Monday, April 26, 2010

"Tough Love" Update #4 Call to Action

In these troubled times, libraries are a beacon on the road to a better world. Those of us who have always loved libraries recognize, now more than ever, how important they are in the bigger scheme of things. Perhaps they are one of the most valuable community assets we possess.

Libraries are not just buildings or books or technology. They and the people who work there are a guardian of our history and an inspiration for our future. Libraries help people grow and become who they are meant to be.

The library I have been blogging about is at a crossroad. The administration can continue to disregard the rights of the staff or they can display enlightened leadership.  They can acknowledge that they don't have all the answers and that even the frumpiest of their staff can make a valuable contribution.

I trust that the dedicated volunteers who make up the board of trustees realize they hold the future of the staff and this amazing library system in their hands. I hope they will listen to those of us who call them to action. It is not that anyone in the administration is a bad person - it is that they are not responding with integrity and compassion to their highly qualified staff and this has created a toxic environment.

Unless something unexpected happens, this will be my last post about this great library. Never forget - what matters most in life are the people we meet and how we treat them. Success isn't about levies or salaries or the attention we receive for our accomplishments. It is about how just and compassionate we are along the way.

DottieMae wishes y'all well.


  1. I am grateful to you for giving the staff a voice. Indeed voicing ideas or concerns that conflict with the interests of Administration is not safe for staff.

    In my experience, this library has not been a "happy" place to work. Communications and decisions are unpredictable and usually one-way. Some staff are tapped to effectively spy on other staff, and there is a gut-wrenching atmosphere of fear. If there was an effective restraint of these practices, the library would be a healthier and happier place to work.

    Again, thank you for providing this opportunity.

  2. I beseech the Library Board of Trustees to live up to their title of "Trustee" and have the courage to hold the library administration accountable, ensuring that the current administration discontinues the overly harsh and overly secretive practices that have become the "norm" at this library, but are so very far from necessary. Together we can return to the path of a positive future. I sincerely hope the Board of Trustees recognizes the crossroads facing them, and the need for action.

  3. You said it very well about other staff spying on other staff.

    I think this is just the insecuritites that management has in their own abilities to effectively run this organization.

    I agree with Dottie Mae, the board holds the key. The question is will they use it?

  4. There have been a number of comments posted in response to the concerns raised by Dottie Mae in her initial post about this library. Many have been critical of the organizational climate, some have been supportive. In my opinion, there are a myriad of examples that can be given which describe ineffective management practices and ineffectual leadership within this organization. But these things are not at the heart of the issues that have been raised here. Poor management practices can, for the most part, be remedied if they are recognized and addressed. The heart of the issue here is treatment of staff that is demeaning at best, damaging and mean-spirited at its worst. These are actions that cannot be justified by any organizational need or benefit, nor can they be rationalized by disingenuous disclaimers that “I was just carrying out orders.” I believe that many of the people who have read these posts, and most who have commented, know exactly the incidents I am referring to. These are actions seemingly bereft of conscience – actions that reflect a much deeper problem than poor management, and one much more difficult to remedy.
    The library's Board of Trustees was informed by Dottie Mae about this blog; to give them an opportunity to voice their opinions. They in turn notified the library's director. There has been a very audible silence from each of those individuals. The few comments posted in support of the library follow a familiar refrain – deny anything is wrong; discount any concerns that are voiced; and when all else fails, shoot the messenger.
    Without some acknowledgment that problems exist, without some accountability, there seems to be little reason to hope that any change will be forthcoming. Acknowledging a problem and accepting responsibility is usually a necessary first step to solving it.

  5. I am a current employee of this library. I, too, want to thank Dottie Mae for providing this forum for discussion. I have to reiterate what others have said about how difficult it is to have these discussions openly within the library district. I understand that there are branches where the fear and distrust that have been so stifling where I work are just not apparent, perhaps because of a strong branch manager or distance from the central branch, or perhaps because the kinds of reprisals that have been common elsewhere have just not come up (yet?) in their own work area.

    I know these stories can sound extreme, even preposterous. I had my doubts when I first heard them, too. But then it happened to me--I became one of the disappeared, with no prior warning of any problem with my work. I don't know if I have fully recovered from the experience, and I remain uncertain of my ability to do my job (or my ability to continue facing the people who apparently felt it necessary to treat me this way), despite my dedication to the mission of the library.

    That dedication is what now brings me to a very difficult choice. The Library Board is currently considering their options for placing a levy lid lift measure on the ballot in November. Staff are being asked to throw their weight behind the campaign effort. I want very much for the people of this county to receive the benefits in library service that a successful levy would provide. I want my co-workers (and myself) to receive the relief that additional staffing and less constrained budgets would allow. But I have very mixed feelings about supporting an administration that has used taxpayer dollars to put people on multiple, indefinite paid leaves shrouded in nerve-wracking secrecy (and making the "disappeared" person's co-workers struggle to fill the gap in the meantime), and that has deliberately created this atmosphere of fear and distrust.

    It's not just about the leaves--but I don't want to start sounding even more fantastical about reorganizations that result in long-term employees suddenly losing their jobs while new favorites move into interesting new positions, and other "preposterous" stories that have become routine in this library. The stories might be less preposterous if we could talk about them freely; but instead we have secrecy, over-obvious propaganda, resentment, and rumor.

    Despite these hardships, I still work with funny, smart, talented people who care about their jobs and the people they serve. The library district is full of people like them, who hang onto their jobs because of their dedication (and because we need our jobs in this economy). I hope the Library Board will find a way to do right by these amazing people.

  6. I remember when the problems now experienced by the library staff were non-existent. I remember returning from an All-Staff training about 3 years ago, full of happiness at being part of such a wonderful team. The next morning, a fully hypocritical email was sent to all staff by the executive director, "It gives me great sadness to report . . ." Goodbye to a vibrant person and controversial heart of our system. After that, there were no more, "it gives me great sadness...blah, blah, blah." It was all down hill from there. Now, there is just a list of people who are gone, for whatever reason.

    For every fallen soldier, there will be some who can say "they deserved it. I didn't like them." But, nobody can defend the process that removed them.

    This library is in trouble because, of course, the self-serving administration has priorities other than doing a good job for the folks in the County. But, I believe the fault is mainly with the Board of Trustees. The Administration is successful in their quest for more personal power because the Board, even with a stack of employee and (as the administration is so happy to point out) ex-employee testimonials, refuses to even do a cursory investigation of the problems brought to their attention. To them, it appears, an investigation consists of asking the director what the complaint is all about. Don't they realize that whatever they hear from the administration is tainted by self-interest or are they simply not interested in human rights? It has been more than 6 weeks since the first complaints were brought to their attention, yet they still have not figured out a way for employees to "safely" (without going through the director's office) contact them. Really!!

    I have been told on so many occasions that the Board is nothing but a rubber stamp for the director. I am hoping that, after all that they must have heard to this point, that they prove popular opinion wrong.

    Thank you, Dottie Mae, for providing a sounding board for the abused employees and former employees of KRL.

  7. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to add comments to this blog.

    I wasn't sure what to expect when I first posted about the staff concerns at the library. The number of individuals who have visited (130) and the number of visits (298) have far exceeded my expectations.

    My intent was to offer a forum for information and discussion regarding the staff issues I have been hearing about over the past several months. My ultimate goal was to initiate a process that could bring about reconciliation and a rebuilding of trust.

    Blessings on the board, the administration, and the staff of this great library as they undertake the difficult work before them.

  8. Thank you for your blog! I don't always know which coworkers I can trust to talk to about this situation. (Even if you trust someone, you have to worry about who else might be in the vicinity.) Luckily, I know a few people that I can speak with openly and safely, so things don't get bottled up. But reading your blog and the comments on it makes me feel less isolated. And since what we all need is more openness and transparency, this is a good thing. The only "negative" comment I've seen on your blog says that most people are happy. What I have learned in the last few months is that true happiness does not mean complacency. It means caring, caring enough to get angry (not in a bitter way but in a way that makes you fight for justice, or at least support those who do), caring enough to believe that even the people on the "other side" can be reached, and we can all learn from each other.

    That said, I'm signing off as anonymous because that free, open environment we'd all like does not yet exist.