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Meeting of the J. Joel Edwards Public Library Board of Trustees - December 13, 2018
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - This meeting was attended by Library Manager Rosemary Bunn and Board Members Susan Goodwin (Secretary), Audrey Lanier (Chair), Joy Walker, Natalie Marshall (Flint River Regional Library System Representative), Gillian Appleton (Vice Chair), Rhonda Morgan (who took the minutes at the last meeting), and Patty Talley. [Note from the Editor: The lone person in the audience typing away was me. This was my second meeting in a row for this particular Board. And I will be at every meeting that I can possibly attend until the problems are worked out and the Board is working together as a whole.]

Chairman Lanier passed out an agenda when she walked in. She opened the meeting and asked for a motion to approve the agenda. [Note from the Editor: The agenda, according to Open Meetings Laws and the Library Board's Bylaws, should be posted before the meeting. From Article VI Section 2: "All meetings of the board or its committees must be open to the public and conform to the specifications of the Open Meetings Law (O.C.G.A.50-14-1) Notice of all regular meetings must be made available to the public at least one week in advance by placing a notice at the meeting site. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. 50-14-1(e) (1), the agenda shall be available upon request and shall be posted at the meeting site, as far in advance of the meeting as reasonably possible, but shall not be required to be available more than two weeks prior to the meeting and shall be posted, at a minimum, at some time during the two-week period immediately prior to the meeting." It needs to be addressed asap.]

They began with a long discussion about minutes from the November meeting that had been emailed to members prior to the meeting. [Note from the Editor: Member Rhonda Morgan had been asked by the Chairman to take the minutes of the previous meeting since the former Board Secretary is no longer on the Board.] The section in question read as follows: “Pending final confirmation, there will be an author event on January 23 by David Fitzsimmons, Nationally Recognized Photographer. This event will be at no cost to the library. Upon questioning, Library Manager did not give information for the source of funding.”

Discussion: Vice Chair Gillian Appleton asked about the final sentence that suggested that the Library Manager was asked about the source of funding for an author coming to the library and that Library Manager Bunn wouldn’t reveal the source of funding. It was clarified in the discussion again today that the event is at no cost to the library. Member Joy Walker agreed with that. Library Manager Rosemary Bunn said that Chairman Audrey Lanier asked her specifically about the funding at the last meeting, and she told her that this would be at no cost to the library. If there is no cost, there is no need for funding. Member Rhonda Morgan said that she heard the chairman ask more than once about this and that her minutes were a reflection of what was said in the meeting.

More discussion: There is no cost to the library. Is the library being compensated at all? No. There is no cost to the library, and the author is not being compensated. Another member said that the way this is written sounds almost like Rosemary is withholding the information. Gillian said that in public minutes, if it is worded like this, it could shed negative light on the Library Manager. Rhonda said that the Chair asked twice and the information was not given and insisted that this was a reflection of what was said in the past meeting. Joy said that the cost was given and there is no cost. It was repeated again that there is no funding because there is no cost.

More discussion on how to word it so it doesn’t cast negative light because it wasn’t a negative conversation. Vice Chair Appleton praised Library Manager Bunn for making this happen and said that she has done a wonderful thing for the library.

A motion that to strike the sentence totally. 3-3. Gillian, Joy, and Patty voted to strike the entire sentence and Susan, Audrey, and Rhonda voted against it. The motion failed because of a tie.

Motion to reword the sentence and strike the words, “Upon questioning…” and start with “The library manager…” This motion passed.

[Note from the Editor: I have one little paragraph in my write up from last month that said, “A question was asked about whether there would be cost to the library and Rosemary advised that there would not be.” http://pikecountytimes.com/secondary/library11.14.18.html Click here to read it. I was confused on why this was written the way that it was and would have been asking some questions if I had not been present and read it in the minutes as they were originally proposed because the wording sounded like something was being hidden. As an outside observer and an ardent J. Joel Edwards Public Library supporter (I'm a Flint River Regional Library supporter--period!), I didn’t appreciate how that was written or the fight to leave that phrase intact. Maybe differing opinions played into this, but it should have been handled differently when it was pointed out that there was a possible problem.]

Any other items that need addressed? A typo was addressed. Chairman Lanier thanked the members for giving the minutes their attention. Motion to accept the minutes as amended.

Flint River Regional Library System Representative Report

FRRLS Representative Marshall advised Library Legislative Day at the Georgia State Capitol on February 13. It’s a good opportunity to meet with legislators. They serve Varsity hotdogs for lunch and discuss funding for local libraries.

She advised that someone from the Georgia State Census Committee is asking how libraries can be a part of the census process in 2020. Internet access is important in rural communities.

Library Manager Report

Library Manager Rosemary Bunn advised that County Manager Bobby Bickley came to the library to meet with her. She said that she is looking forward to meeting with him and working with him on next year’s budget.

There is a library board position open through December 14.

The last Saturday in January will be the benefit for the library. Friends of the Library is hosting this event. A Taste of Two Counties will be held at the Kiwanis Event Center in Griffin because our county doesn’t own a large enough event center. Friends of the Library is looking for volunteers to help with set up on Friday and take down on Saturday.

The Polar Express Pajama Party was held last weekend. Alyssa is new and is doing the teen events now and did a great job. We had 30 kids last year and 77 this year. It was amazing and our numbers are growing. Santa and Mrs. Santa are coming this weekend. This is the Southside Riders’ Santa.

A question was asked about David Fitzsimmons and what is Sigma pro. Mr. Fitzsimmons is one of seven Sigma pro photographers around the country. He is dealing with issues in January but wants to come to the library in the summer.

Library Manager Rosemary Bunn was contacted by the agent of Gina Colberson to do programs in the middle school. Maybe in March. More discussion that stems from the earlier discussion about whether authors are getting paid to come to our library. Library Manager Bunn told board members that she doesn’t have a budget to bring in authors. More than once she said, “I don’t pay authors to come in.” This author is coming to Georgia from California and wants to come to our library. A question was asked about selling books and whether authors sell their own books. The library sells the books that they get from Mercer Press. Sometimes authors bring their own books. This author will be coming in March and will be selling her own books. This is the same agent for author Lisa Wingate.

A question about whether authors make a donation for the library from what they sell. Library Manager Bunn said that sometimes they do give us a cut, but it’s different for everyone. She said that an agreement is made on a donation amount to the library.

Financial Report

Library Manager Rosemary Bunn gave this information to the board since Member Curtis Ward was not able to attend this meeting. There were no findings on the audit report. Board members offered congratulations to Rosemary and Curtis for their hard work. [Note from the Editor: This is a big deal. Congratulations to the Library Board as a whole, Treasurer Curtis Ward, and Library Manager Rosemary Bunn on this accomplishment!]

Chair Audrey Lanier then asked if Library Manager Rosemary Bunn had to sign in and out at the schools when she attended to do programs. Rosemary said that it depended on the school and that she does what she is instructed when she goes into the school. Audrey asked if the Board thinks that it would be a good idea to keep a running record of how many hours we are giving the schools. Rosemary advised that logs her time and that of each employee and what school they are at. Vice Chair Gillian Appleton asked Regional representative Natalie Marshall if Rosemary recording it on paper was good enough. Natalie said that most libraries self report. Gillian added a concern that she doesn’t want to put extra responsibility on the schools to keep up with just the library’s hours there.

Rosemary asked if Audrey was asking the schools to verify what she was telling the Board in her log. She was told no. [Note from the Editor: Chairman Lanier said no, but if she’s asking for another way to document what is already being presented to the Board on paper, the correct answer would have been yes.] Further discussion: Everything is manual and not on a computer in Pike County so this would be a chore for the school. Audrey said that she works in another school system, and it is computerized there.

A question was asked whether we needed this to justify this to the county commission and more discussion about the procedure that is followed at each school. Rosemary said that one particular school might sign her in if she walks in and her hands are full for the program. Another might greet her and say, I’ve got you and direct her to where she needs to be. Audrey said that she would like the Library Board to ask that each person to personally sign in and out of each school.

Vice Chair Gillian Appleton asked why the issue has come up. Much more discussion about this because school policy is that you sign in. Member Rhonda Morgan said that it would not hurt us to sign in so nobody would question us being there. FRRLS Representative Natalie Marshall said that it sounds like a procedure rather than a policy, and that is not something that the Board addresses. Chairman Lanier said that she thinks this is policy rather than a procedure. [Note from the Editor: Vice Chair Gillian Appleton asked again about what brought this about, but got no answer to that question that I ever heard. Our schools go to great lengths to follow procedure to document everyone who comes and goes into their facilities. I would really like to know what prompted this discussion.]

Library Manager Bunn said that she does exactly what they tell her to do because it is their venue. She said that it has taken her six years to get into the schools here in the school system here, and it didn’t come from not playing well with others. One member said that we are spending a lot of time micromanaging our librarian. She is trained in this and she knows what she is doing. She is concerned that we will frustrate Rosemary out of the library.

Motion passed (with some vehement opposition from some members) that all Pike County Library personnel will sign in and out according to school policy. Member Walker asked if Library Manager Bunn sees them sign her in, is that good enough? Chairman Lanier said that she would personally sign herself in and out.

Vice Chairman Appleton said that we are overly concerning ourselves with library manager issues instead of library issues like growth, etc. She said that she has great faith in Rosemary and what she does. Library Manager Rosemary Bunn said that she is not feeling that faith from the Board. Chairman Audrey Lanier said that she thinks that discomfort is from policies. Member Joy Walker said that Library Manager Bunn is not our employee. She is the county’s employee. Joy said that our job is to support employees and not add burdens to the employees.

Member Morgan said that she learned something from state library training. The library has two bosses: the county and the advisory board. It’s hard to separate that while they are not our employees, we are still over the library. She said that legally we need to careful about some things, and that this is a good move for protection for our employees, the library, and the county.

[Note from the Editor: This entire discussion was painful to sit through, and while I am hearing lip service support for the Library Manager, there is there is a huge difference between lip service and actual support from some sitting at that table based on what I heard at the meeting tonight. (Note that I finished writing this meeting up after the January meeting so this isn't an opinion based on a one time event. I have also read through more than 6 months of emails from the library and county as well as 6 months of Library Board minutes and was concerned with some of what I read.) However, part of the responsibility for this issue lies at the feet of Pike County government because there has not been a clear definition of which entity (County Government or Library Board) is in charge of specific responsibilities related to the Library Manager who is now a county employee per the Library Board's vote earlier this year. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was promised from the past county manager when the Board voted for Rosemary and the employees at the library to become county employees, but the MOU wasn't done before John Hanson resigned as county manager and fell through the cracks with the search for the county manager. This is discussed in the January meeting when the County Manager attended and should be resolved soon though. Overall, I am concerned because this discussion appeared to be an attack on the Library Manager’s credibility, and I never heard what prompted the discussion even though the question was asked several times. On a side note, according to library training that was attended by all but one current Library Board member, the Library Board has specific duties like “working together to make decisions and working as a group, making sure that funding is adequate and aligning the budget with the county government’s vision for the county, setting policy for the library with the library staff being responsible for procedures like the day to day work items, advocating for the library, and setting policy, creating vision, and having oversight of the library. Other important duties include ensuring that the constitution is up to date, posting meetings up to two weeks ahead of time as well as posting board meeting minutes for the public, and updating the by laws as needed.” The difference between policy and procedure is hard to understand, but is laid out above with procedure being the day to day items mentioned above. Policy helps to put procedures into place, but seems to be more general than specifics like what were discussed in this meeting. Click here to read more about this training as well as the verbal resignation from the Chairman and subsequent reversal of her resignation that took place after this meeting.]

Financial reports

Discussion on the official name for this board and money in savings and checking accounts. Vice Chair Appleton said that she would hate to go with the effort to change things on the bank accounts until we find out what we are going to handle in the long-term. This decision will probably be made with the new county manager.

Member Rhonda Morgan left at 5:35 p.m.

Member Walker asked if she has the approval of the board to solicit donations. FRRLS representative Marshall said that it would be good to go through Friends of the Library, Inc. Member Walker asked, Can I advocate for the library? Yes, absolutely!

Chairman Lanier wants the name to be consistent on all of the accounts. If we budget for so much for payroll and there is excess for some reason, that extra rolls backs into the general budget. [Note from the Editor: This is not what the Board was told in the June 14, 2018 meeting right after the vote was made to change library employees to county employees. In that meeting, Chairman Lanier said that she had met with the county payroll representative and reported to the Board that "the county will send any remaining payroll runds (not used) back to the library a the end of each fiscal year, pending an Inter-Governmental agreement." Evidently something has changed since then, but no memorandum of understanding or intergovernmental agreement has been given to the library to date. The memo of understanding is discussed further in the January 2019 meeting that County Manager Bickley attended. This and other issues should be handled soon.]

Discussion about the money in the Library Board account. Some of this contingency and donation, it is not surplus. Approximately $72,000 in checking and approximately $24,000 in savings. The savings account is NOT county money. This was spent down a couple of years ago. Member Walker said that we are halfway through the year so it would be unwise to do anything with this money right now. Some of this money may be earmarked for specific projects.

Library Manager Bunn said that she will discuss all of this with the County Manager in January. Chairman Lanier asked if she would ask what the County Manager and/or the commissioners would like to library to be called. Discussion and consensus that the name on the building is the J. Joel Edwards Public Library and that everything should be the J. Joel Edwards Public Library.

Member Walker is working on getting a donation for a new sign.

The constitution and bylaws will have to be presented to the commissioners at some point. Chairman Lanier will send out the changes to everyone for one more review.

No new business.

No executive session.

Motion to adjourn. 5:51 p.m.

Click here to read more about the training that was offered to our Library Board members to help them know their responsibilities as board members.

To read about the January 10, 2019 meeting, click here.

To read about the November 8, 2018 meeting, click here.