In a series of guest blogs library board members Andrew Hallikas and Caroline Goulding will be exploring the question What can you do as a Library Board to improve the relationship between your municipal council and the public library? In this post we will be focusing on the external tools you can use to help build your relationship with Municipal Council. Read Post 1 and Post 2 on the SOLS Blog.
Many Libraries are taking the approach that they are a community hub. As part of this, reach out and form partnerships with a wide variety of community groups. Many of these groups have budgets and will either split the cost or pay the cost of additional programming that the Library could not afford to provide on its own. Individuals with skills are often very willing to teach or provide lessons at the Library for patrons. Try and get some of your Municipal Councillors involved in some of these activities. Always let the media know about the wonderful partnerships that your have formed and how they allow the library to provide varied programming at minimal cost. Your Municipal Council will appreciate this, and they love hearing how all this wonderful programming is costing their budget nothing.
Support your Local Friends of the Library Group
A vibrant Friends of the Library group is essential to a well functioning Library, not just for fund raising, but also as a political entity. They can mobilize library supporters to attend crucial council meetings, where you would like council to see a show of support for the Library on a particular issue. Have them, along with other library supporters, attend any presentation that you do before council, so that council notes that your local Library is popular and has support among taxpayers and voters. Councillors are political animals and always will take note of community support and interests. Friends of the Library can also mobilize and write letters to the editor on Library issues. Councillors tend to be cognizant of a large audience at a council meeting and more cautious in their speech. Friends of the Library can be remarkably effective at generating funding for Library projects that your Budget might not normally provide for. Always thank them on a regular basis and show your appreciation for them with some sort of formal event like a luncheon or Tea.
Develop strong positive working relationships with Municipal Employees
The Library CEO (and sometimes the Board Chair) should actively work to develop positive relationships with Key Municipal Employees; in particular, the CAO, the Municipal Clerk, the Treasurer, the Human Resources Manager, and various department managers. These people all interact directly with Mayor and Council and have the ability to provide them with positive information about your library. Many of them are essential in assisting with Library operations and providing invaluable support both directly and indirectly to the operation of the Library. Don’t forget to invite some of these good folks to Library functions and do not forget to thank them on a regular basis for all the good things that they do for your library.
If there is any turnover in these key roles, consider having the Board send a welcome letter or email. Congratulate the person in their new role, express that you are looking forward to working with them and outline how the Library normally interacts with their role. The last part is key, different communities have different relationships with their municipal staff. By outlining how the Library normally works with that particular role at the outset you can ensure that everyone has the same expectations.