Getting to know local government Library board has crucial duties

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The library board is responsible for staffing, collections, finances, building maintenance, and ensuring the library is a welcoming place for all audiences. Book signings, informational presentations, and youth events like toddler time, above, are part of that plan. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

Now home to 17,473 catalogued materials, the Guttenberg Public Library began as a shelf in a 1925 Guttenberg pharmacy. It was officially chartered as the Guttenberg Public Library by the City of Guttenberg in 1936, and moved to a room in the Guttenberg Municipal Building. In 1989, the current building was completed at the corner of 2nd Street and Schiller Street. Today, there are 2,401 library cardholders, and 1,597 people attended 86 library programs during the 2016-17 fiscal year. 

The library is managed by a five-member board made up of volunteers who commit to six-year terms. Library board President Jim Schlueter was appointed in 2007 by the Clayton County supervisors and the City of Guttenberg as the group’s rural trustee, its designated non-resident member. “My background experience is mechanical and building maintenance, working within specified budgets and dealing with the general public,” said Schlueter, who recently retired from his position as the Clayton Ridge School District’s transportation director. 

Board members include Howard Hubbell, Mary Moser, Dana Mast and LeeAnn Peterson.  “They all have great input at the meetings. Each member brings different ideas and solutions to the table. As president of the board I'm glad that these individuals are on the board and bring their knowledge and experience to the meetings,” said Schlueter. Board meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month and are always open to the public. 

The duties and responsibilities of any library board, as declared by the Iowa Library Trustee’s Handbook, are varied and crucial to the function of the library. The board must employ a competent and qualified librarian, recruiting, hiring and evaluating the librarian based on a well-defined job description and expectations. The board is responsible for developing and adopting written policies to govern the library and its personnel. 

Keeping up with technology and new publications is one challenge the board faces. Library board members, along with the librarian, choose and make purchases of books, pamphlets, magazines, periodicals, papers, maps, journals, other library materials

The Guttenberg Public Library employs a full time director, a part-time librarian’s assistant/children’s librarian, and a part-time library aid to keep things running smoothly. Maintaining a library that is user-friendly to all age groups is another challenge for the library board. There are many regular events for children, including Toddler Time and Adventure Hour, as well as special activities like the upcoming Stuffed Animal Sleepover on March 23. Youth can bring a stuffed animal to the library between 2 and 3 p.m. that day and return the following day to pick it up, with a photo of what the stuffed animals were up to while the library was closed.  

Adults can join book discussion groups, play weekly Scrabble games, and attend special presentations like the April 10 Furs-n-Lead program or the March 1 signing with local veteran Dan Hefel, who was featured in William Winders’ book Finally, Home

The library board is also responsible for the condition of the library itself. “There is always a need to think of and plan for building and lot maintenance,” said Schlueter. The library board has exclusive control of funds allocated to the library by the city council, through gifts to the library, and through fines, which can be used for maintenance or other necessary purchases. The Guttenberg Library Foundation is a separate nonprofit group that also accepts donations to be used for the library’s needs. “Donations received by the foundation do not replace or supplant Guttenberg City funding. The foundation’s assets and income sponsor programs that are not figured into the Library's yearly budget,” Schlueter explained.

Library board members also have a duty to care for items of local historical significance. According to the Code of Iowa, library boards have the authority to make agreements with local county historical associations and to set aside necessary space to care for any articles that may come into the possession of the association. Library boards can also purchase supplies and materials necessary to the preservation and protection of historical articles of an educational nature. One such example is the Gutenberg Bible, preserved behind glass in the Guttenberg Library. 

During the 2016-17 fiscal year, 21,336 items were checked out from the Guttenberg Public Library. Over 100 new borrowers were added to the register and nearly 2,000 people used the library’s meeting room. Staff answered hundreds of reference questions. The free, public wifi was used for more than 600 sessions. Over 1,300 new materials were added to the library’s collection, and an astounding 19,923 people came through the doors.

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