Frequently Asked Questions

NOTICE: The content provided in these FAQs is for informational purposes only and is not, and should not be considered a substitute for legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should contact your attorney.

QUESTION #1 
Our Library Director informed the Board that as manager of the Library he can hire who he wants. Is he right?

ANSWER:
No, per RSA 202-A:11, V and RSA 202-A:16, II, the Board of Trustees appoints (hires) all employees after consulting with the Library Director. The Library Director makes hiring recommendations to the Board of Trustees.

RSA 202-A:11 Powers and Duties. … the library trustees of every public library in the state shall: V. Appoint … in consultation with the librarian, all other employees of the library and determine their compensation and other terms of employment …

RSA 202-A:16 Powers and Duties. – In addition to any other duties which the librarian may be delegated from time to time, the public librarian shall:
II. Recommend to the board of library trustees the appointment of all employees.

QUESTION #2
Is it legal for a library trustee to also serve as a library director?

ANSWER:
No, as clearly stated in RSA 202-A:11, V.

RSA 202-A: 11 Powers and Duties
V.
Appoint a librarian who shall not be a trustee and, in consultation with the librarian, all other employees of the library and determine their compensation and other terms of employment unless, in the cities, other provision is made in the city charter or ordinances.

QUESTION #3 
We have a problem with some trustees and the library director having "selective memory” regarding what is discussed at our meetings. I suggested that we solve the problem by purchasing a voice recorder to use at our meetings. I was told that this is illegal.

ANSWER:
It is not illegal. Yes, a voice recorder can be used at your meetings per RSA 91-A: 2, II.

RSA 91-A:2 Meetings Open to Public
II.
… all meetings, … shall be open to the public. … Any person shall be permitted to use recording devices, including, but not limited to, tape recorders, cameras, and videotape equipment, at such meetings.

QUESTION #4 
The secretary of our board takes her own sweet time writing up the minutes. Isn’t there a law about how much time she can take?

ANSWER:
Yes, the minutes must be available for public inspection within five (5) business days of the meeting, pursuant to RSA 91-A:2, II.

RSA 91-A:2 Meetings Open to Public
II.
… Minutes of all such meetings, including names of members, persons appearing before the public bodies, and a brief description of the subject matter discussed and final decisions, shall be promptly recorded and open to public inspection not more than 5 business days after the meeting, …

QUESTION #5 
Our trustee meetings seem to last forever, sometimes over three hours. Then we don’t seem to finish all we started out to do. Are other trustee meetings like this?

ANSWER:
Does your meeting have a written agenda? If so, do you stick to the agenda or digress from it? Some successful meeting leaders assign time limits to each item on the agenda. Some boards have a timekeeper. Are the goals of the meeting reasonable? Look at a calendar and decide what issues will be discussed and when, for example, if budgets are due in November, an agenda item for September and October should be budget preparation. You need to bring the meeting time issue up at your next meeting and get some procedures agreed to and voted on.

QUESTION #6 
We are preparing our budget and wondered what do we do with the money from our copy machine?

ANSWER:
A library may keep the money from its income-generating equipment (photocopiers, fax machines, printers, etc.) if the retention of the funds are approved by warrant article pursuant to RSA 202-A:11-b. If the warrant article is approved, the funds retained must be used for "general repairs and upgrading and for the purchase of books, supplies and income-generating equipment.” See RSA 202-A:11-a. The warrant article need only be approved once to authorize the library to keep funds generated in this manner.

RSA 202-A:11-b Procedure for Adoption.
I.
A town desiring to permit its library to retain money received from its income-generating equipment under RSA 202-A:11-a may have the question placed on the warrant for a town meeting …

QUESTION #7 
One of our trustees has a problem with the inappropriate attire of a library staff member. How do we handle this? Is this micro-managing?

ANSWER:
The matter of attire and a dress code should be discussed with the director at a board meeting; a policy should be researched, written, discussed, approved, and implemented. At no time should an individual trustee approach a staff member about attire—this would definitely be considered micro-managing! The responsibility of the Board of Trustees is to create policy and the Director’s responsibility is to implement and administer policy.

RSA 202-A:11 Powers and Duties. – Except in those cities where other provision has been made by general or special act of the legislature, the library trustees of every public library in the state shall:
I. Adopt bylaws, rules and regulations for its own transaction of business and for the government of the library;

RSA 202-A:16 Powers and Duties. – In addition to any other duties which the librarian may be delegated from time to time, the public librarian shall:
I. Serve as the administrative officer of the public library;

QUESTION #8 
Do you have any ideas how we can recruit people to run for library trustees. We have to almost twist people’s arms to sign up so that we will have a full board. Then after a few months on the board they are happy to be trustees.

ANSWER:
It sounds like your problem is one of lack of knowledge as to what trustees actually do. Some boards have an Open House for prospective trustees about 3-4 months before the sign-up deadline. You can also create a sub-committee to recruit people, calling them up and inviting them to a board meeting. Consult with your library director and staff for recommendations of people who actively use the library, show concern and interest, regularly attend programs, etc. Look for people with the following characteristics:
     • Time and desire to fight for quality library services
     • Strong, unshakeable belief in the importance of libraries
     • Ability to be a team player and have a sense of humor
     • Open to the needs of both the library and the community and the ability to voice these needs
     • Chutzpah to get things done in the local political arena.

QUESTION #9 
Does the Board of Trustees have to be an odd number?

ANSWER:
Yes, per RSA 202-A:6.

RSA 202-A:6 Library Trustees; Election; Alternates. – … Any town having a public library shall, at a duly warned town meeting, elect a board of library trustees consisting of any odd number of persons …

QUESTION #10 
A tech savvy patron downloaded software from the internet and installed it on our public access computer causing it to crash. We had to pay our Technology Services person to fix the computer. Do we have any recourse?

ANSWER:
Yes, per RSA 202-A:24. We also recommend that the Board adopt a policy covering use of public access computers and reference the RSA. The policy needs to include an agreement that everyone must read and sign before being allowed to use the computer. You may also want to have your Technology Services person password protect your computer so that public access and privileges are restricted.

RSA 202-A:24 Offenses Against Libraries. – Any person who shall willfully or maliciously deface, damage or destroy any property belonging to or in the care of any … public … library, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Any such person shall forfeit to or for the use of such library … 3 times the amount of the damage sustained, to be recovered in an action in the superior court.

QUESTION #11 
I have been a trustee for two (2) terms and am having a problem with a member of our board who wants to get rid of me. He is proposing that the board adopt a bylaw that limits the number of terms. Is this possible or legal?

ANSWER:
No. It is NHLTA’s position that the statutes do not authorize a library board to limit the number of terms a trustee may serve. Such an authorization is beyond the permissible scope of the bylaws, which may only govern a library board’s "own transaction of business” and "the government of the library” (RSA 202-A:11). RSA 202-A:6 which governs library trustees and elections, does not authorize a library board to establish a limit on the number of terms a board member may serve. There is no limit on the number of times you can run for election to the board.

RSA 202-A:6 Library Trustees; Election; Alternates. – … Any town having a public library shall, at a duly warned town meeting, elect a board of library trustees consisting of any odd number of persons which the town may decide to elect. Such trustees shall serve staggered 3-year terms or until their successors are elected and qualified. …

QUESTION #12 
Our board is thinking about adding alternates. Can we do this and how many can we add?

ANSWER:
Yes, per RSA 202-A:6 and RSA 202-A:10. You can add up to three (3) people and they each serve a one-year term. Alternates become a valuable source for people with experience to run for election when board vacancies occur. Many boards train their alternates the same as elected trustees and send them to NHLTA workshops.

RSA 202-A:6 Library Trustees; Election; Alternates.
… There may be no more than 3 alternates as provided in RSA 202-A:10.

RSA 202-A:10 Library Trustees; Vacancies; Alternates
… The board of library trustees may recommend to the appointing authority the names of no more than 3 persons who may serve as alternate members on the board when elected members of the board are unable to attend a board meeting. The alternate members shall be appointed to one-year terms.

QUESTION #13 
Our board has a tradition of "rotating” the position of President (Chair) so that all the trustees get an opportunity to be in the position. Is this an advisable practice?

ANSWER:
This is not advisable because the job requires special skills that not everyone has. It is important that you select a president or chair who has the skills needed to succeed in this leadership role. The following are some desired attributes:
  1. A good understanding of library services, the library budget, and library issues and problems.
  2. The ability to develop and maintain a good working relationship with the other board members and with the library director.
  3. The ability to lead the board in problem-solving and guide the library toward better service to the community.
  4. The ability to be an effective spokesperson for the board of trustees and the library.
  5. The ability and willingness to develop political relationships with key government officials.
  6. The ability to run a meeting fairly, efficiently, and effectively. This includes the ability to keep the board on task, prevent domination of discussions by a minority of members, and encourage participation by all trustees by actively soliciting opinions and comments from each trustee.