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.

4 Responses to Officials need to get it together on Library debacle

  1. Linda Fleming July 2, 2016 at 8:11 am

    Should not be to hard on Sue Jones as we must remember that the proposal was to close all branch libraries and very little adjustment to the Rawlins site in terms of employee costs. The county has to much invested in buildings, furnishings, books and social needs to close the branches. I am happy Sue stepped in with some alternatives and as a County Commissioner she needed to represent the rural citizens in addition to Rawlins. Nearly one half of the users of the library system live in the county. To use the Mayor of Rawlins and Sinclair School as a comparison was a poor example: City of Rawlins does not send funds to the School District nor have oversight on mil levy. It seems to me this became a case of the library board and staff showing and saying, “We will show you!” Things will look up with the two new board members and the few days of closing the doors will probably result in logical solutions that will be good for the central staff and the branches

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  2. Chuck Moore July 2, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    I don’t agree with Linda, I think its going to show us a new set of county commissioners next election year. Those people though elected have absolutely no experience running a library system! Its also pretty evident they have no managerial skills either or their entire staff wouldn’t have quit. You cant call a person that has the qualifications or college education to put together advanced reading literacy programs a “STORYTELLER”. While Bill Nation is using county funds to work on forest service roads, really during a time like this? Just my opinion but we need someone outside to do an assessment of the county system and make recommendations. It may be ugly but its needed at this point.

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  3. Kim Jones July 3, 2016 at 8:08 am

    Linda, you keep reiterating that the proposal was to close all branch libraries, yet I fail to find it anywhere in the library’s budget submissions and library board minutes.
    If you check any of the budget information at the library’s website, carbonlibraries.org, you will see that the Rawlins library is taking the biggest hit of the budget cut.
    Over one half of the county library users are in Rawlins which is suffering from the largest pecentage of the cut.
    Library Board members are appointed by the county commissioners, not the library so the disfunction there falls back to the BOCC.
    The commissiones have stated numerous times at the budget sessions that the library is not a county agency, yet they continually attempt to control the library’s budget (theBOCC’s save the libraries budget drama at Sinclair is the most public attempt).
    The library director warned the commissioners and board that cutting required positions would impact the system, yet was pointedly ignored by those who know better.
    There are now only one M.L.S. librarian seving 8 libraries and she also is required to be covering all the cut positions.
    Staff didn’t leave the library because of the reason you imply, but rather they need gainful employment to pay their bills and feed their families. Others were insulted by both board members and BOCC, many of which I personally heard.
    We were very proud of where CCLS was going in our county and having a unified library system. The original 30% budget submission could have been resolved if the BOCC had not turned it into a political agenda of us vs. them.
    The commissioner’s taking on the utilities for the buildings was a huge help, but still insisting that the library eliminate critcal system wide staff was too much.
    Bobbi Morgan had real, workable solutions had she been aloud to present them. She also had excellent grant writing skills that gave the library staff hope for the future. Our Carbon County libraries will never benefit from her years of real library skills and knowledge because the powers that be are too busy with their own power plays. They are the ones with an attitude problem. We just wanted to do the work we love.
    I plan on seeing you and Sue volunteering at the Rawlins library on a regular basis since you both know more about what’s necessary for running a library system than those who actually work in it.
    Thanks Linda

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  4. lj July 3, 2016 at 10:10 am

    For those who choose to be the “grand-standers” in this argument I certainly hope Sue Jones and others are reviewing their results. We finally found a librarian; and managed to run her out of town. Should the branches stay open? Sure, some already had reduced hours; now they will be reduced even more. Will Rawlins have a library? Well, someone needs to work there; and the commissioners have made it clear they will run the library. Who wants to work for the commissioners? As stated the history of this mess is well-documented in the paper. A future employer has a resume as well as a candidate for the position.

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