Summer 2015

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Policy Spotlight

Tim Gavin

Summer 2015 issue of Trustee

Rural Libraries: Policy Considerations


After our recent visit to Southern Tier, it seemed like a very appropriate time to reflect on policy development, especially as it pertains to rural libraries. We reached out to Brian Hildreth, Executive Director of the Southern Tier Library System (STLS), for some thoughts.


When developing policies, Brian recommends from a director's standpoint, “Policies should be kept simple — especially in rural libraries.  Too much language, and you could overwhelm the director. Especially if it is a one staff person library. You need to develop a core set of policies that address issues for which a library is fiscally and legally responsible. And, the policies need to reflect current and best practices. A policy manual that is too lengthy becomes cumbersome for trustees to keep current, and library directors to implement. It’s about striking the right balance between what you need legally, and developing something that empowers the rural librarian to provide amazing library experiences.”


Brian’s comment is a sound statement that can remind any trustee in any library about some of the most important considerations when it comes to policy development.


Commonly suggested tips:

  • Language used should be concise, simple and consistent (e.g. If a collection development policy refers to “weeding,” it shouldn’t be called “de-selection” in a different policy).  If you can not follow your policy, chances are not too many others can either – and in turn the policy’s usefulness and the chances of compliance diminish greatly. 
  • Is it clear who your policy will affect, who will administer the policy and draft procedures?
  • Will your policy be able to be administered effectively? How do you know?
  • Have potential fears by personnel been considered?  Have they been asked for their thoughts?
  • Can personnel easily access the policy in order to make appropriate decisions? 
  • A policy should be reviewed from time to time to measure effectiveness, and revised when necessary.  If a policy is too cumbersome to be accessed or understood, what is the likelihood that the policy will be able to brought up to the Board for a timely review and a clear discussion?


Yes, policy development is definitely a balancing act and legal compliance needs to be reviewed.  But complicated does not mean better, and if a policy is being enforced inconsistently because it is not clearly understood or because steps have not been adequately thought through  to ensure that compliance can effectively be carried out, then the policy may be more of a liability than an asset.


Please visit and search through the site news archives for more information about policy development.  And as always, please visit LTA’s policy database, learn from your peers and share.

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