Minutes October 21, 2009
The Gwinnett County Public Library Board of Trustees held a Called Meeting on October 21, 2009 at the Administrative Office. Present were Board members Phyllis Oxendine-Chair, Dale Todd-Vice Chair, Margaret Tiller-Secretary and Phillip Saxton. Babs Wagoner-Treasurer was absent. Administrative staff members present were Nancy Stanbery-Kellam-Executive Director, Liz Forster-Deputy Director, Jane Walters-Business Services Director, Kim Rodriguez-Human Resources Director, Michael Casey-Information Technology Director, Deb George-Materials Management Director, Sue Calbreath-Events & Outreach Director, Michelle Long-Public Relations Director, Eamon Shelton-Capital Projects Manager and Pamela Covington-Administrative Assistant. Other administrative staff members were also in attendance.
Phyllis called the meeting to order at 6:30 PM and thanked staff and citizens for attending. Phyllis reported that Babs Wagoner was unable to attend the meeting due to being in Augusta, Georgia caring for her mother who is in critical condition from an accident. Phyllis requested everyone keep Babs, her mother and family in their thoughts. Phyllis explained that the meeting was called to discuss library services in Gwinnett County in response to the Executive Director's request. Phyllis pointed out that Nancy's leadership and the staff has sustained the library's excellence during previous difficult times and, Phyllis believes, will continue to do so. She stated the Board shares in common the administration's desire to safeguard the Gwinnett County Public Library and ensure Gwinnett citizen's information needs are satisfied. Phyllis stated as Chairperson she does not vote; however, along with all Board members, wants to do the best for everyone in the County. She stated no matter where you live in the County, you deserve the same services as anyone else in the County. We are all tax payers, and we all love our libraries. Phyllis explained Board members have worked hard with administrative staff to come up with a plan that is fair and very equitable for all Gwinnett citizens.
Nancy made the following statement to the Board, staff and citizens, "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. 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 it is in the best interest of the County, our citizens and the library to provide full service libraries. Specifically, there are 4 reasons I asked to speak with you:
1. 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.
2. It is critical that we have a united Library Board that leads with one voice as we move through these difficult decisions.
3. We must neutralize the unstable work environment for library staff who already anticipates at least 3 – 4 furlough days and a reduction in force.
4. 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 can allow for the level of staffing, materials and service 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."
Dale asked how many hours each library branch would be open. Nancy stated the working document reflects 35 hours per week for each branch. Dale also asked if each branch would maintain all books, services and the same current configuration. Nancy confirmed all libraries will maintain books, services and configurations. Dale had questions regarding if all branches would be open the same days and hours, or if they would be staggered. Dale also had questions regarding the survey. She suggested after the customer survey was completed that the results be posted on the library website. Nancy explained staff will work up a couple scheduling models for the survey and citizens will select their preference. Phyllis mentioned one of the main reasons the Board was able to select this service model is because the staff will be taking furlough days. The Board supports the staff but also understands that everyone in this economy has to take hits. Phyllis stated she doesn't believe a single employee will be unhappy about furlough days due to great library benefits and because it is fair and equitable for everyone. She stated the library has faithful, long-term employees; many being with the system for 20 years. Phyllis stated Gwinnett County Public Library has the best staff in the state. Phyllis thanked Nancy and the staff for doing a wonderful job. Dale asked if there was an over abundance of volunteers, could the branches remain open more than 35 hours per week. Nancy explained the system was utilizing over 20,000 hours of volunteer time during the 71 open public hours. Although branches are trying to increase volunteer hours, open hours probably could not be increased due to supervisors needing to be on duty for the Internet Policy, professional librarians available to provide specific services and the limitations of confidentiality laws. Nancy stated the system does utilize the volunteers and appreciates their service. Phillip stated he would like to echo what Chairperson Oxendine said, and he appreciates her comment to keep all the libraries equal in all the neighborhoods. Phillip also stated he appreciates the Executive Director adopting Scenario #3. Phillip mentioned the importance of not only keeping the buildings open but having librarians in the buildings to continue providing services to the community. Phillip applauded the library staff.
Motion by Todd for the Library to adopt proposed Service Model #3, "All 15 Branches as Full Service Libraries" in response to current and anticipated losses in funding and authorize staff to present the public with viable schedule options to determine the preference of the entire community, seconded by Tiller, unanimous.
Motion by Todd to adjourn the called meeting at 6:46 PM, seconded by Tiller, unanimous.
Minutes submitted by Pamela Covington for Margaret Tiller, Board Secretary.