Officials need to get it together on Library debacle
By Chad Abshire
Daily Times editor
We just can’t keep up with the debacle that’s locally known as the Carbon County Library System.
What began as a story about a tight budget in a rough economic time has transformed into a sorry amalgamation of all that. On top of it, officials are overstepping boundaries and setting precedents with callous disregard.
About two weeks ago, the question was whether or not the branch libraries would close at the start of July. That seems forever ago.
Now, the main branch of the Library System, the Rawlins Public Library, is closed until at least July 6. That’s when a meeting is set for the Library Board of Directors to figure out what’s going on.
The sad part is that there was a glimmer of hope, for at least a moment, that the community could still enjoy the library’s limited services.
Thursday afternoon, the Library Board of Directors announced the Rawlins Library would remain open, albeit with significantly reduced services and different hours. Not the best, but a decent compromise, all things considered.
But Friday morning, Library Director Bobbie Morgan said the vote was incomplete, that a recount was performed and that the Board had actually decided to shutter the building.
It’s unacceptable, and embarrassing, for the county seat to forgo the benefits of a library — especially when school’s out for the summer.
Given the deep budget cuts and library staff resignations and layoffs, we weren’t sure if anyone was even still employed at the Rawlins Library to operate it. Looks like we weren’t too far off base.
We get it. Times are tough for every department in the county that relies on public spending, but this is no longer a problem of just dealing with funding cuts.
This is a problem borne from losing the trust of library employees, brought on by haughty actions with a touch of incompetency on the part of both the Carbon County Commissioners and the Library Board.
It’s ironically hilarious that Commissioner Sue Jones practically led a coup d'etat at the Library Board’s public meeting June 20 that was set to go over Morgan’s most recent budget iteration in an effort to save the outlying branch libraries.
“I’m adamant and committed to keep these libraries open,” Jones said at the meeting — a meeting that she presented a budget that she’d prepared for the library board.
The budget she came up with, Jones told those in attendance, was based upon a budget submitted earlier by the Library Board that cut costs by 30 percent, but with some additional cuts, primarily to library staff that serve in Rawlins.
That budget was ultimately accepted — a move that left us confused. It was a complete 180 from previous stances taken from the Library.
In an open letter posted to the Library’s website just days before the meeting, Library Board President Joanne Whitson wrote: “As a Library Board member, it is scary to me that the Commissioners are taking that much control and are trying to set a precedent and dictate what the Library Board can and cannot do with the budget.”
Rather than let Morgan finish what she’d come up with, the Library Board allowed Jones to swoop in and save the day with a budget she had come up with — a move sorely out of line with the professionalism we expect from any elected official, much less a county commissioner.
That’s like Mayor Robert Grauberger crashing the Carbon County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees meeting, holding up a budget and claiming “there’s a way to keep Sinclair Elementary open and I found out how!”
Who’s to say that Morgan didn’t come up with an even better solution than Jones? We never found out.
We’re not surprised that Morgan resigned. We can’t really blame her. She didn’t sign up for this. She probably expected to come in, deal with a budget in a rough time (standard protocol for a woman of her experience) and lead the Library through a rough time.
Instead, she’s been the lead story of the Rawlins Daily Times more than she’d probably like — in stories that she’d likely rather not be in.
And we’d rather not be writing those stories. We’d rather be writing stories about the latest program dreamed up by Anne Price, we’d rather be shooting more photos of story time with Bridget Manley.
But we can’t. And we’re wondering when we, and the roughly 3,000 people who use the Rawlins Public Library on a monthly basis, will be able to even step foot inside again.