I can’t stress enough how important library policies are. Not just for public libraries but school libraries and special libraries as well. Not because they tell everyone what they can’t do but because they provide the framework to let everyone know what they CAN DO!
Please be sure to write your policies with positive, inviting but firm language. You want to welcome people to the library while letting them know what you expect and what they can expect from the library.
Policies should inform patrons about their rights and responsibilities regarding library use. Policies inform patrons of the procedures that are followed in decision making processes, regarding collection development, or how and why access to the internet is to be provided, for example. Policies governing children’s use of the library and parental rights and responsibilities must be explicit. The term “children” may be defined differently in different communities. What is your definition of children? At what age do you think children have the right to privacy regarding the materials they check out of the library?
Ideally the policies are formed by a team of library trustees, the library director and interested staff persons. There may be a respected member of the community that you would want to invite into the process as well. This can be helpful in establishing community standards. Policies take time. They need to be thought through and tested with a lot of “what if” brainstorming. Library policies can be researched by asking libraries from similar demographics to share what they have. Don’t just take one example, but find many and synthesize the information to suit your particular library and library community.
All management areas are important but a few are at the top of the list regarding public use of the library. Collection Development, Internet Use and a policy that guides the challenge process. The ALA provides solid basis for Internet use policy and an excellent resource for shaping a challenge process.
A very helpful book is Creating Policies for Results: From Chaos to Clarity by Sandara Nelson and June Garcia. Amer Library Assn Editions (June 1, 2003)