It appears the mold, which has 30 years of well-documented history in the current downtown branch of Shreve a memorial Library, has permeated the administration as well as the board based upon the dysfunctional scheduled meeting March 31. It may as well have been an April Fool’s joke on citizens that board members were educated on both meeting protocol and public records responsibilities.
Somewhat shocking to visitors was that board member and public school librarian, Gail Griffin, attempted to close the meeting in executive session before the meeting even began. Fear that criticism would follow, led the call, and with good reason as four public comments each sounded out against the library’s cancelling of the Sunshine Forum during the national celebration of open government. Complaints were offered by local attorney John Settle, public activist, Willie Bradford, blogger and activist Jimmy Couvillion and myself. Yet the board and administration defended the decision to cancel the forum based on the failure to accurately represent the diversity of the community.
Attorney John Settle announced to Griffin and the board as a whole that if they attempted to improperly close the meeting to the public he would sue each member personally and as a board for violating public meeting requirements. The board attorney who was present informed Griffin that legally the board could not close the meeting to the public in the manner in which Griffin requested.
In complaining about the gender diversity of the Sunshine Forum the board made the statement that no women were on the panel, failing to recognize Shreveport Times writer Alison Bath. Then board members complained that they knew nothing of the composition of the panel until the day prior to the event. It appears that the board doesn’t even read their own website or media releases which based the forum on a national event and the 90-year anniversary of the library system. Sadly, the board ineptly stumbled through much of the meeting appearing to not be prepared to discuss almost all items on the agenda.
From budget to long-term planning to staff responsibilities, motions, votes and committee’s reports seemed unread or not understood by the majority as what traditionally is limited to a one-hour meeting ran far past two hours. At 6:15 (4:00 start time) I had to leave, but a video camera I left recorded the meeting to the bitter end.
Three items of particular note brought from the audience seemed to spark particular interest. First was John Settle’s demand that the meeting would remain open to all. Second, the board has been non-responsive for the most part to public record requests, stating they individually have no emails, texts or other documents related to library business. But each seemed to take copious noted throughout the meeting. These notes should be provided in their original format plus as transcribed.
Thirdly, item #5b on the agenda had to do with patron issues in branches. It was this item that specific public record requests have disclosed that the library has absolutely no policy or procedure for banning patrons from any branch or grounds,yet a 26-page list exists that names hundreds of “Banned Citizens” from any parish library facility.
Reasons that some are banned run the gamut of “fighting” or “crewing disturbances” or ” using library computers for pornographic viewing.” All these issues may be acceptable grounds for restricting citizens from public properties, yet the fact that for years citizens could be banned based upon personal whims of branch management – some as young as seven or eight years of age.
And now for the mold – it seems many outside experts will make money remediating this problem even though the library has staff members who appear to be amply qualified to guide both archives and facilities successfully through the maze. But then the world of library “experts” couldn’t feed each other and pad each other’s wallets. Far more issues appear shady than transparent in the library we need for our community.