A blog from the Ontario Library Service

SOLS Initiatives for Governance Support

By the first week of December, most municipal councils have been sworn in and will be poised to begin the task of appointing people to the various local boards and committees with terms tied to council’s term. This, of course, includes library boards.

Board Appointments
Ideally, councillors understand the importance of making board appointments as quickly as possible, and definitely within the 60-day period set out in the Public Libraries Act. In most cases, library boards are typically appointed by early January, in time for a January board meeting.

This is also a really important time to reach out to your new municipal council, if you haven’t already done so. FOPL (Federation of Ontario Public Libraries) has provided a model letter of congratulations that can be easily customized, and SOLS and OLS – North have updated Spotlight on Ontario Public Libraries: What You Need to Know as a Municipal Councillor and the Municipal Councillor’s Public Library Handbook, respectively. All three of these can be found on the Board Transition page of the SOLS website, under the heading ‘Councillor Orientation‘.

Board Orientation
In addition to planning the library board’s first meeting, the CEO needs to plan for providing an orientation to library board governance for new board members. New board members and a new term provide an excellent opportunity for board renewal. Returning members of the board will benefit from a governance refresher, and new board members will welcome the opportunity to ask questions and learn from those who have experience on the board.

The OLBA Bootcamp, which is set for Saturday February 2, 2019 during the OLA Super Conference, is one excellent way to provide new board members with an opportunity for board training and networking if your board has been appointed in time. See the conference website for more information.

In addition to what is offered by OLBA, the staff of OLS–North and SOLS have been working collaboratively to develop governance resources and design orientation sessions that will provide Ontario’s public library boards with the tools they need to govern effectively. Our plan is to provide governance training (webinars, followed by workshops), orientation materials and governance resources (available online) as described below.

Governance Hub
SOLS and OLS–North are pleased to unveil the Governance HUB as a central, coordinated collection of governance resources for public library boards in Ontario, including orientation materials, an overview of governance roles and responsibilities, and access to a wide range of curated resources. This new, online platform allows us to update and refresh the materials on an ongoing basis, while still providing the core governance information that public library boards rely on to fulfill their responsibilities as set out in the Public Libraries Act.

Another important feature of the Governance HUB is that its structure includes lots of headings that result in good subject access to the information provided. This means there is a far greater likelihood that an individual board member (or CEO) will find what he or she is looking for when searching for something specific.

We recognize that the online environment does not appeal to everyone as a place to store and read information, and that some boards will still want printed material. The resources include core governance information in a series of PDF documents that are easy to print and assemble. You will find the various PDF documents clearly indicated as you navigate your way around the Governance HUB.

10 Things You Need to Know as a New Library Board Member
It is worth drawing attention to one document in particular, available in the Board Orientation & Ongoing Development section of the Governance HUB. It is recommended that the PDF version of 10 Things You Need to Know as a New Library Board Member [LINK] be printed and distributed to board members at their first meeting in 2019. The list is intended as an overview of the most important aspects of public library board governance in the Province of Ontario, and will be a useful resource for board members to refer to, during and between meetings. There is also an online version, housed in the same section as above, with more explanation and links to relevant resources for each of the ten points.

Another very useful tool for new board members is OLBA’s Cut to the Chase brochure. Its 4 pages are overflowing with valuable information about library board governance. Of particular help is the chart that spans pages 2 and 3 of Cut to the Chase, entitled, “The Public Library Board and the Chief Executive Officer: Who Does What?” A walk-through of this chart is a great lead-in to conversation at the board table about the dividing line between governance and operations, as well as those areas where the board and CEO do hold some shared responsibilities.

Governance Fundamentals Webinars
New and returning board members benefit from governance training in addition to having access to good information. To aid in your board’s early orientation, OLS–North and SOLS are offering a FREE Governance Fundamentals webinar. The same webinar will be repeated several times to accommodate the different timing of board appointments and to allow for sufficient discussion and clarification as needed. The Governance Fundamentals webinar will be offered the following days and times, through LearnHQ. Registration opens on Tuesday, January 15, 2019.

  • Monday, January 21, 7pm to 8pm
  • Thursday, February 7, 7pm to 8pm
  • Saturday, February 9, 11am to 12pm
  • Tuesday, February 12, 2pm to 3pm
  • Saturday, February 23, 11am to 12pm

There will also be a recorded version of the webinar available in the Governance HUB early in the new year.

Governance Best Practices Workshops
In the spring, starting in April 2019, SOLS staff will provide in-person governance workshops at several locations throughout southern Ontario. These workshops will highlight governance best practices and will be aimed at board members and CEOs attending together! These 3 hour sessions will be an excellent opportunity for new and returning board members and CEOs to learn about boardroom practices that support informed decision-making and strategic oversight. The sessions will be interactive, with lots of time for networking, as well as time to have valuable discussion as a board, weighing and sifting new approaches to doing things, and looking for ways to improve board functioning and decision-making. The dates for these sessions will be finalized early in the new year.

Ontario Library Service – North will contact northern libraries directly about Governance Best Practices sessions in northern Ontario.