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Trustee Training and Development

This page is adapted from a resource created by Krista Ross for The New Public Library Director Bootcamp from the WI Department of Public Instruction, hosted online by the Winnefox Library System. 

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John Thompson
John Thompson

IFLS Library System Director

715-839-5082 x116  | thompson@ifls.lib.wi.us

Katelyn Noack
Katelyn Noack

Public Services Consultant

715-839-5082 x113  | noack@ifls.lib.wi.us

Why It Is Important

Knowledgeable library trustees are the cornerstone of successful library services. The fact is that many trustees come to their first meeting with little knowledge about the library they are serving. They may not completely understand their role or what is expected of them. Getting library trustees from well-intentioned volunteers to well-informed library advocates requires both formal education and informal support. As the library director, you play an important role in providing both.

The New Trustee Orientation

Just like with new employees, new trustees will benefit greatly from a well-planned orientation process. Your new trustee orientation should include the following:

Before the new trustee’s first board meeting:
  • Contact the new trustee to congratulate them on their new position and to schedule a meeting.
  • Prepare a binder of information and handouts about the library for them to keep while a trustee. Include:
    • Trustee Essentials 
    • Board Agendas & Minutes from the past year
    • Annual Calendar
    • Library Budget
    • Board By-Laws
    • Library Policies
    • Wisconsin State Statutes Chapter 43
    • Strategic/Long Range Plan
  • Hold a meeting with you and the Library Board of Trustees President. At this meeting you will:
    • Introduce yourself and the Library Board President
    • Conduct a tour of the library with an introduction to library staff
    • Go through the sections of their binder
    • Provide an overview of board procedures and any topics currently under discussion
    • Provide the board member with an opportunity to ask any questions they may have
At the new trustee’s first board meeting:
  • Introduce the new trustee to other members of the board
  • Have the Library Board President conduct the meeting in “slow motion”. Take the time to explain any library jargon, give brief background on any agenda item as needed.

You may also want to consider asking another trustee to act as a mentor for the new trustee. The new trustee’s mentor can help explain board culture, the role of the board, and offer advice on how to be an effective trustee. As the director, you should also reach out to your new trustee, especially during their first year, to offer your assistance.

Continuing Education for Trustees

Your new trustee orientation should get your new trustee off to a good start, but it doesn’t stop there. The next step is continuing education for your board of trustees.

There are several great ways to make sure that your board is well-informed. Here are a few ideas:

  • Using the Trustee Essential Handbook, discuss one essential at each board meeting. There are some great starter questions at the end of each section that should help to stimulate discussion.
  • IFLS offers continuing education workshops for you, your staff, and your trustees. Many of the timely topics offered will benefit your library trustees.
  • Typically, at both the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) and the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries (WAPL) conferences, the Wisconsin Library Trustee and Friends (WLTF) division sponsors sessions of interest to trustees. Joining WLA and WLTF are great ways for your trustees to learn more about libraries and make great connections with other trustees from around the state.