any attempt by the person with the conflict to influence improperly the deliberation or voting on the matter giving rise to the conflict;
- a requirement that the existence and resolution of the conflict be documented in the corporation’s records, including in the minutes of any meeting at which the conflict was discussed or voted upon; and
- procedures for disclosing, addressing, and documenting related party transactions in accordance with NPCL §715
- It is also recommended that you include space on the policy for all new people associated with the library to sign and date that they read it.
- A “Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form” should be attached to your policy.
- Does your board have an encouraging culture of continuing education?
- Are all trustees expected to attend MHLS Trustee Educational opportunities? In particular, Essential Trustee Duties & Responsibilities?
- Will Trustees be reimbursed for mileage or expenses?
- What is the process to notify the board of a planned absence?
- What excuses for an absence are acceptable?
- If a trustee fails to notify the appropriate authority of a pending absence for three consecutive meetings will that trustee be deemed to have resigned from the Board (as allowed for in NYS Education Law)?
- Can a Trustee be removed? If yes, be clear that under NYS Education Law (226) a Trustee may be removed by the vote of a majority of the entire board if they follow proper procedure:
- Such removal shall be upon notice and on examination and due proof of the truth of a written complaint by any Trustee alleging misconduct, incapacity or neglect of duty.
- At least one week’s notice of the proposed action must be given to the accused and to each Trustee.
- What qualifies as an “emergency” or “disaster”?
- Who is responsible for reporting an emergency situation to the proper authorities (calling 911)?
- What is the chain of command for reporting an emergency situation to those beyond first responders (board, insurance company, etc.)
- Is necessary contact information and a copy of the Business Continuity Plan available off-site (in case you cannot get into the building)?
- If an emergency occurs when the library is closed, who is responsible for overseeing the management of the situation? Who is that person’s back-up?
- Are staff expected to file an incident report after the situation is under control? If yes, who is that submitted to?
- What records retention and dispositions schedules does the library follow?
- Who is in charge of following the schedules?
- How and where are files stored?
- Is there an electronic back-up of files? Where are these kept?
Development Questions: Sample Policies:
- Who is the records management officer?
- Does the library require that a specific form be used to file a FOIL request?
- Does the library charge for copies to be made of requested items?
- Expected turn around time for requests to be filled.
- Define “inclement weather”.
- Who is responsible for deciding when to close the library? Who is responsible for deciding when to close the library when the Director is not available?
- How will staff be notified if the library is closing? (Phone call to all staff?, Message on library voice mail? Message in staff email? Listen to closings on radio? Phone tree? etc.)
- How will the public be notified that the library is closed?
- What media/venues will announce the closing of the library? (radio, local TV, websites, social media, phone messages, etc.)
- If the library is to close for the day, how far in advance must the announcement to staff be made?
- Who is the spokesperson for the library?
- Who handles public relations for the library?
- Which are the newspapers of record for the library?
- Does the library send out press releases? If so, where to?
- Does the library maintain a social media presence? If yes, who is authorized to post and manage that presence?
- What types of content restrictions are there on postings to library social media?
Financial Controls Policies
- Who is authorized to make purchases on behalf of the library?
- At what dollar threshold must the director receive board approval for a purchase?
- When does staff need to get multiple bids?
- How are records kept?
- Does the library make investments?
- What investments are allowable?
- Who oversees the library’s investments internally?
- Does the library consult with a professional advisor?
- What items are pre-approved for payment (personnel, utilities, etc.)
- What process will the board use to review claims?
- Who is authorized to use the credit card?
- What is the dollar limit for purchases?
- Description of the types of purchases that are allowed
- Description of the documentation requirements
- Where will credit cards be stored?
- Issues related to library tax exemption
- Define “petty cash”.
- Who is in charge of the library’s petty cash (director, business manager, etc)?
- Is there a maximum amount that can be set aside as petty cash?
- Are receipts required for reimbursement?
- Is prior approval required?
- Is there a maximum amount that can be handed out at once?
- Are staff required to use the library’s tax exemption certificate when making purchases?
- How does the library dispose of equipment and furnishings paid for with public funds?
- How are “equipment” and “fixed assets” defined?
- What inventory records will be kept? Who is responsible for keeping these records?
- What is the estimated useful life of:
- Furniture and equipment
- Building and improvements
- Land improvements
- What is the depreciation method?
- How does fundraising support the library’s goals and objectives?
- Who conducts fundraising?
- Who is determines the amount to be raised and what the funds will be spent on?
- Can a donor request that donations be used for a particular purpose?
- Is the donor given a receipt?
- How does the library recognize donors?
- Does the library accept gifts of: equipment, furniture, books, DVDs and/or other library materials, land, stock?
- Who is responsible for determining whether or not the library will accept a donation?
- Where are funds raised deposited?
- Are the funds invested?
- Are there liaisons to the library board from Friends board and vice versa?
- How does the library make requests for funding of the Friends Group?
- o Are the Friends expected to follow the library’s financial control policies?
- Where are funds raised by the Friends kept?
- Are the funds under the control of the library or the Friends?
- Are a portion of the funds retained by the Friends? Is there a maximum amount or percentage that can be withheld? For what purpose?
- How are donors recognized?
- Does the library agree to share strategic initiatives each year with the Friends?
- Does the library agree to include the Friends in long-range planning?
- Does the library provide storage space for the Friends?
- Is the library’s staff authorized to assist the Friends Group?
- Does the Friends Group agree to publicly support the library and its policies?
- Does the Friends Group agree that funds raised will be spent exclusively for library programs and services?
- Do the Friends agree that library administration has the final say in accepting or declining gifts made to the library?
- Do the Friends agree that if they cease to actively fundraising and promote the library that they will disband?
- Why does the library need a reserve fund?
- What, specifically, are acceptable expenditures from the fund?
- How will funds be disbursed from the fund? Is board approval required?
- How are vacancies filled?
- How is staff expected to act on the job?
- Is there a dress code?
- How should staff report harassment?
- What provisions are made for staff development/training?
- How are grievances handled?
- What is the procedure for evaluation?
- What benefits are offered? Is there vacation/sick time?
- Under what circumstances can someone be dismissed?
HIPAA is the the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996” and relates to the issue of the protection of medical privacy for individuals. Public libraries are not “covered entities” under HIPAA and are therefore not required to be “HIPAA Compliant.” However it is recommended that libraries begin implementing some of the privacy precautions required of covered entities now since as an employer you do retain sensitive information about employees.
For example: Develop privacy policies and procedures that cover such issues as making sure computer monitors displaying employee information does not face a common area in the library; placement of the fax machine should be away from a public area in case you receive a fax related to an employee’s medical coverage; procedures to handle an employee that purposefully give out another employees medical information for harmful purposes.
- How are vacancies filled? (Civil Service requirements, postings, etc.)
- Is there a letter of hire to state salary, start date and chain of command?
- How are salary and benefit information supplied to employees?
- What are the benefits (types of leave, medical coverage, etc.)?
- What is the probationary period for a new hire?
- What type of orientation to the organization and job are provided? By when is this provided?
- What are the expectations of staff behavior?
- What would happen should the library’s Code of Conduct for staff be violated?
- What are the expectations of staff behavior?
- What would happen should the library’s Code of Conduct for staff be violated?
- Statement on staff use of library computers/equipment/connections for personal use.
- What is the evaluation schedule?
- Who conducts evaluations?
- What is the process for evaluation?
- Statement on the possibility of disciplinary measures, up to and including termination.
- Are staff paid if they are called to jury duty?
- Do you require written proof that they have served?
- What type of leave is offered?
- How may leave time be used?
- What reporting is required for staff to take leave (sick, personal time, vacation time)?
- Define “harassment.”
- What reporting mechanism/chain of command is to be followed for reporting harassment? Include a path for an employee to follow if the director is identified as the harasser.
- What type of training is provided to prevent harassment and prepare employees should they feel they are being harassed?
- Whistleblower Protection:
- As per the New York State Nonprofit Revitalization Act which went into effect July 1, 2014, this policy should include:
- A provision that no director (or trustee), officer, employee or volunteer of a corporation who in good faith reports any action or suspected action taken by or within the corporation that is illegal, fraudulent or in violation of any adopted policy of the corporation shall suffer intimidation, harassment, discrimination or other retaliation or, in the case of employees, adverse employment consequence;
- Procedures for reporting violations or suspected violations of law or corporate policies, including procedures for preserving the confidentiality of reported information;
- A requirement that an employee, officer or director of the corporation be designated to administer the policy and report to the audit committee or other committee of independent directors, or if none, to the board; and
- A requirement that a copy of the policy be distributed to all directors, officers, employees and to volunteers who provide substantial services to the corporation.
- Are dependents of the director or trustees eligible for employment at the library?
- Are family members of supervisors eligible to hold positions where they would be supervised by their family member?
- If a relative relationship occurs after employment, how will this be mediated?
- Define a “relative.”
- What constitutes a conflict of interest if a library employee has a second job?
- Are employees prohibited from using library time, supplies or equipment in outside employment?
- Is written notice required if the employee is working for a company that does business with the library?
- Does the library support the continuing education of staff for job related purposes?
- Does the library pay employees for the time spent at education?
- Will employees be reimbursed for mileage? If so, at what rate?
- Does the library allow an employee access to their personnel records? (Please note: “There is no law in New York State which permits an employee to examine his or her personnel file.” [Source: http://www.ag.ny.gov/labor/workers-rights-faqs]
- If yes, under what conditions?
- A statement on the library’s expectations for customer service.
Other Policy Sources
- Does the library encourage volunteers? If yes, why?
- Are there age requirements?
- Are volunteers bound to follow particular library policies?
- Is there an application process?
- Who oversees volunteers?
- How would a volunteer relationship be terminated?
- Does the library accept volunteers requiring court ordered community service?