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Colorado Public Library Board & Trustee Handbook

For more information or to request printed copies of the handbook, contact the Colorado State Library, 303-866-6900.​

Introduction | Types of Boards | Duties of Trustees | Board Meetings | Intellectual Freedom | The Trustee in the Community

Resources for Trustees | Golden Rules for Trustees | Colorado Library Laws


Colorado public libraries are central hubs in their communities. They provide free and equal access to educational, informational, and recreational materials and resources in a variety of formats. It is the responsibility of a public library trustee to ensure that the public library’s policies support the mission and the community, and provide access and services to all community members. This pocket guide gives library board members a broad view of their duties and responsibilities and can be used as a basis for discussion by boards and library directors. For further information, consult your library director, the Colorado State Library, the Colorado Library Consortium (CLiC), the Colorado Association of Libraries, or the United for Libraries Division of the American Library Association.

Types of Boards

In Colorado, there are two types of library boards of trustees: governing and advisory.

governing board of trustees:

  • Has fiscal and legal responsibility for the control and management of the library
  • Has authority to make policy
  • Hires/fires the library director
  • Has all the powers enumerated in §24-90-109, C.R.S.

An advisory board generally makes recommendations on policy and/or budget to the local governmental entity and acts as a liaison between the library, local government, and the community.

Library boards have legal responsibilities granted by the Colorado Revised Statutes. Note that written agreements with local governing entities ensure that a library board continues to exercise its authority.

Duties of Trustees (See §24-90-109, C.R.S.)

1. Adopt library policies and bylaws for, and participate in all board meetings.
2. Have custody of library property.
3. Employ a highly qualified library director. Empower them to manage the day-to-day operation of the library. Evaluate the director’s performance annually.
4. Secure adequate funding and practice responsible fiscal management of the public money.
5. Have authority to enter into contracts.
6. Maintain a current map of library service area.
7. File an annual report of statistical data with the State Library.
8. Plan for the future of the library. Monitor and evaluate the overall effectiveness of the library.
9. Promote library services and advocate for the library in the community.

Local practices vary—consult your library director and your bylaws

Board Meetings


Bylaws govern how the board governs itself. They include terms of office, election of officers, quorum attendance at meetings, voting, and the board’s relationship to the director and staff, etc.

A packet of appropriate information and the agenda should be sent to all members in advance of the meeting and posted in accordance with the Open Meeting Requirements of the Colorado Sunshine (See §24-6-401 et seq., C.R.S.).


Guidelines need to be created and agreed upon by the board.

  • Bring your full attention and participation.
  • Stay concise and work within the agenda.
  • Share the time with others.
  • Stay productive.
  • Speak only for yourself.
  • Remember, the board acts as a body; individual board members do not have the power to act alone.

Adapted from Pat Wagner, Pattern Research.

See the Open Meeting Requirements of the Colorado Sunshine Law. (See §24-6-401 et seq., C.R.S.)

Intellectual Freedom

Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. Intellectual freedom is the basis for our democracy. Libraries provide ideas and information, in a variety of formats, to allow people to inform themselves. It is the right of every individual to decide what information they want (and to be able to obtain it).

The library board of trustees has a responsibility to protect and defend intellectual freedom by ensuring free and open access to information and materials as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Every local public library should have a written collection development policy adopted by the governing entity. This policy should include selection criteria for all types of library materials and a procedure for reconsideration of materials in the event of a challenge.

Adapted from the American Library Association.

For more information about Intellectual Freedom in libraries, the board and director should review the American Library Association Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read Statement, as well as its own policies.

In the event of a challenge to materials, or other Intellectual Freedom issues, assistance is available:

The Trustee in the Community

Public library boards and trustees play an essential role in shaping the public image of the library. Trustees are among the library’s most influential representatives in the community.

The effective trustee will:

  • Understand and be able to articulate the library’s mission.
  • Be familiar with and support the library services and programs.
  • Keep the lines of communication open between the trustees, the director, the community, and local government officials.
  • Foster community involvement with the library.
  • Maintain a positive relationship with the Friends of the Library and/or Library Foundation.
  • Understand community needs, library capabilities, and the necessity to plan carefully for future library services.
  • Never miss an opportunity/occasion to build goodwill for the library.
  • Participate in local and statewide advocacy, stressing the importance of public libraries in today’s information-rich society.
  • Focus on policies and practices that permit a well-run library, not on running the library and staff.

Statewide peer support, advocacy help, and information about library boards and trustees is available at the Colorado Library Association (CAL) and the American Library Association (ALA)—United for Libraries.

View information on board development through the State Library

Resources for Trustees

Board members and trustees should consider individual or organizational membership in the following associations:

Golden Rules for Trustees

  • Leave the actual management of the library to the library director.
  • The director’s responsibility is to employ and supervise the staff, select books and other materials, supervise day-to-day operations, apply policies, and oversee procedures.
  • After a policy or rule is adopted by the majority vote of the library board, do not criticize or re-voice your opposition publicly.
  • Respect confidential information. Until officially released, do not divulge information regarding future board actions or plans.
  • Observe communications and information policies of the board and library. Speak as a member of the board, but refer questions about policies to the library director or appropriate library representative.
  • Observe ethical standards with absolute truth, integrity, and honor, and disqualify yourself immediately whenever the appearance of a conflict of interest exists.
  • All actions by the board must be approved by a quorum of the board at a regular meeting.
  • Do not hold board meetings without the library director. Follow Sunshine Laws.
  • Complaints from the public and staff are the library director’s responsibility. Continued dissatisfaction and problems should be taken up at the board meeting only if a policy revision is necessary or legal ramifications are involved.
  • Assume your full responsibility as a board member. If you are unable to attend meetings regularly and complete work delegated to you, resign so that an active member can be appointed.

Adapted from the Virginia Public Library Trustee Handbook

Colorado Library Laws

The full text of Colorado Library Law is found in the Colorado Revised Statutes. (See §24-90-101 et seq., C.R.S.)

§24-90-102, C.R.S. Legislative declaration.

The general assembly hereby declares that it is the policy of this state, as a part of its provision for public education, to promote the establishment and development of all types of publicly supported free library service throughout the state to ensure equal access to information without regard to age, physical or mental health, place of residence, or economic status, to aid in the establishment and improvement of library programs, to improve and update the skills of persons employed in libraries through continuing education activities, and to promote and coordinate the sharing of resources among libraries in Colorado and the dissemination of information regarding the availability of library services.


For more information or to request printed copies of the handbook, contact the Colorado State Library, 303-866-6900.