Finally, bear in mind these two doctrines, tempering the one with the other: 1) that the public library is a great educational and moral power, to be wielded with a full sense of its great responsibilities, and of the corresponding danger of their neglect or perversion; 2) that the public library is not a business office, though it should be most business-like in every detail of its management; but is a center of public happiness first, of public education next.
[Condensed from paper by C.C. Soule]
1) Size of the board.—The library board should be small, in small towns not over three members. In cities a larger board has two advantages: it can include men exceptionally learned in library science, and it can represent more thoroughly different sections of the town and different elements in the population.
2) Term of office.—The board should be divided into several groups, one group going out of office each year. It would be wise if no library trustee could hold office for more than three successive terms of three years each. A library can, under this plan, keep in close touch with popular needs and new ideas.
3) Qualifications.—The ideal qualifications for a trustee of a public library—a fair education and love of books being taken for granted—are: sound character, good judgment, common sense, public spirit, capacity for work, literary taste, representative fitness. Don’t assume that because a man has been prominent in political business or social circles he will make a good trustee. Capacity and willingness to work are more useful than a taste for literature without practical qualities. General culture and wide reading are generally more serviceable to the public library than the knowledge of the specialist or scholar. See that different sections of the town’s interests are represented. Let neither politics nor religion enter into the choice of trustees.
4) Duties.—The trustee of the public library is elected to preserve and extend the benefits of the library as the people’s university. He can learn library science only by intelligent observation and study. He should not hold his position unless he takes a lively interest in the library, attends trustees’ meetings, reads the library journals, visits other libraries than his own, and keeps close watch of the tastes and requirements of his constituency. His duties include the care of funds, supervision of expenditures, determination of the library’s policy, general direction of choice and purchase of books, selection of librarian and assistants, close watch of work done, and comparison of the same with results reached in other libraries.
A large board ordinarily transacts business through its chairman, secretary, treasurer, and one or more committees. It is doubtful if the librarian should act as secretary of the board. The treasurer, if he holds the funds in his hands, should always be put under bonds. It is well to have as many committees as can be actively employed in order to enlist the cooeperation of all the trustees.