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On the agenda: The library board

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Photo submitted Exiting library board president Ann Murphy passes the gavel to the new board president, Laura Earley.

At a recent meeting of the Delta County Libraries Board of Trustees in the Hotchkiss Library, attendees introduce themselves around the table. Some members of the group have travelled all the way across Delta County for the meeting, a couple walked over, some have lived in the area for decades, a few are relatively new, some live on ranches, some in towns, and at least one owns a cabin in the middle of nowhere. This group certainly represents a diverse mix of Delta County residents, but everyone in the room shares one important quality: each person passionately cares about libraries and understands the vital role that libraries play in small towns and rural areas.

"I feel like I'm giving back to something that I value," answers trustee Katie Gnauck, when asked about the rewards of being an unpaid board member.

One of the newer trustees, Nancy Hovde, says, "I've always loved to read and, since I was a child, have appreciated the community spirit of a local library."

However, this group is also intensely aware that there is a lot more to running a library district than simply liking books.

The board, made up of seven trustees, holds monthly open meetings in different county locations, and there is always a full agenda. This afternoon, the group quickly gets down to work and for the next two hours folks are busy interviewing potential board members for recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners for appointment, voting on policies, reading financial statements, discussing recent library programming, and a whole lot more.

"The first duty of a board member is fiscal responsibility," explains board president Laura Earley. According to their bylaws, which are posted on the Delta County Libraries website, the board members are also responsible for overseeing the library district director, supervising district-owned properties, governing and creating policies for the district, and advocating for Delta County Libraries.

As the meeting progresses, it becomes clear that the board takes its district advocacy role very seriously. In this regard, the board sees the library district as a whole, and, while board members represent different towns, they make decisions based on the entire district and are driven to present an image of one library. Earley sums up her view, describing how "the five libraries are the delivery points" for services and materials organized and owned by the library district.

Because Delta County is so spread out, and because the towns each have their own flavor and culture, numerous groups are involved in the support of the Delta County Libraries. Library support groups such as friends and foundation organizations, towns, chambers of commerce, and other volunteers all play a part in the success of the district. Trustee Angela Herber talks about a very successful rendezvous between friends groups from Delta and Cedaredge, and for a minute the talk focuses on how to encourage similar groups to work together and help each other further. "Our job is to facilitate the cohesion of all these entities for everybody's good," says Gnauck.

The meeting ends with cake and fond goodbyes to a departing trustee, Ann Murphy, who has been on the board since 2008, and board president since 2012. Murphy has steadfastly helped the library district through numerous challenges, from budget cuts to staff turnover. As a wooden gavel is passed to Earley, the new president, in a humorous but meaningful gesture, the other trustees remain optimistic, discussing the future around bites of cake. Murphy leaves the board with the words of wisdom, "No individual on the board has power. The power is in the board as a whole."

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