October 21, 2009
Dear Citizens of Gwinnett County,
At a called meeting of the Library Board on October 21, 2009, a decision was made to adopt a service plan that operates all branches as full service models with limited hours of operation. The following is taken from the presentation I made to the Board. Please continue to refer to this page for updates on library services.
Called Board Meeting at Administrative Offices 10/21/09
Thank you for the opportunity to meet with all of you. It has been challenging to communicate with all of you at the same time as we have needed to do.
The transition to the new model will require lead time to communicate to library customers and to train staff on processes and procedures. Implementation is scheduled to occur between January and June of 2010.
We are in an unprecedented financial situation and, unfortunately, we have been the subject of debate that has been fueled by assumptions and incorrect information. It saddens us that contrary to all reason, library staff has actually been described as unsupportive of books and literacy. We believe that books will be around for a long time despite fantastic advances in technology. Literacy is the foundation for all learning and later success in life.
Some of this confusion has been the result of information being shared before the plan for changing services was fully developed. We were forced to do this based on a variety of deadlines from our funding agencies. Additionally, misleading planning notes were distributed to the public through open records requests. Not being able to initially deliver a fully developed plan has been particularly uncomfortable for us as we like to have a plan fully defined before introducing it to you or the public but this unusual set of events did not allow this.
At no time before the reduction in funding for libraries or after, did I or any member of the library staff intend to offend or fail to communicate with any elected official or citizen in the community. We regret any loss of good will and hope to move forward in a positive manner. None of us can deny the sentiment that citizens value public library service.
The staff and I appreciate the support shown by the Library Board and members of the community for previous service model recommendations. We all wish funding difficulties had not caused a need for any change. However, after many discussions with community members, to include talking to Chairman Bannister, it is clear that it is in the best interest of the county, our citizens, and the library to provide full service libraries.
Specifically, there are four reasons I asked to speak with you:
• We must have support from the elected officials who have in the past and who are currently working at both the local and state level to provide funding for public libraries in Gwinnett County. Funding that resulted from legislative initiatives in the past has allowed GCPL to be a professionally managed, customer responsive library system.
• It is critical that we have a united Library Board that leads with one voice as we move through these difficult decisions.
• We must neutralize the unstable work environment for library staff who already anticipates at least 3–4 furlough days and a reduction in force.
• It is critical for the library staff to be allowed to resume the business of planning, scheduling and delivering library service to customers. Library customers are the reason for our existence and our driving force is to satisfy the informational needs of Gwinnett Citizens of all ages.
In summary, you were presented with the choice of five different service models that could work within our financial limitations. There are inequities in service inherent in each model because none of them would allow for the level of staffing, materials, and service that the community has come to expect. While not our initial recommendation which introduced new services, I recommend that the Library Board adopt Scenario #3, "All 15 Branches as Full Service Libraries," as it will provide a similar level of service for each branch. The staff also recommends that the Library Board permit the staff to conduct a survey to ask customers to give input regarding hours open using the same survey techniques as those used to collect community input for the Strategic Plan earlier this year.
As always, we continue to dedicate ourselves to providing outstanding library service to our public.
Previous letters from the Executive Director regarding changes to library services:
Changes to Library Hours and Services [September 28, 2009]
Dacula Branch Closing Information [August 13, 2009]
Changes to Library Hours and Services [July 7, 2009]