Policy Statement--Opposing minors on municipal library boards

Policy Statement--Opposing minors on municipal library boards

POLICY STATEMENT

OPPOSE EFFORTS TO ALLOW MINOR CHILDREN TO HOLD VOTING POSITIONS ON MUNICIPAL LIBRARY BOARDS

Policy Statement: The Idaho Library Association encourages public libraries to seek input from all citizens, including youth regarding library services. It supports the appointment of highly qualified candidates to board positions, without regard to demographic considerations. It opposes any legislation, which would enable the appointment of minor children to voting positions on municipal library boards. The Association encourages instead the appointment of youth advisory boards to provide broad input relating to youth library issues and services.

Idaho Code currently provides for the appointment of five members to the library board, selected from among the city’s residents. The Code states that “appointment to the board shall be made solely upon consideration of the ability of such appointees to serve the interests of the people, without regard to sex, age, race, nationality, religion, disability or political affiliation.” This not only means that individuals cannot be excluded based on one of these factors, but also that they should not be included solely because of the same factors. To do otherwise would invite special interest groups and/or anyone who perceives themself to represent any kind of minority or majority group to demand a designated seat on the library board.

It is important for the library board to represent the broad spectrum of the community, but the most important criteria for appointment to the board should be ability rather than an arbitrary demographic indicator. The Association encourages local library boards and city mayors to seek applications for library board positions and to interview potential board members, in order to ensure that well-qualified individuals are appointed.

Library boards are policy making, as opposed to advisory, boards. They make binding decisions regarding who may use the library and how it may be used; they determine the policies of the library relating to the development of the library’s materials collection; they establish fees for non-resident services and set the policy for library fines. In Idaho, minor children cannot bind themselves or others; they are not legally responsible for their debts, and they cannot enter into contracts without the signature of the parent or guardian. The Association has concerns about liability issues for the library if minor children are allowed to be voting members of library boards.

The Idaho Library Association recognizes, however, that it is critical for libraries to have input from youth relating to the services, which will attract them to the library. The Association believes that youth can have a more significant impact on the library and its services if they are allowed to comprise a youth advisory board which would include far more than simply one person as would be the case with a minor being appointed to the board. The Association encourages all public libraries to seek such input from its young citizens and library users.

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