A Trustee’s Tale: Idaho Library Association Trustee of the Year 2011

by Barry Myers

photo by Kristi Brumley

Maybe you’re like me, or maybe not. I have to confess that for many years, in fact, most of my life, I never gave a second thought to the role of library trustee; I took them for granted. You see, I love libraries and have spent many hours in them in various capacities. I know the vital and irreplaceable value they provide to communities, schools, universities, and other institutions. But then I noticed that our local library building was old, small, and cramped yet always bustling with activity, thanks to the hard work of the outstanding director and staff. I wondered if something could be done and talked with the mayor about it. He suggested that I consider making myself available as a library trustee (much arm-twisting ensued!). Eventually I agreed and soon thereafter, I was appointed.

Wow! What did I get myself into? I thought I knew libraries pretty well, but was so naïve! After much reading, many meetings, and some online tutorials, I attempted to prepare myself for this awesome responsibility. I helped develop updated policies, attended strategic planning sessions, assisted with the development of building plans, collected community comments, worked my way through a book challenge, and tried to be a good advocate for the library with decisionmakers and the public. I believed I was doing an okay job until I met John Held, trustee for the Payette Public Library.

John was appointed trustee in 1995 and served as its chairman from 2001-2010. He and his fellow trustees wrote a five-year strategic plan in 2008 that included the goal of library expansion. He worked with the city council to approve a feasibility study of architectural alternatives. That study, presented to the Council in January 2010, recommended an expansion plan for the library facility with an estimated cost of $1.5 million. The Council suggested that the library board explore grant opportunities. Within three weeks of that suggestion, the USDA announced a grant program for the expansion of rural libraries. They applied and received the news that if a local bond was passed to fund the plan, they would receive up to $400,000 from the grant. Now the really hard work began!

As you may be aware, very few bond elections have been successful in Idaho recently. The bar to pass is set quite high: a two-thirds super-majority must vote yes. The election was scheduled for August 3, 2010, leaving only a few months to drum up support. Under John’s leadership, the library board worked hard using many tactics to help foster support for the library bond, including yard signs, phone calls, fliers, postcards, and word-of-mouth. Incredibly, the bond passed with 76% voting yes: The only library bond election to pass in Idaho in 2010!

After breaking ground in May 2011, the library expansion is due to be completed in January 2012, more than doubling the size of the library from 5,881 to 14,441 square feet. The facility includes a public meeting room, dedicated children’s reading and program area, and expands public access computers from 9 to 20. No doubt these new and improved library amenities will be used by the outstanding director and staff to provide even better service to the citizens and guests of Payette, Idaho.

But, that’s not the end of John’s outstanding volunteer service to library users: since February 2009, John has served on the Idaho Board of Library Commissioners. He was elected to and has served the last two years as the Chair of the Trustee and Friends Division of the Idaho Library Association (ILA). He delivered a presentation to the 2010 ILA Annual Conference describing how to run a successful library bond campaign. He also presented “A Prescription for Trustee Troubles” at the SWILA conference in April 2010.

Not only does John walk the walk, he also talks the talk, passing on to others what he has learned and providing an excellent example of what a truly involved library trustee can accomplish. Learning about John’s work and seeing his accomplishments encourages me to be an even better trustee. Thank you John for your service and example. You deserve the recognition of being voted Idaho’s Trustee of the Year!

Barry Myers is a Trustee of Nampa Public Library.

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