Topsham Public Library is Looking for Board Members

The following is a note from Susan Preece, Director of Topsham Public Library, concerning the search for new board members.

Topsham Public Library is looking for new board members.

Over the past week, as we have begun to advertise for trustee positions, I have been answering many questions about what the library board does and what we are looking for in a trustee. The first way to begin a discussion about being a trustee is to remind folks about the structure of the library itself.

The Topsham Public Library is a non-profit organization.  What this means is that contributions made to the library are tax-deductible and the library is tax-exempt. We receive about 85% of our funding from the Town of Topsham. The additional 15% of our funding comes from our own fundraising and from The Friends of Topsham Public Library. The Friends support virtually all of the programs that are offered through the library. The library’s Annual Appeal and other occasional fundraising events, like last year’s canoe raffle, along with the dedicated support of 19 local businesses who support our Business Roundtable at a variety of donation levels provide another source of revenue. Finally, we have many generous individuals and families who donate memorial funds to honor their loved ones or make celebratory donations to mark a life event like a birthday or a wedding.

Topsham has a long history of supporting the public library. In 1803, the first library facility in Topsham was established in 1803 as a “social library for the purpose of promoting knowledge”. In 1931, the first public library was incorporated by a group of community-spirited women who established the Topsham Public Library on the second floor of the Androscoggin Firehouse. In 1941, following that tradition, Sarah Whitten bequeathed her family home at 8 Pleasant Street, which became the library’s location for the next sixty years. In May of 2004, after a very successful capital campaign, the approval of a bond by town voters, and tremendous effort on the part of the board, staff, and community, Topsham Public Library moved into its first permanent home. This was one of the most significant building projects in the history of Topsham.

The library is run by the director and the board of trustees. The trustees and the director work together to provide adequate funding, offer programs, materials and services to the community and function as a community center for all ages in Topsham. The library’s board of trustees are a policy-making and governing board. The trustees supervise the director and the director supervises the staff.

Trustees are crucial to the delivery of library service to Topsham. Together, with the director and the staff, they make sure that the library provides books, magazines, DVDs, CDs and computer programs for all ages. They make sure that the staff has the resources needed to do their jobs effectively and they make it their mission to let the community know about what the library has to offer. This may mean attending meetings, talking to neighbors and community members, speaking up at Select Board meetings or Town Meeting. Trustees, with the help of the director and staff, keep abreast of nationwide trends and issues affecting libraries. This may include learning about library legislation at the state and federal levels and ensuring that the library complies with standards.

One of the most important jobs of a trustee is to find out what the community wants from their library and to figure out how to provide it. Fundraising, understanding the town’s budget process and stresses, and communicating with the schools, local non-profits and businesses to create sustainable funding is key to the library’s future. As a member of the board, individual trustees work toward consensus building and always speak as one. The board meets monthly (except in August), usually on the third Wednesday of the month at 7:00 PM at the library. Board members also serve on one or more committees, (governance, finance, development or facilities.) Usually the time commitment is about 8 hours per month.

Public libraries are the most important democratic institutions in the nation and have a long history of independence. A good public library should have something to offend everyone, provide free access to materials and services, including the Internet and protect every individual’s privacy regardless of age, or circumstance. It is important that the Board of Trustees understand the importance of the library in the community and work together to support library values.

If you love libraries, working with others to create something special and have the time, we want to hear from YOU! Applications for Trustees are available on the library’s website or at the desk. Deadline for the submission of applications is May 15, 2017. Interviews will be conducted by the governance committee during the week of June 5, 2017. If you are would like more information about being a trustee, please contact Susan Preece, Director at 725-1727 or director@topshamlibrary.org.  Check the library’s website  at www.topshamlibrary.org to learn more about current board members.