AFFILIATE SPOTLIGHT: New Hampshire Library Trustees Association

The Affiliate Group Spotlight is a new column designed to give readers a closer look at NHMA’s Affiliate Groups. There are over 30 such groups affiliated with NHMA comprised primarily of municipal officials, usually professional organizations, serving a particular position, such as city and town clerks, assessors, health officers, road agents, etc.   In this issue, we introduce and spotlight the New Hampshire Library Trustees Association (NHLTA).

The first tax-supported free library in the United States was established in Peterborough, New Hampshire, in 1833. In an era of subscription libraries, it was a revolutionary concept – imagine: the town owned the books and citizens could read them for free! A few years later, in 1849, the New Hampshire State Legislature passed a law authorizing towns to raise money to establish and maintain their own libraries, the first state to pass a law of this nature. Today, RSA 202-A:1, states:

Mindful that, as the constitution declares, "knowledge and learning, generally diffused through a community'' are "essential to the preservation of a free government'' the legislature recognizes its duty to encourage the people of New Hampshire to extend their education during and beyond the years of formal education. To this end, it hereby declares that the public library is a valuable supplement to the formal system of free public education and as such deserves adequate financial support from government at all levels.

Since the late 1800s, New Hampshire libraries have been governed by a board of trustees, separate from the government of the town. These trustees are elected by the town, and by law, cannot be compensated for their duties. In general, they are responsible for the budget, for hiring a library director and generally overseeing library operations. The exceptions are in cities, where other provision has been made by general or special provision of the legislature.

Realizing the important role libraries play in the state, the New Hampshire Library Trustees Association (NHLTA) was founded in 1957 to “assist Trustees to be knowledgeable and effective in order to serve, improve and promote New Hampshire public libraries.” The NHLTA accomplishes this mission by providing educational opportunities to help trustees understand their responsibilities and duties; offering a forum for the exchange of ideas and information about library developments in general; and advocating for and promoting public library services in New Hampshire.

EDUCATION:  NHLTA offers trustee orientation workshops each spring designed to help newly-elected trustees understand their responsibilities. Workshops are also offered in the fall on such topics  as personnel management, finance and budgeting, and the roles of board officers.  All workshops and webinars are offered free of charge.  NHLTA’s Annual Conference, presented each May, brings national speakers to the state as well as local experts for a one-day event attended by over 300 trustees and library directors. 

NETWORKING:  Library trustees share information and advice through NHLTA’s listserve, website, newsletter and regional meetings held at locations around the state.  Members turn to NHLTA for assistance when problems arise that they have been unable to solve at the local level.

ADVOCACY:  NHLTA works closely with the New Hampshire Library Association (the membership organization for library directors), the American Library Association, the New Hampshire Association for Non-Profits, and the New Hampshire Municipal Association on state and national legislative issues.

PARTNERSHIP WITH NHMA:  NHLTA has relied on NHMA for administrative support services for many years, and has deepened its relationship in the past year to include assistance with the management of the Annual Conference.  In addition, NHMA’s legal counsel, Margaret Byrnes, writes a column on timely legal questions for NHLTA’s quarterly newsletter and is a popular speaker, along with other NHMA staff, at NHLTA workshops and conferences.