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Trustee Essentials: A Handbook for Wisconsin Public Library Trustees

Prepared by the Division for Libraries and Technology with the assistance of the Wisconsin Public Library Trustee Handbook Revision Task Force in 2002; revised in 2012, 2015, and 2016.

PDF files of individual chapters are linked below. One large PDF file (1.72 MB) of the handbook is also available. 


  • So you’re a trustee! How did that happen, and what is expected of you now?

TE 1: The Trustee Job Description


TE 2: Who Runs the Library

  • Responsibilities of the library board
  • Responsibilities of the library director
  • The division of labor between the library director and the board
  • Responsibilities of the municipal government

TE 3: Bylaws—Organizing the Board for Effective Action

  • Why up-to-date bylaws are needed for effective library board operation
  • How your board can develop or update their bylaws


TE 4: Effective Board Meetings and Trustee Participation

  • The keys to effective board meetings
  • How individual trustees can contribute to the board and the library

TE 5: Hiring a Library Director

  • The basic legal parameters for the hiring of a library director
  • Recommended steps to follow when hiring

TE 6: Evaluating the Director

  • Reasons for evaluating the director
  • Who should carry out the review
  • The basis and criteria for the review
  • Methods and questions to consider


TE 7: The Library Board and Library Personnel

  • The roles of the board and the library director on personnel issues
  • How board decisions can affect the quality of library staff

TE 8: Developing the Library Budget

  • Goals of budgeting
  • Steps in the budget development process
  • Sources of library funding
  • Budget terminology

TE 9: Managing the Library's Money

  • Responsibilities for library expenditures
  • Responsibilities for library financial health and financial reporting
  • Options for proper handling of gifts and donations

TE 10: Developing Essential Library Policies

  • Who is responsible for developing and approving library policies?
  • How do you develop good (and legal) policies?
  • Who carries out policies?

TE 11: Planning for the Library's Future

  • The importance of planning
  • Planning essentials—getting started
  • A plan outline
  • Where to go for help

TE 12: Library Standards

  • How your library might benefit from use of library standards
  • Different ways to use library standards
  • How standards relate to library planning

TE 13: Library Advocacy

  • What are library advocates and why they are needed
  • How to establish priorities for advocacy
  • Ways to act as an advocate

TE 14: The Library Board and the Open Meetings Law

  • The basics of compliance with Wisconsin's open meetings law
  • When and how the board can legally conduct a closed session

TE 15: The Library Board and the Public Records Law

  • Actions all boards must take to comply with the law—before and after receiving records requests
  • Records that must be available to the public—and records that are confidential

TE 16: Ethics and Conflict of Interest Laws Applying to Trustees

  • Actions you must not take as a library trustee
  • Business and employment relationships with the library that are prohibited to the trustee

TE 17: Membership in the Public Library System

  • The benefits of system membership
  • The requirements for system membership
  • How you and your library can help make your library system stronger

TE 18: Library Board Appointments and Composition

  • Why citizen boards control public libraries in Wisconsin
  • The legally required procedures for appointment of library board members
  • The legally required composition

TE 19: Library Director Certification

  • Requirements for certifying your library director
  • Continuing education to maintain certification

TE 20: The Library Board and Building Accessibility

  • The role of the board and the library director in ensuring that the library building is accessible
  • How the library building can equitably accommodate all members of the community, including those with disabilities

TE 21: The Library Board and Accessible Services

  • How to make your library services accessible to all members of the community
  • Your responsibility in regard to implementing ADA requirements for accessible services

TE 22: Freedom of Expression and Inquiry

  • How the public library promotes freedom of expression and inquiry
  • Library board-approved policies that help protect intellectual freedom

TE 23: Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials or Policies

  • The need to have a written policy to deal with challenges
  • Your responsibility as a trustee in a challenge


TE 24: Library Friends and Library Foundations

  • The role of Friends of the Library groups and library foundations
  • How to develop a good relationship between the library board and support groups like the Friends of the Library or the library foundation
  • Financial support from the Friends of the Library or the library

TE 25: Liability Issues

  • Basic issues concerning trustee and municipal liability
  • Actions you can take to limit liability

TE 26: The Public Library System Board—the Broad Viewpoint

  • Background on the creation of public library systems
  • System services and accountability
  • Responsibilities of the library system board

TE 27: Trustee Orientation and Continuing Education

  • The importance of new trustee orientation
  • Why continuing education is essential for all trustees
  • Opportunities for continuing education even for busy trustees


TTD: Glossary of Terms and Acronyms

Trustee Essentials: A Handbook for Wisconsin Public Library Trustees was prepared by the DLT with the assistance of the Trustee Handbook Revision Task Force. Copyright 2002, 2012, 2015 Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Duplication and distribution for not-for-profit purposes permitted with this copyright notice.