COVID-19: Guidance on Hosting Public Library Board Meetings and Virtual Programs

COVID-19: Guidance on Hosting Public Library Board Meetings and Virtual Programs

Other COVID-19 Guides from the Montana State Library

  1. COVID-19: Resources for Libraries
  2. COVID-19: Economic Development Resources for Libraries and Communities
  3. COVID-19: Reopening and Reentry for Libraries
  4. COVID-19: Weekly Meet-Up Summaries

Yes, it is legal. Attorney General, Tim Fox, issued guidance on how to best meet the requirements of the open meeting law while using online meeting tools.

What is the overall guidance on having online board meetings?

Please limit the number of meetings that you have and limit them to essential business only.

How do we handle public notice?

Please notice the meetings at least one week in advance and make action items clear.  On agendas and public meeting notices please use the following language regarding public comment:

“The                 Public Library is committed to providing access to its proceedings in accordance with MCA Title 2, Ch. 3 Part 2 Open Meetings. All meetings of the                    Public Library Board will be streamed and recorded via an online meeting platform. The                                    Public Library Board welcomes public comment. The Chair will ask for public comment on agenda items throughout the meeting from persons attending the meeting. Members of the public who wish to share written comment or pertinent visual materials must submit written public comment no later than 24 hours before the start of the public meetings. During public comment periods, speakers shall limit their address to the                                    Public Library Board on agenda items to three (3) minutes, unless further time is granted by the Chair with the concurrence of the Library Board. The Chair reserves the right to limit public comments if comments are not germane to the proceedings or if they are deemed disruptive.  All comments received, including those received through the online meeting platform, become part of the official public record of the                             Public Library Board proceedings in accordance with MCA 2-3-212.”

Where should we post our public meeting notices?

Please post your notices on your website, social media page, and/or wherever you normally post meeting announcements.

What other guidance do attorneys have about public participation?

Attorneys are recommending that you post your materials on your website. If that is not possible, members of the public should be able to request the materials be sent to them via email or mail. The Montana State Library will assist you with making your materials available online if you do not have a website or an easy way to post the materials.

How should we handle public comment during the meeting?

The Board Chair should request public comment as each agenda item is addressed. The Chair can also ask for public comment at the beginning and the end of the meeting. The Chair has the right to limit public comments if they are not germane to the proceedings. Public comment can be given via chat, email, or by voice.

How should we handle recordings of our meetings or meeting minutes?

It is acceptable to follow your normal practice for taking and posting meeting minutes. Most online meeting software has an option to record the meeting. You can use their cloud storage and share the link, or you can upload the recording to a site like Vimeo or YouTube. If you are uploading the recording online, please remember to create a transcript for those who are hearing impaired.

We don’t have online meeting software access, can the State Library help?

Yes, Montana State Library staff will host a board meeting for you. Here are the instructions for requesting meeting assistance.

To submit a request for a Zoom hosting:

1.      Visit the MSL Help Desk link 

2.      For the DEPARTMENT DROP DOWN: Select “Library Program Resources”

3.      For the CONTACT INFORMATION FIELD: Please enter in YOUR contact information and library name

4.      For the SUBJECT FIELD: Please enter in some keywords regarding your meeting request (ex: Library Board Meeting Request, Book Club Meeting Request)

5.      For the DESCRIPTION FIELD: Enter in the meeting details (time, date, how many people), your library consultant’s name, as well as any questions that you have.

Once you have submitted your request, an MSL staff person will be in contact to arrange scheduling. For board meetings, we will try and have your library consultant attend/host the meeting, but depending on availability, it might be another MSL staff person. 

MSL can also assist with virtual library programming for libraries that want to try out Zoom. We will only host the first session of your program - after that, you must make arrangements for your library. Please use the procedure above to submit your program Zoom hosting request. 

Please note that MSL will not be available to host Library Friends' or Foundation meetings, although we can assist you with figuring out what videoconferencing platform would work best. 

How do I host/attend a Zoom meeting on my own? 

Suzanne Reymer, one of MSL's library consultants, has written up a helpful Quick Start Guide to Zoom, for both attending a meeting, and hosting a meeting. You can find those links below:
  1. Zoom Quick Start Guide for Attendees
  2. Zoom Quick Start Guide for Hosting


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