Massachusetts Public Library Trustees Handbook
Evaluation is a broad area of responsibility inherent in all trustee duties, particularly in planning and policy making. Evaluation is the continuous process of looking at all phases of library operation to assure the machinery is running well. Most boards lack a formal method of systematic evaluation. They evaluate by instinct, "feel," public outcry, staff discontent, or building conditions. In effect, a decision is made to react, rectify, change, shift, retract, or hire without researching the facts or following the library director's recommendations.
Boards can be more decisive if their decision making is based upon systematic annual evaluations as well as continuous informal monitoring of library progress. Areas for annual evaluations should include the following:
Overall progress of the library program and planning
Performance of the director
Self evaluation of the board's effectiveness (individual trustees and the board as a whole)
Local trustees should work with the library director and staff to develop evaluation criteria, form and process to monitor the level of library services. Evaluation must be part of the library's long range planning. Please refer to Chapter 5 of this Handbook for a fuller discussion of planning. You might develop a checklist of evaluative questions divided into several major areas:
Materials and Collections
Staffing Levels and Accomplishments
Community Relations and Public Image
Budget and Funding
Please refer to Chapter 6 of this Handbook for an in depth discussion of the evaluation of the director.
Just as evaluating the library director's performance is an important and necessary function of every library board, each trustee and the board as a whole should take some time for self reflection to evaluate their own performance. How well does the board function as a whole? How well do you, as an individual trustee, fulfill your responsibilities? Here are some questions to ask and answer on annual basis.
Committees issue recommendations to the board but do not make the decisions. Written committee reports distributed before the board meetings are the most effective vehicle for communicating the committee's stance.
Does the board operate under a written set of bylaws and follow the laws that govern board operations? Is there an effective committee structure that involves all members in board work? Do any of the bylaws need to be revised to more accurately reflect the true workings of the board?
Are board meetings run in a business-like manner with a minimum amount of time devoted to unimportant matters?
Does the board meet monthly at a regular time with an agenda and relevant documents distributed in advance? Are minutes compiled and mailed to members following the meetings?
Are arrangements made to ensure that the library director attends board meetings and committee meetings? Do you have a training or orientation program for new trustees which is jointly conducted by senior trustees and the library director? Is a local trustee notebook maintained to supplement the handbook published by the Board of Library Commissioners?
Does the board work closely with municipal governing agents who appoint trustees? Are qualifications and duties clearly stated? Are terms of appointment limited? Does the board represent the whole community? Has the board done everything it can to improve cooperation with local government officials?
Do board members and each library maintain an up-to-date policy manual? Do any policies need to be reviewed or added?
Has the board adopted a written statement of goals and objectives which serves as the basis for services and activities?
Is there a step-by-step long range plan for the future growth and development of the library?
Does the board work systematically to assure adequate current and future library funding? Does the board systematically evaluate itself, the director and library plan annually?
Does the board encourage and fund members' and staff attendance at local, state and national library meetings? Is there good communication between the library director and the board, between the president and the members, between the board and related public groups, among various board members?