New library board takes matters into its own hands

Morgan told to hand in her keys

Rawlins Daily Times, Trudy Balcom Library Board Chair Joyce Menke  told members of the audience to sit down, after they stood in protest of the dismissal of Library Director Bobbie Morgan, far right.

Rawlins Daily
Times, Trudy Balcom
Library Board Chair Joyce Menke told members of the audience to sit down, after they stood in protest of the dismissal of Library Director Bobbie Morgan, far right.

By Trudy Balcom

tbalcom@rawlinstimes.com

RAWLINS — The four-hour plus special meeting of the Library Board of Directors Wednesday night opened with the election of new officers.

A seemingly routine board duty, however, led to a change in leadership for both the Board and the Carbon County Library System, as well as a powerful change of direction for a county agency struggling with a sharply reduced budget and a deep divide between board and staff members.

Two new board members were seated at the table for their first meeting, Cindy Bloomquist, of Saratoga, and Eleanore Behrmann, of Encampment.

The board immediately elected Joyce Menke as board chair and Tom Callison as vice chair, with former board chairman Joanne Whitson voting against those elections. Behrmann was elected as secretary and Bloomquist was elected treasurer.

Menke immediately took over the position as chair and began directing the meeting.

The Board then decamped into a separate room for an executive session to deal with personnel issues. County Attorney Ashley Mayfield Davis joined them to provide the board with counsel.

‘A way to show our protest’

Mira Miller, a former librarian and a current member of the Carbon County Library Foundation Board, discussed her feelings about the board’s activities with the audience remaining in the room.

She invited everyone to stand as “a way to show our protest for improper actions” on the part of the Board. Miller was referring to the Board’s treatment of Library Director Bobbie Morgan, and other staff.

Others questioned Carbon County Commissioner Leo Chapman, who also attended the meeting, about how to recall library board members. Chapman said he was unsure about the procedure.

When the board returned 30 minutes later, they were greeted by an audience on their feet — but no applause.

“While you were in executive session, it became very apparent that there is a tremendous lack of trust in the Board,” one man told Menke.

That lack of trust was expressed repeatedly, as later in the meeting the Board began to discuss how to fill vacant positions, including positions for information specialists — the front desk staff — at the Rawlins library.

Nearly all of the resigned staff members were in the audience. One woman stood up and asked if the Board had discussed with Morgan their plan to bring new staff to the Rawlins library.

Menke said they had not.

“We are taking over, as a board, the running of the library. She will be turning in her keys as of tonight,” Menke said of Morgan.

Immediately, about a dozen people leaped to their feet in protest, including Morgan, accompanied by an angry outcry.

“You’ve just walked away from $50,000 in grants,” Morgan said.

Menke, Morgan and Davis departed the room, possibly to discuss legal details of Morgan’s dismissal. Morgan had protested that her employment status was not discussed in open session as she had requested.

“You’ve just insulted a woman who has done everything the Board asked of her,” said former library bookkeeper April Martinez.

Board members explained to the audience that Morgan would be paid through July 18, her formal date of resignation.

Rawlins Daily Times, Trudy Balcom JoAnne Connors, the only Rawlins Library staffer who did not resign and was not dismissed, signed up kids for the Summer reading Program on Thursday when the library reopened. Ceanna Garner signed up for for the program.

Rawlins Daily Times, Trudy Balcom
JoAnne Connors, the only Rawlins Library staffer who did not resign and was not dismissed, signed up kids for the Summer reading Program on Thursday when the library reopened. Ceanna Garner signed up for for the program.

Moving forward

Board members told the audience that Morgan needed to go immediately because there was too much negativity and so the library could move forward.

“There were hard feelings all over,” Menke said after she returned to the meeting. “There are further extenuating circumstances.”

All of the former library employees departed the meeting after Morgan’s abrupt dismissal, and Miller again expressed her shock and protest.

Board members responded that they had not received copies of any of the letters of resignation from the staff, not even Morgan’s own letter of resignation, even though they had requested them from Morgan. Whitson said she had received a hard copy of Morgan’s letter, but had not disseminated it among other board members.

With the departure of Morgan, there is only one paid staff person remaining at the Rawlins library — Youth Services Director JoAnne Connors.

The meeting concluded with the board discussing how to hire former and current branch library staff to reopen the Rawlins library.

“The library will be open again (Thursday),” Menke emphatically stated.

The next meeting of the Carbon County Library Board will be held at 4 p.m. at the Hanna Library. A Town Hall meeting will be held at 6:30. Both meetings are open to the public.

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20 Responses to New library board takes matters into its own hands

  1. lj July 8, 2016 at 7:30 am

    Interesting; new board members are from Elk Mountain, Saratoga, Encampment, no one there from Rawlins? Told Director to turn her keys in last night. Wonder if Rawlins Will have a library! This meeting was a disaster that finally happened.

    Reply
  2. J July 8, 2016 at 8:12 am

    I was at this meeting. It should be noted that board meeting Joyce Mehnke assured everyone in the room that she would have nothing to do with hiring personnel other than “gathering applications” before doing a complete 180 and announcing she had a list of people to bring in, some of which would be hired at her descretion.

    She completely circumvented Bobbie Morgan when it came to hiring, something that the board has had nothing to do with in the past (for IS positions). And was disrespectful to the now former director and former staff throughout the meeting.

    Mehnke also has very little knowledge of positions or inner workings of the library, something made evident by the fact that she cosistantly refers to all staff as ‘librarians’ when that title requires a Masters degree. Though this was pointed out to her at the meeting, it didn’t keep her from continuing to misclassify positions for the rest of the night.

    Reply
  3. JM July 8, 2016 at 10:05 am

    The disrespect shown to the meeting attendees by some library board members was appalling. Tom Callison was muttering rude words under his breath throughout the entire meeting along with showing a very hostile demeanor. Joyce Menke was dismissing questions from both the public and Director Morgan. It appeared there was something to hide. And there was something to hide because as decisions were made after Morgan’s dismissal they were contradicting the previous discussions and decisions made earlier in the meeting by the board.
    Ms. Miller was very courageous to step up and address the attendees about ways we could show the library board that these unprofessional actions will not be tolerated. I will be one of the first to sign a petition asking County Commissioners to remove board members Menke and Callison.
    Upon leaving the meeting, I was left with a feeling that this was only a temporary fix and that the untrustworthy board will continue to destroy the library system with their actions if changes are not made.

    Reply
  4. Cindy Bloomquist July 8, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    As a new Board member, I want to assure the public that I am dedicated to Open Meeting law, did not make decisions in collusion with other Board members. I said then, and I say now, that I’m sorry that Bobbie and the other information d pecs lists resigned. I wished they had touched it out in the rough period of reaction to a greatly decreased budget. We have 2 retired Executive Directors ready to be the top Librarian for a 12 month interim period. The library is open. The branches are ooen, and we will do our best to serve the patrons on all the libraries. Please give us a chance.

    Reply
  5. K July 8, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    The public wants a library but it is hard to go there when the board is disrespectful to it’s current and past employees and the community. There are several people on the board that should not be there. Why wouldn’t the board/lawyers be truthful when an audience member asked how we can dismiss board members that we as a community feel are doing an injustice to the libraries? Lots of questions with very few answers.

    Reply
  6. Katie Bray July 8, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Cindy,
    Just having the library open is not enough. Managing libraries is a big job that is best left to people who have the training and the experience. Do either of your interim executive directors have administratime experience (beyond branch management – full library administration is a whole other kettle of fish), do they have library degrees, and what are their qualifications?

    I suggest you and these new executives take advantage of the State Library’s training for new board members and new directors. I think you’ll discover that much of what was done at the July 6 meeting was inappropriate and borderline illegal. Especially in regards to open meeting laws.

    Secondly, shame on you for wishing Morgan and the other former staff members had “toughened out”. They were all in an impossible situation with almost no support from their board (other than Joanne – bless her). They did what they had to do to survive. Given the environment (chaotic and unsupportive), would you be willing to work there? Probably not.

    I know you are trying your best, but this situation is toxic for the library and the community. I suggest you learn how a library board functions, get rid of the problematic board members, and try to win back the former employees – they are the ones who can keep the library functioning as it should. Also, by the way, hiring and training new employees is EXPENSIVE.

    -Katie Bray, MLIS, former Interim CCLS Director

    Reply
  7. Katie Bray July 8, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Also, I wanted to send out a huge thank you to Mira Miller for being such a staunch ally to the Carbon County Library! Your grace under pressure is always needed and apprieciated. I wish I could have been there to stand beside you.

    Reply
  8. Kendra Sisneros July 8, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    Katie thank you! We have been trying for weeks to explain how a library runs. It takes training and much more. People get MLIS degrees for a reason. Seriously, the staff that is no longer there, and the Branch Managers are insulted over and over and over again. The meeting on Wednesday, when they told Bobbie to turn in her keys was HORRIBLE. What kind of people humiliate someone like this? Why was she not treated with respect? Why, when asked to publicly tell her why she was being removed, did they decline and just say no? People called for them to stop hiding things and they continued on as though no one else matters. How can this be a board for the public, when they are so self-serving. Joyce Menke has taken over Director duties, when she clearly knows nothing about a library system. I have personally witnessed her and Tom Callison degrade employees. Bobbie Morgan deserved respect. The staff that left deserve respect. The Board should be there to better the library and make it function well. Not cause all this chaos.

    Please sign our petition!
    https://www.change.org/p/carbon-county-wyoming-board-of-commissioners-removal-of-joyce-menke-and-tom-callison-from-carbon-county-library-system-board?utm_source=embedded_petition_view

    Reply
    • Cynthia Bloomquist July 8, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      Sometimes all is not what it seems. Unfortunately the Exec Director resigned. When someone gives 2 weeks notice, it’s positive and both sides part amiably. This was not the case here. I’m not saying it wasn’t rough on her, but it was also hard on the Commissioners and the Board. As a new member the huge necessary budget cut caused lots of unfortunate hard feelings and some inappropriatechnical hard things said on both sides. But it’s tI’m to move on. I was at the Rawlins library today and there were happy folks and children. That’s the Boards responsibility.

      Reply
    • Cindy Bloomquist July 9, 2016 at 12:15 am

      I was at the library today, and, for the short term, all is well. We have interested real Librarians that want to be interim Executive Director. I’m sorry to say, as I’m new here, but my review of past news and emails, there is plenty of disrespect on all sides. Which is too bad. All the folks involved seem competent and dedicated. All we can do now is move ahead and serve the people of Carbon County with the people that chose not to resign.

      Reply
  9. Marvin Cronberg July 8, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    Boards of Directors have fiduciary responsibility to set policy for staff to follow. If the staff don’t follow policy, the Board has the responsibility of dismissal among other disciplinary actions. I suspect that Ms. Morgans actions presumed the authority of the Board, or usurped that authority. There are always hard feelings surrounding terminations but that does not mean the action was incorrect or wrong. I support the actions of the Board

    Reply
    • Katie July 11, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Marvin,
      Bobby Morgan resigned because she didn’t feel like she had the respect or the support from the board. They asked her to turn in her keys early so that they could take over operation of the library which, in general, is not a part of a library board’s duty and is generally frowned upon for numerous reasons – mostly having to do with labor laws.

      You are correct in stating that the board has fiduciary responsibility for the library system and that they also help set policy, but they actually don’t have the right to dismiss library staff. They only are responsible for the hiring (and firing) of the executive director.

      So now the board is acting well beyond its duties and is running all aspects of the library without the training, the expertise, or the understanding that is needed. I would still like to know the qualifications and experience of the two income interim directors because right now this library is not functioning as it should.

      Reply
      • Marvin Cronberg July 11, 2016 at 2:10 pm

        Katie: Thank you for your insight. In my experience as a principal staff officer of one national organization and three state organizations I can state unequivocally that it would be rare for most board members to understand the day to day functions of their subsidiary oversight. It is the obligation of the principal staff member to make sure the board is fully informed so their policies reflect the institution”s best interests. If Ms. Morgan failed to do this then the fault is not the Board’s. Requesting a resignation is a subtle form of termination. I also have had that experience!

        Reply
        • Cindy Bloomquist July 11, 2016 at 4:16 pm

          No one requested her resignation. Ms. Morgan resigned on 6/24 with her last day to be 7/18 (her chosen date). The Board only requested she terminate her functions at the last Board meeting, but she will still be paid until the 18th.

          Reply
          • Marvin Cronberg July 12, 2016 at 11:17 am

            If she quit. she quit. That doesn’t change anything/ I detect a certain personal bias in your comments.

          • Cindy Bloomquist July 12, 2016 at 11:43 am

            No bias. Disappointed she didn’t make it through the rough budget talks. But like you said, she quit.

  10. Marvin Cronberg July 8, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Ms. Bray: I suggest you spend more time understanding the relationship of a duly elected Board and its staff. Yes, professional people are an asset to a Board as long as they don’t presume to speak for the Board without policy direction. I think you should be pleased that a Board takes it’s responsibility seriously. Most Boards are just rubber stamps. I commend the Library Board for their courage in dealing with this controversial problem.

    Reply
    • Katie July 11, 2016 at 11:07 am

      Marvin,
      I won’t spend time defending my degree or my experience in libraries, administration, and library board matters both in Rawlins and in other parts of the country. Suffice to say, I have the knowledge and understanding of how a library board ought to function.

      That being said, I have never seen a board act as carelessly, inappropriately, and unprofessionally as this current library board is acting. They are currently skirting the edge of public meeting law and violating their own by-laws (which you can find on the carbonlibraries.org website).

      Directors and boards are supposed work together to determine policy and financial responsibility for their libraries. Most boards trust their director to use their expertise to help guide systems through rough times while giving advice and policy direction.

      This current board failed Bobby Morgan, it failed its employees, and it failed Carbon County. I would be happy to point out in all the ways it failed, but I would rather get the new board members (like Cindy) training from the State Library so that they can weather this crisis and hopefully get the library back on the right track.

      Reply
  11. Cindy Bloomquist July 9, 2016 at 12:51 am

    Marvin, thank you. One last point. Bobbie Morgan was not terminated, she and some library staff resigned. The Board decided in Executive Session, which is where matters of personnel are discussed to relieve her of her duties 2 weeks after she resigned, but a week before her chosen last day. It’s time to move on.

    Reply
  12. Marvin Cronberg July 11, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Cindy: I will admit that Board’s go off half-cocked sometimes. Especially in the case where i was asked for my resignation after enforcing one of my Boards policies! However I still maintain that a properly informed Board will set the proper policies.

    Reply

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