Resources, training, and information for members of Ontario's public library boards
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The Four Year Board Cycle
10 Things to Know
THE FOUR YEAR BOARD CYCLE
The Governance HUB is organized around a 4-year life cycle for public library boards, aligned with Ontario’s 4-year board and council terms. Below you will see the theme and some sample topics for each of the 4 years.
By no means prescriptive, the 4-year cycle is designed to offer boards suggestions for developing a work plan. A balanced work plan should consider the board’s education needs as well as the scheduling of tasks to meet the intended goals of the board.
You can access the resources by clicking on any one of the Year Boxes below.
Resources to assist with board orientation are part of Year 1 and include suggestions for successfully orienting new board members.
10 THINGS TO KNOW AS A BOARD MEMBER
10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
AS A NEW BOARD MEMBER
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Two new resources have been developed to support public libraries during the closures:
- COVID-19: Resources for Public Libraries including a section for board members
- Programming, Staffing and Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Governance is an online portal for Ontario’s public library board members. The GovernanceHUB is your first place to look for information and resources related to your duties as a public library board member.
The GovernanceHUB is managed by Southern Ontario Library Service and Ontario Library Service—North, with input from the Ontario Library Boards’ Association and the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries.
The Four-Year Board cycle is a suggested path for library boards to consider as they plan out work to accomplish over their four-year term. The cycle is not meant to be prescriptive, but rather serve as a prompt to issues and planning that all boards should consider. For example, Year 3: Assessing & Planning for the Future contains information for board succession planning in order to properly start planning before the next term.
The GovernanceHUB is a great resource to help yourself become acquainted with important information and issues related to public library boards in Ontario. Check out 10 Thing You Need to Know As a New Board Member to start. Year 1: Governance Roles & Responsibilities offers context to the governance framework, discusses primary board responsibilities, and a sample board orientation agenda.
Simply stated the role of the library board is to govern. The phrase ‘governance’ refers to the board’s activities to oversee the purpose, plans and policies of the organization. Year 1: Governance Roles & Responsibilities provides an overview of the board’s role.
Library board policies are a fundamental governing tool. Policies provide a framework to make decision regarding library services, customer service, and application of rules. Policies are high level statements that help staff develop more detailed procedures if needed. Setting policy is important board work because it is through discussing policy that the board expresses its philosophy and priorities.
Governing is different from managing. The governing role differs from that of administration, in that governance requires different information. It deals with the long term, rather than the short, and with priorities, rather than details. The nature of governance is proactive and focused on the future and on the relation of the organization to the community’s development.
The Public Libraries Act grants the municipality the power to create, through a by-law, a public library established as a separate corporation under the management and control of a board. Library Boards must be under the management and control of a board and the board is a corporation. Section 3 (3), Section 5 (3), Section 7(7).
The library board appoints a Chief Executive Officer who manages the day-to-day operations and supervision of the library. The board has authority over employment at the library.
The library board may make rules and policies relating to the following:
- for the use of library services
- for the admission of the public to the library
- for the exclusion from the library of persons who behave in a disruptive manner or cause damage to library property
- imposing fines for breaches of the rules
- suspending library privileges for breaches of the rules; and
- regulating all other matters connected with the management of library and property (S. 23(4))
Read more about the Legislative Context for Governing Public Libraries
Library boards are created through municipal bylaw and, on average, receive 90% of funding from the municipality. Municipalities have a vested interest in the library’s financial stewardship and accountability.
The Public Libraries Act is quite clear that the library board, once established by municipal or county council, becomes a corporation and an independent legal entity with a legislated mandate to provide library service to the community. At the same time, the library board is almost entirely dependent on municipal council(s) for public library funding.
This autonomy paradox requires the library board to understand the importance of cultivating a collaborative working relationship with the municipality. Working on building strong and team-player relationships with your municipality goes a long way, especially when municipal budgets are stretched.
Read more about collaborating with your municipality.
Board assessment is a process for the board to examine how it is enabling the library to achieve its mandate. It is the time for a board to begin to look at what it has accomplished and what it still has yet to do. It is important to have regular check-ups for your governance practices. During an assessment it is the perfect time for this task! It is a good indicator of your health as a board and organization.
Read more about Board Self-Evaluations.
The Public Libraries Act is the legislation that helps ensure free, equitable access to public library service in Ontario.
The Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries maintains a General Questions and Answers and brochure about the PLA.
- Labour/Employment Relations during COVID-19: A Public Library Board discussion
- The Public Libraries Act: What You Need to Know
- Financial Stewardship
- Governance Fundamentals
- Governance Best Practices
This webinar will focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on labour and employment relations at public libraries, specifically from a Board perspective. We (SOLS, OLS-N, OLBA, and FOPL) have been engaged and listening to what has been going on across the province. There are many questions being asked, and it was made clear that it would be helpful to have legal experts on a call to discuss the current challenges that library boards are facing with respect to their workforce. Please keep in mind that our guest speakers will NOT be providing binding legal advice on this call. They have kindly agreed to spend some time discussing questions and topics within their areas of expertise to help library board members hopefully get some clarity on things like terminology and recent responses to labour and employment situations they have experienced.
Martin Addario, Partner, Hicks Morley
Stephanie Jeronimo, Partner, Hicks Morley
This is a recording of the live webinar that was held on March 9, 2020.
Join a staff member and board member from London Public Library for a discussion about the public library board’s role in the financial management and stewardship of the library. Emphasizing the public library board’s role in ensuring good governance, this webinar highlights the kind of information boards need to make informed decisions and the questions that boards should ask of staff related to the library’s finances and budget.Our Presenters:
Emily Schinbein, Director, Financial Services, London Public Library
James Shelley, Board Member, London Public Library Board
New and returning board members benefit from governance training in addition to having access to good information. To aid in your board’s early orientation, OLS – North and SOLS are offering a recorded webinar on the topic of Governance Fundamentals (Duration: 25 minutes).
This webinar covers topics such as the legislative context of the library board, the authority of the library board, the appointment of officers, the management of meetings, including open and closed meeting processes, as well as begin to discuss roles and responsibilities for policy-making and planning.
NB: In December 2019, an amendment to the Public Libraries Act reduced the number of board meetings required. Whereas Section 16(1) used to call for “monthly meetings from January to June and September to December”, that section of the PLA now reads: “A board shall hold at least seven regular meetings in each year”.
From April to October 2019, SOLS and OLS-North staff provided in-person governance workshops at several locations throughout Ontario.
These 3-hour sessions were an opportunity for new and returning board members and CEOs to:
- Learn about governance best practices that support informed decision-making and strategic oversight.
- Find new approaches to doing things and ways to improve board functioning and decision-making.
- Network and participate in valuable discussion.
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The provincial government funds two public library support agencies: the Ontario Library Service-North (OLS – North) and the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS). OLS-North and SOLS deliver programs and services on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport by increasing co-operation and co-ordination among public library boards and other information providers, and to promote the provision of library services to the public by assisting public library boards with services and programs that reflect their needs, including consulting, training and development services.
The Ontario Library Association (OLA) is the oldest continually-operating non-profit library association in Canada, with over 5,000 members comprised of library staff and supporters from the public, school, academic, and special libraries. The Ontario Library Boards' Association (OLBA) is a division of OLA that represents public library board members (trustees) on issues relating to their areas of responsibility. The work of the OLBA is primarily to build a professional development (training) program that is responsive to common issues of common concern
The Federation of Ontario Public Libraries (FOPL) represents 246 public library systems in Ontario, including 45 First Nations public libraries, in communities throughout the Province.