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Know your role as a board member

By Staff | Aug 5, 2016

I serve on several boards and commissions, and the first thing that I did when being appointed was to find out what, exactly, my duties were. That is essential for anyone who sits on a board or commission as there are responsibilities that come with the job.

After sitting through over four hours of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Library Board meeting this week, the fact that knowing your role as a board member was driven home even further.

I currently serve as the president of the Board of Trustees for the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library and know what the requirements of being a library trustee consist of. I learned those responsibilities by reading the State Code establishing Library Boards, our own Bylaws and handbooks.

I was amazed to witness board members at the meeting I attended confused at best on what their role is. One member even indicated it was not the role of the board to make policy. What? It is always the role of a board (any board, not just library boards) to make policy for the agency which they oversee.

Anyone who desires to sit on a board of any organization must take the initiative to find out what exactly is expected in the role and be willing to put inthe work.

Too many times individuals fill a seat on a board or commission simply to say they serve. They may attend the regularly scheduled meetings, or they may not. Often they don’t serve on committees or work to do such things as write policy or oversee work of the staff they are supposed to direct.

Those who simply want to fill a seat to seem as if they are an important component of a board or commission without being fully vested in the work of that board or commission should not request to fill a seat. Instead, someone who really has a desire to work and serve in the board member capacity should be selected.

Serving on a board does not mean that one has to commit full time hours, but one needs to know the roles and responsbilities of the board members, act on those responsibilities and be willing and able to submit to both praise and criticism of their actions.

Volunteer and paid boards are responsible to someone–their constituents, whomever that might be. It could be library patrons, parents of school children, users of parks or builders of homes. They are to be held accountable for everything resulting from the board’s actions (or inaction).

Make sure, before accepting a seat, that you are willing to accept that accountability and responsibility, and do so in a cordial manner.