A Library Travesty

Normally I will not use this place for any sort of politicking. But there are some things that get my blood boiling. One of those things is a library in turmoil. I’m sharing something that never should have been on a professional library listserv. A good Library Board President, an ethical Library Board President, a professional Library Board President, and a Library Board President who understands his role as an advocate and positive voice for the library. This person is not an example of those things.

The administrators of the listserv did remove this post because it contained potentially confidential employment information regarding a former employee of the William P. Faust Public Library in Westland, Michigan.

I have redacted the name of the employee. The Library Board President has continued to attack this person in other posts on Facebook.

“A recent post by a former employee REDACTED of the Wm P. Faust Public Library of Westland has brought some negative attention to our library.  As such, a response is required.

The Westland Library Board and I, are strong advocates for libraries and library services.  The Library staff and Board worked very hard to save the library from financial collapse 5 years ago by sponsoring and supporting a special library millage.  Just because we were successful in obtaining the special millage, does not mean that we should abandon our financial responsibility to manage public money.  We cherish and support our wonderful library staff and do all that we can to provide the staff and our patrons with everything they need to make our library an important and successful part of our community.  We are currently planning a 6,500 square foot addition to provide quiet study areas, expand Youth Services, expand Teen Services, expand Adult Services  and provide additional space for Friends of the Library.  This 3.2 million dollar project will also allow for a complete renovation of the existing library floor plan.  These changes came about in response to a lengthy survey of our patrons.

The Westland Library Board has total confidence in our Director’s ability to assess the staffing requirements and manage the library.  The Board asked the Director to work with her supervisory staff to suggest cost efficiencies in material purchases, professional services and personnel.  We received many recommendations for cost elimination and/or reduction.  It was the Directors observation that we had many more Librarians than needed for the services we provided.  We have accepted the Director’s recommendations and staff’s recommendations which include material cost savings as well.  We have reduced our total budgeted staff by two people.  Laid off personnel were released by seniority.  This new level still represents more than an 80% increase in staffing levels as compared to 5 ½ years ago. The new staffing is more than adequate to provide the services we offer.  Our Board understands that it is our obligation to manage the citizens tax dollars by providing excellent services without unnecessary expense.  We still far exceed the number of librarians required to maintain our state certified Class VI requirements.

REDACTED suggests that she has some understanding of the Library budget process even though she has never been a part of the budget planning or service planning process.  Her suggestion that the Board cannot make mid-budget-year changes is a clear indication of her lack of understanding of budgets and the Board’s fiduciary duty.  The Library Board makes mid-year budget changes every year that may include increases or decreases in budgeted amounts and/or expenditures.

REDACTED states that with “…the dismissal of these librarians, a number of critical programs have been cutoff with no transition plan…”.  Yes, we do have a temporary reduction in programs.  What REDACTED did not tell you is that the outgoing Librarians took control of the Library’s Teen Facebook page and Library facebook page with the purposeful intent to cause damage to the Library.  They also posted false statements on the stolen sites to create the impression that the notices they were posting were official Library notices of failed service.  They tried to create concern with the library patrons.   They also did not release their locked lists containing the names and contact information of Homebound patrons and Teen Advisory Board members (then laughed at the Library Board Meeting about the trouble it would cause).  The Adult Services Supervisor refused to manage her remaining department personnel and walked out, without notice to anyone, leaving her staff without direction.  Several days later she resigned.  No programs would have been cancelled had the Adult Services Supervisor cooperated with the transition phase of our reorganization.  Although I understand the outgoing librarian’s disappointment,  I am sure that you might agree that the librarians did not have the patrons best interests in mind. REDACTED states that, “…librarians in Westland are committed to the community…”, and I think the Board would wholeheartedly agree with REDACTED’s statement except for the fact that the departing librarians seemed to set themselves apart from the other librarians, and their actions indicate otherwise.  Our IT Department is in the process restoring all information lost and our postponed program services will resume next month.

Please do not let the false narrative of a disgruntled ex-employee (REDACTED), affect your confidence in the Westland Library.  You should know that REDACTED resigned from her position more than four (4) years ago when, after completing her maternity leave, she proposed to continue to stay home with her child and have the Library pay her to work from home.  We do not offer that type of benefit and did not feel that it would serve our patrons very well to have a librarian work from home and not be available to the patrons.  The Library Board did not approve her suggestion and she chose to resign.  I should note that I do commend REDACTED for choosing to be with her newborn…it speaks well of her dedication to family.

Mark F. Neal

President, Westland Library Board”

This was written in response to a plea for librarians to take notice of the action taken against five librarians at the William P. Faust Public Library. Shortly after indicating their intent to form a union, those five librarians were laid off. They were told it was due to restructuring. As of this time, no one has been able to obtain the restructuring plans for the library staff. What has occurred, however, is a hiring of three library associates with approximately the same education level (MLS) for 36 hours a week and no benefits. The Library Board President has claimed the savings after the lay off of the five full-time librarians will allow the library to continue with plans to expand the library building.

I could say more. But if librarians are reading this, you know how to do a good search. This library needs our support. These librarians need our support. This community needs our support. They need our voices, our expertise, and our advocacy.

That is all.

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