Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Tough Love" Update #7 Disgusted

After two months of consideration, the library board of trustees has essentially decided to do nothing. The long awaited, carefully crafted communication received yesterday is an insult to those who have already expressed serious concerns as well as those who have not yet been heard.

I have tried to take the high road on this blog and given the board the benefit of the doubt because it was the right thing to do for the staff and for this great library system. I can't do that today - I am disgusted, disillusioned, and outraged. I know a lot of you feel the same.

There is a way you can communicate with other folks who want to do something constructive. A friend has created an unmoderated, private forum on Google Groups called "LibraryLib" for anyone who wishes to join in the discussion.

For the protection of the library system and those interested in joining please maintain anonymity:

  • Join with an email address used only for this group.
  • Do not use any indentifying details when describing yourself, your branch/department or the library.
  • Do not access the forum at work.
  • Assume the administration will visit this forum.

Click here to join - LibraryLib.

I will continue to keep the blog open for comments during this transition period.


  1. I'm neither disgusted nor outraged by the Board's letter, just very disappointed. This letter tells us either that Board members have not taken our reports of administrative abuses seriously, or that they are not (yet?) willing to acknowledge them openly. I fear the former. When you receive reports from multiple sources that persons A-D have been abusing persons E-Z and misleading you in the process, do you ask *person A* whether they've done everything properly? And then accept A's double-talk non-answer without question? According to reports from the last Board meeting, that is what has happened.

    Perhaps the Board feels they need to protect their own reputations. Perhaps, as Dottie Mae points out, they have rules to follow concerning their roles as publicly appointed volunteers. Perhaps they still cannot really believe the level of abuse we have tried to convey to them, since they have worked closely with the district directors (as opposed to library staff) and presumably like and trust them. I didn't want to believe it myself when I first began to hear tales from other staff members.

    But I can't ignore it any longer. It has affected and does affect too many good people, as well as the public trust.

    Board members, does any hope remain in making appeals to you? Will it make any difference if one more person appeals to you to make an honest and impartial investigation into the behavior of the library administration, with guaranteed and reliable protections for staff who testify?

    If we do not get a genuine response to our concerns, our allies will have to continue to ask tough questions and force this issue out into the open. Is that what the Board wants? This new letter is more likely to fan the flames of resistance than it is to satisfy anyone's concerns.

    Yes, I'm disappointed.

  2. Thank you for providing this safe forum. It can provide at least an outlet for staff that a person appointed by the director (yet another director appointment, no listing of qualifications, no open process for hiring), a person who will be reporting to the very people exhibiting the problem behaviors, cannot do. I am sad the Board is so blind to pleas by staff. Ironic is the nicest word I can find to describe the Board's letter.

  3. Can this letter be posted on the blog for those who are not currently working at "this library?"

  4. The problem is that the letter mentions the name of the library. I will see if I can edit out names and post here in the comments.

  5. May 3, 2010

    Dear Staff,

    Recently, the Library Board has received communication from several former employees and community members, expressing concern about the work environment at the Library.

    We have carefully read and discussed these communications with each other and with our Director. In response to the issues raised in these discussions, the library management team has taken several actions in an effort to enhance communication and foster a work environment that inspires mutual trust and pride in our individual and collective efforts on behalf of the library.

    You have already heard about the appointment of a broadly based staff committee that will air any staff concerns and recommend any needed revisions to the new Staff Manual we approved in February. You will have a chance to learn more about the manual and have full opportunity to comment on it or raise questions in the initial training sessions over the next few months.

    The director has also announced the creation of a new position at the library, the Employee Relations Specialist. This position was created to better support our employees.

    These actions are intended as a beginning. We will continue these conversations at the Board level. We share a commitment with our management to look, always, for better ways to communicate, support our extraordinary staff, and be open, honest and accountable to everyone at the library and to the public. We hope you will take any concerns or questions you have to the new Employee Relations Specialist, who will listen to your comments in strict confidentiality, unless you give your permission for her to disclose them so responsive action may be taken.

    Everyone on the Board is passionately proud of our library system, which has continued to provide wonderful library service in spite of the financial challenges and changes that have occurred over the last several years. We know how difficult it is to adapt to the changing circumstances of these uncertain times, both professionally and personally. In spite of everything, our management and staff have been so dedicated and successful that the library has been held up by some of the fiercest watchdogs in our local communities as a shining example of how government agencies should be run. Our success, without a doubt, is due to the amazing people who work for the library.

    But good leadership can never become complacent. Management cannot be conducted by formula, or by reliance on what worked in the past. We must continually listen and respond to our employees, the communities we serve and the changing conditions in the world.

    We are grateful we have such an insightful and experienced management team, in whom we have confidently placed our trust as the day-to-day decision-makers. We know they share our commitment to take different points of view into account in the decision-making process.

    No one has the only answer on how things should be done. You will not always agree with our decisions as a Board or with the decisions of your management. In fact, we don’t always agree with each other. We welcome different and new ideas, and differing points of view at every level of our organization, for it means we are all taking responsibility for the health and well-being of our libraries and each other.

    But we aspire to approach even the most vigorous debates with a spirit of respect and genuine curiosity about another person’s point of view. That way, no matter how strongly we agree or disagree with the ultimate decision, we still appreciate each other as colleagues and fellow human beings. And we remain united in our love for the cultural anchor and catalyst we all serve: our libraries.

    We thank each of you for your great work. You are the brains, the muscle, and the heart of the library.


    Library Board of Trustees

  6. O barf. Wasn't the current head of HR formerly a Staff Relations Specialist before FC left?

  7. Perhaps it should be asked if staff are comfortable using the Google Group? There's something about the handle "anonymous" on a black page that makes me more comfortable with telling my secret thoughts.....however, I really like that the Google threads show up in my email so I don't need to visit the site as often.

  8. Unfortunately, there is no completely safe method of communication in a situation like this, but communication is the key to brining about change. The Google Group, initiated by the staff, is an efficient forum for discussion of complex issues and a useful tool for those who feel isolated.

    There is safety in numbers. The more people who join the group, the harder it will be to retaliate. The problems at this library have an effect on the entire staff, not just those who have become targets. I would encourage everyone to join the new group and at least read what your fellow staff members are brave enough to post. It might be an eye opener for everyone.

  9. I've been doing my best to ensure that the Google Group is as anonymous as members want it to be (which as it ends up is more tightly sealed than Fort Knox). As the "owner" I set the group to members only viewing and posting but anyone can join, so we don't have one person who is controlling the information or the membership. If you join with a separate email account as I've suggested, no one, not the "owner" or other members can possibly know who you are. I also suggest using a proxy website to access it for IP address privacy. Even if you aren't as concerned yet, or don't feel you have much to offer the group, there's a lot of info coming to light that everyone should know. And just having a large membership will help show the Board and admin that we aren't going to keep quiet any longer and numbers are on our side.

  10. Dottie Mae, thank you so much for allowing us to express our concerns and see that there are others who feel the same. Is there a way for you to archive this blog in case a commissioner or attorney would like to see it?

  11. I will keep the library related posts in "Blog Index" under the photo at the top of the page so anyone who is interested can come any time and read what has been written here. I am pleased to be able to provide a place where the staff can be heard.