California has specific open meeting and records laws which apply to local boards and commissions, including library trustees. These include the Brown Act (open meetings law, Government Code §54950-54963) and the California Public Records Act (Government Code §6250-6276.48).
For the Brown Act, the general rule is that legislative bodies of local agencies (including elected or appointed boards and commissions) must hold their meetings open to the public and may exclude them only if they identify a specific statutory exemption and meet other procedural requirements. The law also specifies how and when public notice of meetings must be given, and what procedures must be followed regarding meetings by teleconference, etc.
Under the California Public Records Act, the public has a right to obtain copies of the minutes of open meetings, and to inspect any writing or document distributed to members during a meeting. The board is not required to make audio or video recordings of its meetings, but if it does, those recordings must also be made available to the public. The public is not entitled to the minutes or recordings of closed sessions.
Library trustees are required by state law to avoid any economic conflicts of interest and to submit statements of economic interest to the California Fair Political Practices Commission on a yearly basis. There are other ethics laws that trustees should follow. The Fair Political Practices Commission offers free online ethics training for local officials which can help ensure that your board complies with legal requirements. The California State Association of Counties offers free and low-cost training and resources on state ethics and sunshine laws.
Governing board trustees should receive sexual harassment training as mandated by law for California supervisors (two hours every two years) and the board should have a sexual harassment prevention policy. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing offers free sexual harassment training that satisfies the state’s legal requirements.
Library boards must also avoid taking actions that violate rights guaranteed by the federal constitution or federal law. Many federal laws affect public libraries. In particular the board should seek legal advice before taking actions that may involve federal discrimination laws, employment laws, and intellectual freedom rights guaranteed by the First and Fourth Amendments. The board should be generally aware of these laws and exercise caution.