Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Library Trustees Handbook 1902
Governance of public libraries by an independent board of trustees is a model that dates back to the establishment of the Boston Public Library in 1852. It continues to be the dominant form of public library governance today. The Massachusetts Free Public Library Commission was established in 1890. It was the first of many state level library organizations that had a primary mission of advancing public libraries and public library service on a statewide basis. Wisconsin established the Wisconsin Free Library Commission in 1895. Minnesota established the Minnesota Library Commission in 1899, and Iowa followed suit in 1900. These three library commissions were leaders in promoting the education of public library trustees. In 1902 they published the Hand Book of Library Organizations. I have a copy of that publication and it is available in digital form on the Hathi Trust website. The Introduction of the handbook states: "This handbook is addressed primarily to library trustees, and is not intended to give full directions for the technical work necessary in a public library. Its purpose is to give all the information which is necessary for the board of directors to have before the trained organizer or permanent librarian arrives, and to serve as a guide to the untrained librarian in the administration of a small library." Notwithstanding this disclaimer the 79 page publication contains a wealth of information prepared by some of the most experienced public library extension leaders in the nation. I've included a scan of the contents page of the handbook above. I worked for 23 years at the successor to the Wisconsin Free Library Commission and we developed and updated a public library trustees manual on several occasions. The latest version is online HERE. It represents a strategy for educating library trustees that dates back for more than a century.