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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Public Library Administration and Governance

Topics

Appointments

Can a village board president remove library trustees from office before their terms are up?
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Can our library board's bylaws establish term limits for library board members?
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One of our library board members has moved to another county but wants to continue to serve on the board. Does she have to resign because she's no longer a resident?
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Our library board has a tradition of "rotating" the position of library board president. This practice ensures that almost everyone on the board gets an opportunity to be board president. Is this an advisable practice?
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Who makes the school district appointment to the library board? Does the board have to have a representative from the municipality? How many board members can live outside the municipal area?
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Certification

How do we ensure the person we hire as library director gets properly certified?
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We are hiring a new library director. Do we need to require them to have valid Wisconsin library certification to qualify?
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Circulation

Can libraries charge patrons a fee for interlibrary loan service?
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Can parents find out what their children have checked out from the library?
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Copyright

How do copyright law changes affect libraries?
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What copyright notice should be placed on library equipment (including computers) that can be used for making copies?
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Donations

Can our board designate the library director as the individual who signs checks for purchases out of the library-held "gift fund" checking account?
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Can our library put gift funds into a library checking account? Can we do the same thing with library fine and fee income?
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Can the library board transfer money from its gift fund to our library foundation?
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Our library director is retiring. Could the library trust funds be used to pay for her sick leave settlement? Could those donation funds be used to pay for a farewell gift?
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We would like to establish and manage a gift fund for our library. Do we need to establish a library foundation (a separate non-profit 501(c)(3) organization) to solicit funds and administer the endowment fund?
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Ethics

Our library board will be requesting bids for a remodeling project at the library. One of our library board members is a building contractor. May that library board member submit a bid on the remodeling project?
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Is it improper for library trustees to be exempt from paying overdue fines?
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Facility

Our library board will be requesting bids for a remodeling project at the library. One of our library board members is a building contractor. May that library board member submit a bid on the remodeling project?
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Our village would like to charge us rent for our village-owned building, which we share with the fire department. Can they do this?
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Best practices for keeping up with building maintenance and safety.
Article

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Fees

Can libraries charge patrons a fee for interlibrary loan service?
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Can our library charge fees to users of our library computers?
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The budget guidelines from the mayor ask that each department establish user fees to supplement the budget. What fees can the library charge?
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Is it improper for library trustees to be exempt from paying overdue fines?
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Finance

Can our board designate the library director as the individual who signs checks for purchases out of the library-held "gift fund" checking account?
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Can our library put gift funds into a library checking account? Can we do the same thing with library fine and fee income?
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Can the library make purchases from a petty cash fund?
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County funding extended to adjacent counties
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Does the library have to pay State sales tax for sales from the public copier?
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If someone files for bankruptcy, is their "debt" to the library for fines and lost materials erased?
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Our library board will be requesting bids for a remodeling project at the library. One of our library board members is a building contractor. May that library board member submit a bid on the remodeling project?
Answer

Our library director is retiring. Could the library trust funds be used to pay for her sick leave settlement? Could those donation funds be used to pay for a farewell gift?
Answer

Our village would like to charge us rent for our village-owned building, which we share with the fire department. Can they do this?
Answer

The budget guidelines from the mayor ask that each department establish user fees to supplement the budget. What fees can the library charge?
Answer

The library director was told by the village administrator that next year's appropriation for the library will have to be reduced by 20 percent. Can they cut the budget this much?
Answer

We would like to establish and manage a gift fund for our library. Do we need to establish a library foundation (a separate non-profit 501(c)(3) organization) to solicit funds and administer the endowment fund?
Answer

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Foundations

Can the library board transfer money from its gift fund to our library foundation?
Answer

We would like to establish and manage a gift fund for our library. Do we need to establish a library foundation (a separate non-profit 501(c)(3) organization) to solicit funds and administer the endowment fund?
Answer

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Friends

Best Practices article on the Chain of Command addresses whether it is appropriate for the library director to serve on the Friends' board.
Article

Is it OK for our library to donate withdrawn books to the local "Friends of the Library" organization? In what other ways can we handle withdrawn books?
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Our Friends of the Library organization is planning a fundraising effort and has requested use of names and addresses from our library patron database for a mailing? Can our library provide that information to the Friends?
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Fundraising

Can we give a list of names and addresses of our library's patrons to our Friends of the Library organization so they can use the list for fund-raising purposes?
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Legal

Is the library allowed to search bags? If not, could they have a policy that requires all bags to be left at the front desk?
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Our library board needs legal advice; who can we turn to for help, and who will pay the legal bills?
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Do library employees have to undergo safety training?
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Library Board

See Appointments for issues regarding appointments to library boards and terms in office.

See Open Meetings for issues regarding meetings, agendas, and open meetings law.

Best Practices article on the Chain of Command addresses trustees as volunteers, social relationships with the director, whether library board attendance at training events violates open meetings law, and library board access to personnel files.
Article

Board Meetings for New Trustees
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Can the library trustees use email to communicate about library issues?
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Our city administrator would like to evaluate our library director. Is this acceptable?
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Our library board has a tradition of "rotating" the position of library board president. This practice ensures that almost everyone on the board gets an opportunity to be board president. Is this an advisable practice?
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Our library board has approved a salary increase for library employees. Does this action also need to be approved by the municipality's personnel committee before it takes affect?
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Our library board needs legal advice; who can we turn to for help, and who will pay the legal bills?
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Our library board will be requesting bids for a remodeling project at the library. One of our library board members is a building contractor. May that library board member submit a bid on the remodeling project?
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How often do library board meetings have to be scheduled?
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The library board wants to meet in closed session to discuss the library director's performance. The director says that he and his attorney should be included in the meeting. Do we have to allow them to be present in the closed session?
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We have never evaluated the performance of our library director. How do we go about conducting a performance evaluation?
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We spend too much time during our library board meetings on routine reports and other routine items, leaving little time for discussion of important policy, budget, and planning issues. How can we streamline our meetings?
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We will soon have some new trustees appointed to our board. What can we do to help our new trustees prepare for their duties as a library board member?
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What can we do if we have a library board member who rarely attends library board meetings?
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What officers are we required to have on our library board?
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Is it improper for library trustees to be exempt from paying overdue fines?
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Who makes the school district appointment to the library board? Does the board have to have a representative from the municipality? How many board members can live outside the municipal area?
Answer Note: Effective June, 2006, counties may appoint up to five additional members to municipal library boards per s. 43.60.

Some of our board members don't participate much in the meetings. How can we find people who are more involved?
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When the minutes were submitted for review at the board meeting, there was no mention of an argument that took place. When I objected, the president said that the subject of the disagreement wasn't on the agenda, therefore could not be in the minutes. Is that true?
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Can the personnel committee meet during a break in the regular library board meeting? Does that meeting have to be noticed on the posted agenda?
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Why does our public library have to file an annual report with the Department of Public Instruction? What do we get for it?
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Is it improper for library trustees to be exempt from paying overdue fines?
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Best Practices for communication between the library board, employees, and the director.
Article

Does Our Board Need an Operating Manual?
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Municipal Relations

Can the municipality negotiate union contracts for library employees?
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Can a village board president remove library trustees from office before their terms are up?
Answer

Our city administrator would like to evaluate our library director. Is this acceptable?
Answer

Our library board has approved a salary increase for library employees. Does this action also need to be approved by the municipality's personnel committee before it takes affect?
Answer

Our library board needs legal advice; who can we turn to for help, and who will pay the legal bills?
Answer

Our village would like to charge us rent for our village-owned building, which we share with the fire department. Can they do this?
Answer

The budget guidelines from the mayor ask that each department establish user fees to supplement the budget. What fees can the library charge?
Answer

The library director was told by the village administrator that next year's appropriation for the library will have to be reduced by 20 percent. Can they cut the budget this much?
Answer

Who makes the school district appointment to the library board? Does the board have to have a representative from the municipality? How many board members can live outside the municipal area?
Answer

Best Practices for effective communication with the municipality.
Article

Go to Topics

Officers

Our library board has a tradition of "rotating" the position of library board president. This practice ensures that almost everyone on the board gets an opportunity to be board president. Is this an advisable practice?
Answer

What officers are we required to have on our library board?
Answer

Go to Topics

Open Meetings

Can a public library's meeting room policy deny use for religious groups?
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Can the library trustees use email to communicate about library issues?
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Is it legal for our library board to publicly post an agenda that lists a general subject matter item such as "miscellaneous business," or "such other matters as are authorized by law"? Can our library board legally discuss subjects that are not on the agenda but are raised by the public during a period of "public comment" listed on the agenda?
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Information on proper notice of meetings (agendas): Discusses the level of detail for minutes of board meetings; whether items not on the agenda but discussed at the meeting can be recorded in the minutes; and whether sub-committees can meet during or after a regular board meeting without explicit notice.
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Our library board meets regularly at the same time on a set day each month. Can we put a general notice on the library Wwbpage instead of posting individual agendas on the bulletin board?
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Our library board will soon be considering a personnel-related issue. Can we go into closed session for this purpose, and, if so, how do we do this?
Answer

The library board wants to meet in closed session to discuss the library director's performance. The director says that he and his attorney should be included in the meeting. Do we have to allow them to be present in the closed session?
Answer

We spend too much time during our library board meetings on routine reports and other routine items, leaving little time for discussion of important policy, budget, and planning issues. How can we streamline our meetings?
Answer

When the minutes were submitted for review at the board meeting, there was no mention of an argument that took place. When I objected, the president said that the subject of the disagreement wasn't on the agenda, therefore could not be in the minutes. Is that true?
Answer

Can the personnel committee meet during a break in the regular library board meeting? Does that meeting have to be noticed on the posted agenda?
Answer

Go to Topics

Personnel

Attorney General issues opinion on library director employment contracts
Answer

Best Practices for communication between the library board, employees, and the director.
Article

Best Practices on the Chain of Command addresses trustees as volunteers, social relationships with trustees, and library board access to personnel files.
Article

Can the municipality negotiate union contracts for library employees?
Answer

Do employee records have to be disclosed to the public?
Answer

Our city administrator would like to evaluate our library director. Is this acceptable?
Answer

Our library board has approved a salary increase for library employees. Does this action also need to be approved by the municipality's personnel committee before it takes affect?
Answer

Our library director is retiring. Could the library trust funds be used to pay for her sick leave settlement? Could those donation funds be used to pay for a farewell gift?
Answer

Do library employees have to undergo safety training?
Answer

We have never evaluated the performance of our library director. How do we go about conducting a performance evaluation?
Answer

Our library board will soon be considering a personnel-related issue. Can we go into closed session for this purpose, and, if so, how do we do this?
Answer

The library board wants to meet in closed session to discuss the library director's performance. The director says that he and his attorney should be included in the meeting. Do we have to allow them to be present in the closed session?
Answer

Go to Topics

Planning

Best practices for strategic planning for library services.
Article

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Policies

Can a public library's meeting room policy deny use for religious groups?
Answer

Can our library charge fees to users of our library computers?
Answer

If someone files for bankruptcy, is their "debt" to the library for fines and lost materials erased?
Answer

Is the library allowed to search bags? If not, could they have a policy that requires all bags to be left at the front desk?
Answer

Can libraries charge patrons a fee for interlibrary loan service?
Answer

What can our library board do to protect the confidentiality of public use of our library? We are especially concerned that library staff know the applicable laws and understand the importance of library patron confidentiality.
Answer

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Privacy

Are public employees' email messages private?
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Can parents find out what their children have checked out from the library?
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Can we give a list of names and addresses of our library's patrons to our Friends of the Library organization so they can use the list for fund-raising purposes?
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Do employee records have to be disclosed to the public??
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How does the USA PATRIOT Act relate to the Wisconsin law that provides for the confidentiality of library records? How can our library prepare for the possibility that law enforcement officials will seek records concerning our library patrons?
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Our Friends of the Library organization is planning a fundraising effort and has requested use of names and addresses from our library patron database for a mailing? Can our library provide that information to the Friends?
Answer

What can our library board do to protect the confidentiality of public use of our library? We are especially concerned that library staff know the applicable laws and understand the importance of library patron confidentiality.
Answer

Our library has a video security system. Can the police department request and receive footage from that system without a court order?
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Best Practices for library directors and staff regarding privacy.
Article

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Public Records

Are public employees' email messages private?
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Can the library trustees use email to communicate about library issues?
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Can parents find out what their children have checked out from the library?
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Do employee records have to be disclosed to the public??
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Does someone requesting the library to produce documents or records under the public records law need to use a special form or format?
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Frequently asked questions about libraries and Wisconsin's public records law
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How does the USA PATRIOT Act relate to the Wisconsin law that provides for the confidentiality of library records? How can our library prepare for the possibility that law enforcement officials will seek records concerning our library patrons?
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Our Friends of the Library organization is planning a fundraising effort and has requested use of names and addresses from our library patron database for a mailing? Can our library provide that information to the Friends?
Answer

Records retention schedule for adoption by public libraries and systems: how and why" (the records retention schedule is online at dpi.wi.gov/pld/boards-directors/public-records/records-retention-schedule)

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Sales

Does the library have to pay State sales tax for sales from the public copier?
Answer