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Spring cleaning: Policy polishing

Spring cleaning: Policy polishing

By on Mar 10, 2024 in Best Practices, Blog, Government and Public Sector, Non Profit, Public Libraries |

By: Asha Vyas, Training Content Specialist, Your Part-Time Controller, LLC

‘Policy polishing’ should be a scheduled part of your board’s annual agenda. Spring is a perfect time to dust off your policies and get started.

Not only are policies the rules that govern the operational behavior of your organization, but they also represent a glimpse into the shared values and goals that drive your culture.

How well do your entity’s policies reflect its current culture?

The potentially daunting task should be divided into manageable blocks by scheduling a board review in a staggered annual cycle.  If the scheduled review length is not included in your policy or board procedures, consider adding them this year. Generally, and depending on the policy, every three years might work for your library to keep your organization up-to-date on regulations, technology, and audit best practices.

As a focus, help new board members recognize every public library’s policy should include a statement of its mission, goals, and priorities.

Policy Purpose

  • Guide the daily operation of the library
  • Form the base of decision-making for the library Director and staff
  • Provide the framework for library operations and services
  • Support the library’s strategic plan
  • Comply with local laws and audit requirements

Library policies are the link between the library’s vision and day-to-day operations. Policies identify key activities and guide decision-makers on how to handle issues as they arise. Procedures explain a specific action plan for carrying out a policy.

Descriptions

  • Policy is the “why”
    • The overall principle that guides your library’s decisions, setting the boundaries and defining the desired outcome
  • Procedure is the “how”
    • The detail for carrying out a specific task or process to achieve the goals set by the policy

Directors and Fiscal Officers develop and enforce the procedures while the Board defines the policies. Since audits look backward and library policies carry your board’s official approval, this provides audit support and establishes institutional memory at a specific point in time.

Partial list of important policies

  • Collection Development Policies – principles, guidelines, and procedures that a library follows to develop, manage, and maintain its collection of resources
    • Prevents the library from being driven by events or by individual enthusiasm, and from purchasing a random set of resources, which may not support the mission of the library
    • Provides the Director with a framework to manage librarian spending
  • Financial Policies – principles, guidelines, and procedures for making financial decisions, ensuring fiduciary responsibility and effective use of resources
    • It’s best practice to follow your state auditor’s guidelines
    • Include the guidance of all fiscal functions including credit card use
  • Employee Policies – principles, guidelines, and procedures to set successful parameters for how your staff supports library operations
    • Creating policies on the fly when something comes up limits the effectiveness of the director and board and the time to have a good set of policies is when you do not need them
    • Encompass guidance beyond compliance requirements

Many state auditors will answer simple questions to help create a framework for your library’s financial policies. Another great resource is the library development office of your state library to help you build a policy based on the laws in your state.  Also, research other libraries’ policies as a foundation to create one that reflects your library’s operations.

Without adequate and well-developed policies and procedures, there are no rules. And unfortunately, without defined rules, people create their own. To start the process, consider an outside source to create and review the policies.

Creating policies and procedures is a complicated task and YPTC and OA are available to help begin the process.

© 2023 Your Part-Time Controller, LLC

Asha Vyas is a Training Content Specialist with Your Part-Time Controller, LLC [YPTC]. YPTC provides customized accounting and financial management services for over 1200 nonprofits nationwide. Since 1993, YPTC has built transformative, personalized solutions based on clients’ financial needs, including cash flows, funding streams, financial concerns, and internal control challenges. YPTC is committed to educating organizations through webinars and resources that provide relevant takeaways and best practices. To learn more about YPTC and browse our content, visit www.yptc.com.