Knowing What to Expect at Meetings
As a new trustee, you might be tempted to only listen at the first Library Board meetings you attend. A better plan is to quickly gain an understanding of Board meeting procedures so you can start contributing. Important decisions are made at meetings and you need to be part of them.
Meetings are the public face of your library board where board business gets done. The Board Chair runs the meeting, using agreed-to procedures ensuring that:
- Everyone is treated equally and with courtesy
- The board examines just one piece of business at a time
- Everyone has a right to be heard, including the minority
- The majority rules.
Most Boards have policy or guidelines for their meetings and the Chair implements the wishes of the Board using formal procedures (for example, Robert’s or Sturgis’ parliamentary procedures) or a more informal process. Regardless of how a meeting is run, each will start with an agenda set by the Chair that includes Board business for you to discuss, possibly amend, and vote on. CLICK TO VIEW A SAMPLE AGENDA
How to Participate
Once you understand the rules for meetings, you will feel more comfortable. Here’s how to take part from the get-go:
- Contribute to the Discussion: Raise your hand or signal the Chair if you have a comment. Watch how other board members do this. When the Chair calls on you, direct your comments to the Chair.
- Ask Questions: Really. Ask questions to clarify or probe for information. See #1 for contributing to the discussion.
- Make Motions: Every motion begins with “I move that….”. Motions should be clear and only address one item. The Chair can help phrase your motion clearly.
- Second Motions: Most motions need to be agreed upon by two people before being voted upon by the group. If you want to second a motion, just say “second”. You do not need to raise your hand or ask to be recognized by the Chair.
- Amend Motions: This is about achieving clarity. An amendment does one of four things:
- Add words (I move that we amend the motion by adding the words …[usually at the end])
- Strike out/ delete words (I move that we amend the motion by striking out the words ….)
- Insert words (I move that we amend the motion by inserting the words….[state “after the words….])
- Strike out and insert words (I move that we amend the motion by striking out the words…and inserting the words…)
- Vote: When the Chair states a motion and calls for a vote, vote according to your conscience.
You may also be asked to approve motions for special situations such as:
- Motion to go in camera to discuss an agenda item. This means discussing an agenda item without the public present. No minutes are taken of in camera discussion and everything must remain confidential.
- Motion to refer an item to a committee or to the Library Manager. The item will come back to the Board at a subsequent meeting.
- Motion to postpone an item of business to a later time or meeting
- Accept for information a group of information reports that you have read and understood with or without discussion. This is sometimes called a “consent agenda”.
To learn more about rules of order go to Leading effective meetings.
Video: Meetings: Understanding Library Board Meetings