What makes a great trustee?

I’ve had reason lately to give some thought to the question of What makes a great trustee? Of course, the opposite question comes up, too. I think a great trustee is someone who:

*Has a library card before they run for trustee
*Values the work of public libraries and their staff
*Understands that a public library cannot be run on a business model but
*Also understands that they are responsible for managing public funds wisely
*Has a basic grasp of budgeting and finance
*Is willing to put in the time to learn about the issues facing libraries today
*Doesn’t see the library board as a stepping stone to public office
*Appreciates the role of libraries as vital to maintaining an educated electorate
*Doesn’t run to serve with the sole intention of reducing taxes but instead advocates with legislators to improve library funding
*Defends the rights of citizens to have free and open access to materials

We had a trustee once who as Board President was faced with a request to have a book pulled from the collection. I imagine that as a Jewish man, it was painful for him to have to look a patron in the eye and refuse the request to remove a David Duke book from the collection. But he understood that free speech begins with defending even the ugliest of speech, and so he left that vile book on the shelf. I admire that man very much. He was a great trustee. Being a great trustee takes courage, and heart, and a willingness to serve to try to make the world a better place…and yes, you really do have to believe in the mission of the public library–Benjamin Franklin and his friends had a great idea all those years ago.

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