The Douglas County, CO, Board of Commissioners wants to take over the naming of library trustees. Since the mid-1990s, new trustees have been nominated by existing trustees, then ratified by the commissioners.
Library district trustees objected to the change at the February 12 meeting where it was proposed. The trustees were particularly concerned that "we did not really have any dialog with them prior to this showing up on their agenda," David Starck, vice president of the library board, said.
The Board of County Commissioners requested a meeting with the library Board of Trustees and tabled the agenda item until March 26. The meeting with the trustees took place on February 25.
According to notes taken at that meeting, the gist of the commissioners' concern is not with the specifics of the library board's process but that it is not the commissioners' own process and this creates ambiguity about who is ultimately responsible.
Starck told LJ, "Their concerns were an issue of accountability at an elected-official level. The Board of Trustees' position was that that is already in place given the current process. The [library] board is not making the final decision; they're just recommending. The Board of Trustees is open to having continued dialog on what process it takes going forward; we would welcome ... greater involvement by the commissioners."
IS THIS ABOUT LARUE?
Commissioner Jack Hilbert, who was not at the February 25 meeting, told the Newi-Press he objects to the high public profile of Douglas County library director Jamie LaRue, who is known on the national library stage for his stance on ebook ownership. LaRue, as a taxpayer, is a plaintiff in a case against the county school district's voucher program.
"I believe that the loss [2008's voter rejection of a library mill-levy increase] was a direct reflection of how people feel about some of the activities of the director," Hilbert said. "You cannot separate your job title from what you're doing. If you do anything that jeopardizes our mission, we really need to bring that into question."
LaRue, however, said the library board hasn't shared Hilbert's belief in a lack of separation between personal and professional lives. "I used to write newspaper columns," LaRue said. "When I would offend somebody, the board would say, 'He's not writing for the library; he's writing for himself.' They totally get the difference between an individual stand and an institutional stand."
Hilbert said his opinion does not reflect the opinion of the commissioners. At the February 25 meeting, board chair Jill Repella and commissioner Roger Partridge said they have no issue with or complaints about the director.
Repella said, "The Board of Douglas County Commissioners will take up the topic of the Library District Board of Trustees appointment process as part of the March 26 business meeting, at which time it will clarify and hear public comment on the addition to the process it has in mind. Specifically, we believe the library district's Board of Trustees appointment process should include a link and accountability to the citizens and taxpayers of Douglas County."
In what may foreshadow the discussion to occur at that meeting, the library Board of Trustees wrote a column in the News-Press, which read in part, "Library law is explicit about accountability: it is the Trustees, and only the Trustees, who are responsible for adopting a budget, for setting policy, for evaluation of the director, for the acquisition and disposition of property, and more."