There has been much discussion of this as of late. Here is the relevant section of the SOLS Governance Hub:
“One way in which libraries and municipalities have found efficiencies is by eliminating unnecessary duplication of certain functions, and providing libraries access to municipal services in those areas. Examples include Human Resources, Facilities, and Financial services, to name a few of the most common. The intended and actual results of these arrangements is to reduce the library’s administrative costs.
It is important that any agreement on shared services is approached and implemented in such a way that the authority of the library board is protected as per the legislation. For example, it often makes abundant sense for municipalities to provide bookkeeping, accounting and payroll services on behalf of the library, provided everyone participating in this arrangement understands that direction on the disbursal of library funds must come from the library board. It is also important to know that, regardless of any financial services agreement in place, the library must have its own bank account.
Because of the complexities inherent in the governance and oversight of public libraries, it is recommended that library municipal arrangements involving shared services are documented in a written agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). An excellent example of such is the MOU between The Blue Mountains Public Library Board and the Town of Blue Mountains. The agreement is extensive, with several schedules outlining the various services involved. However, what makes it an excellent example is the inclusion of language, in several places, that acknowledges the authority of the Library Board. Section 4, for example, begins as follows:
4) The Board and the Town hereby acknowledge:
a) The Board is a separate and independent corporate board of the municipality with independent corporate status from the Town, subject to the provisions of the Public Libraries Act, and has been established to provide public library services to the residents of the Town of The Blue Mountains.
Similarly, Section 5, outlines some very important aspects of the relationship between the Town and the Library:
5) Acknowledgement of Distinct Roles and Relationships:
a) The CEO is an employee of and reports directly to the Library Board.
b) The CEO serves as a member of the Town Service Area Managers, receives Council agendas and minutes, and attends Council and/or other committee meetings, when agenda items are relevant to the Library.
c) The CAO and CEO shall meet on a quarterly basis at mutually agreeable intervals to discuss issues of joint concern.
Regardless of whether or not the library makes use of any municipal services, there are other ways for the library to be integrated into the municipal structure, again, without jeopardizing the board’s authority.
The Public Libraries Act is very clear in establishing the board’s authority for the management and control of the library. This includes the authority to:
- appoint the board’s secretary and treasurer
- hire and remove the CEO and staff and determine the terms of their employment, pay and benefits
- open bank accounts in the name of the library board
One point of contention that frequently arises is who the library CEO reports to and the nature of the CEO’s relationship to municipal managers. The Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture Industries developed a brochure a number of years ago on Understanding Ontario’s Public Libraries Act that includes the following statements about this very issue:
The CEO is a library board employee and not a municipal employee. The CEO reports to the board and not to the municipality. The CEO does not report in a dual relationship to both the board and the municipality.
Although there is not a formal or official reporting relationship between the library CEO and the municipality, regarding the operations and management of the library, there is plenty of room for informal reporting and ongoing communication. There are also countless opportunities for the library to contribute to municipal work. There are many cases in Ontario, where the library CEO is treated like a senior manager of the municipality, with an informal reporting relationship, either to the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), or to a Director/ Commissioner or General Manager. Such is the case with the Blue Mountains example, quoted above. The benefit of being integrated into the municipal structure is that the library is at the table when municipal matters are being discussed – there to provide input into municipal decision making AND there to offer the library’s assistance whenever possible.
If, for whatever reason, the CEO is not at the municipal manager table, the CEO can reach out to the CAO and set up quarterly meetings to discuss ways in which the library can make meaningful contributions to the municipal agenda. See Creating Value by Linking to Municipal Priorities for more ways to contribute to municipal work and build the library’s value. ”
“Library Board as Employer
The library board is the employer of library staff. This responsibility is defined in Section 15 (1) of the PLA:
- “A board may appoint and remove such employees as it considers necessary, determine the terms of their employment, fix their remuneration and prescribe their duties.” Section 15 (1)
The major personnel responsibility of the library board is the appointment of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) as outlined in Section 15(2) of the PLA.
- “A board shall appoint a chief executive officer who shall have general supervision over and direction of the operation of the public library and its staff, shall attend all board meetings and shall have the other powers and duties that the board assigns to him or her from time to time.”
Recruiting and hiring a qualified CEO is one of the most important responsibilities for a library board to manage. Equally important is ensuring that the board has clearly delegated, to the CEO, authority to manage the day-to-day operations of the library, and has a process in place for:
- monitoring and appraising the CEO’s performance
- collaborating with the CEO to develop performance expectations and organizational goals
- supporting the CEO’s growth and development,
- on an annual basis, conducting a fair and collaborative performance appraisal.
The board directs and evaluates the work of the CEO by establishing policies, budgets and plans that reflect the board’s strategic directions.
It is worth clarifying that the library board is the legal employer of all library staff, a fact that sometimes comes under question by the municipality. This typically happens because the municipality is providing some HR related functions, including payroll, assistance with hiring and terminating staff, and, in some cases, including library staff in the municipality’s job evaluation plan. While all of these activities are legitimate and helpful to the library, it is important to ensure that everyone understands that the library board is still the employer. The municipality, at the wish of the board, may treat library staff like municipal staff, and the library’s HR policies may reflect that, but library staff work for the library board.
A legal opinion on this matter, sought by Haldimand County, following municipal amalgamation, is clear in its analysis:
For the reasons set out below, we are of the opinion that library employees are employees of the Library Board, and not the County. Section 15(1) of the Public Libraries Act is quite clear and empowers a Library Board basically to hire and fire employees. There is no such power given to the municipality in respect of library employees.
The legal opinion, provided by Sullivan-Mahoney Barristers & Solicitors, and dated March 21, 2001, does not prevent the Library Board and the municipality from entering into an agreement that treats library staff, for all intents and purposes, as if they were municipal employees, provided there is a shared understanding of the legal framework within which the agreement exists.