Thursday, December 02, 2021

The Basics and the Intricacies of the Open Meeting Law

I began this blog post in March 2021 after attending a webinar entitled "The Basics and the Intricacies of the Open Meeting Law," which was focused on open meeting law in New York State.  Even though that event was months ago, I'm going to summarize information from from the event, because it is still relevant.  I've kept some of the COVID-related information, because it might be interesting or useful.

Background

Since I became ta member of my public library system's board of trustees,  I have been learning about Open Meeting Law in New York State. Public institutions in NYS must comply with Open Meeting Law. The text of the law is on the NYS Committee on Open Government (COOG) website. What is the Committee on Open Government? The site says:

The Committee on Open Government oversees and advises the government, public, and news media on Freedom of Information, Open Meetings, and Personal Privacy Protection Laws. The Committee offers guidance in response to phone inquiries, prepares written legal advisory opinions, and provides training to government and other interested groups.

Text of the law is on the website and it is not long; however, it can cause an organization to raise many questions, which you can see in the opinions rendered. The basic idea of Open Meeting Law is that the governing bodies of public institutions should be transparent in what they are doing and thus their meetings should be open, Open Meeting Law states what that means and provides rules to follow. Following the law can be both easy and hard.

Notes

  • Open Meeting Law is codified in NYS Public Officer Law, Article 7, which was updated in 2021. The COOG website includes those updates.
  • The COOG website contains advisory opinions index alphabetically by key phrase. When looking at the opinions, it can be helpful to look at several since they may provide different information.
  • Public business be held in an open and public manner.
  • Citizens have the right to attend and listen to deliberations.
  • With a public body, the whole public body (e.g., all of the trustees) are together one type of committee that is subject to open meeting law. In addition, a subcommittee, which is entirely comprised of members of the larger body is also subject to open meeting law. The fact that it is less that the quorum of the entire body is irrelevant.
    • For example, a 15-member city council, with a 3-member subcommittee. That subcommittee is its own public body. (More than 2 members.)
  • Are you having a meeting?
    • Is there a quorum present? Quorum is 50% of the entire board/counsel.  If the board has 11 members (even if some positions are vacant), the quorum is 6.
    • Will you be discussing public business?
    • If yes, you are having a meeting regardless of the intent to take action. 
    • There is no legal distinctions between workshops, meetings, agenda setting sessions, informal gathering, if you are discussing or conducting public business.
  • What might be outside the scope of a public meeting?
    • Site visits - no discussion or deliberation. Only for gathering information.
    • Retreat or educational seminar. Team building. Not there to discuss their own public interest.
    • Attendance at committee meeting as a member of the public
    • Social, e.g., holiday gatherings
  • During the COVID pandemic, how a meeting was defined changed due to the Governor's Executive Orders and actions taken by the State Legislature. Given what we experienced during the pandemic, the question is whether some of those changes may become permanent.
  • You cannot conduct a meeting by teleconference (phone) or email. Sharing information through email is appropriate. There should not be substantial deliberations via email.
  • Notice of Every Meeting
    • Time and place of the meeting
    • Prior to every meeting
    • To the media - local media must have notice that the meeting will occur
    • Must be posted on a designated physical location
    • On the website
    • Must be given 72 hours for meetings schedule more than 1 week in advance
    • For meeting on short notice, notice must be given to extend practicable.
    • Do you need to meet quickly? What would the harm be if delayed?
  • Minutes
    • Must include motions, resolutions, votes
    • Does not need to be a verbatim account of the meeting
    • Does not need to include a summary of deliberations or public comments 
    • Must be available within two weeks for open sessions, and within one week for executive sessions (if action taken).
      • Does not matter whether minutes are unapproved or in draft form
      • Nothing in the law states that minutes must be approved
      • They must be made available upon request
  • Recording
    • Any meeting that is open to the public can be photographed, recorded, or broadcast
    • Agency is not obligated to record
    • Agency may establish reasonable rules to limit disruption
  • Executive Session
    • It is part of an open meeting
    • Cannot be held prior to an open meeting
    • It cannot be a separate session 
    • Most have a motion
    • Upon majority vote
    • Specificity of the motion, signal proper purpose
    • Discuss items that would be harmful if disclosed
    • Cannot just say that you are entering an Executive Session for "personnel" matters. The wording needs to be more specific. (See the law)
  • Public Participation
    • Not required
    • Can establish reasonable rules, e.g., time limits, limited to agenda items
    • Implement fairly and consistently
    • Hearings are not the same as meetings. There are other statutes that govern public hearings.
  • Matters/Records Scheduled to be Discussed
    • There is no obligation to prepare or follow an agenda
    • Proposed resolutions, etc., shall be made available by required, prior to the meeting, or at the meeting
  • Section 108 Exemptions for Meeting Behind Closed Doors
    • Judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings
    • Deliberations of political committees, conferences or caucuses - discussion must be limited to political business
    • Any matter made confidential by federal or state law, e.g., meetings with agency attorney covered by attorney client privilege.
    • Non-Compliance and Enforcement
  • Enforcement is through the initiation of a CPLR Article 78 proceeding in State Supreme Court. The Court has authority to:
    • Award costs and attorney's fees
    • Invalidate action - likely if the violation is substantial
    • Require training 

Questions


Some of these questions were specific to meetings being held during the pandemic.
  • Must members of the public identify themselves when attending a meeting? No.
  • Must members of the board/committee have cameras on at all times? In non-COVID times, yes.
  • If a meeting is recorded in non-COVID times, the recording needs to be kept for 4 months. There is no obligation that a transcript be prepared.
  • We note on our meeting minutes who from the public attended (which could be staff). Do we need to do that? This is not needed. Members of the public may not want to be listed.
  • Under the Governor's Executive Order (during COVID), the transcripts created by Zoom, etc., are sufficient.
  • Do attendees need to identify themselves? No. Attending a meeting cannot be conditional of identify yourself. 
    • During COVID, you may collect this information for contract tracing.
    • If the building has security procedures which require identification, that is different than open meeting law.
  • Definition of committees:
    • If the committee is comprised of only members of the larger body, it is subject to the Open Meeting Law.
    • Advisory committees with mostly non-board members are not likely subject to Open Meeting Law.
    • Committees subject to NYS statute are subject to Open Meeting Law.
  • During COVID and the Governor's Executive Order, a committee can meet in person and give the public a remote option for attending. 
    • The in-person gathering, under COVID, must be able to accommodate social distancing.
  • Telephone meetings - less than a quorum - are allowed.
  • If action is taken in Executive Session, your clerk should be present to record the action.
  • If a virtual meeting is live-streamed (during COVID), the public can watch. They do not need to be able to make comments.

Final Thoughts

This was not my first training on open meeting law and likely will not be my last. (See NYLA2018 post, elective session script) While the law seems simple and it is easy to implement, it is hard because it means being very transparent and that can be awkward if people feel that they are discussing something sensitive like the budget. We need to keep in mind that being transparent is good for our communities.

The idea that a agenda does not need to be followed is liberating for me, but I also have learned that having a standard agenda is helpful for everyone involved. Personally I think the agenda should help the organization focus and be able to change when needed.

Personally, I appreciate minutes which capture some of the discussion. Why? Because I think it is important to know what was discussed.  I've been in groups where someone will say, "check the minutes" and then see that the minutes don't provide any clues about what was said.  I think minutes should be helpful and provide a historical record. But that's me and I know that it is more than what is needed. (Yes, I recognize that people can keep their own notes, but that doesn't help when everyone who was around when 'that thing happened' is gone.)

I've learned that even committees can have executive sessions. Useful and good to know.

In another training, I've learned that anyone can attend an open meeting, whether or not they live in that area.  In other words, there is no residency requirement. You might want to exclude someone, but you can't. 

Also interesting that you do not need to capture the name of everyone in attendance.  If it is your practice to capture everyone's name, a person can ask to be unnamed.

The meeting is for the board/committee that is meeting and it should be useful for them. Hearing from others - e.g., a time for receiving comments - is not needed. If a board decided to receive comments, it should do so in a consistent manor and only receive the comments and not get into a discussion.

BTW checking the advisory opinions, I see that adhering to Robert's Rules of Order is not in the law, although a body may adopt to use Robert's Rules or adopt another set of rules.

Finally, having gone through open meeting law training, I think the more people trained in it for a public body (e.g., board), the better.  That will help the public body consider and implement open meeting law well, even when being transparent is uncomfortable. Honestly, I keep learning new things about open meeting law and how to implement it, which means that there is much to consider in how it is applied.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

#NYLA2021: Notes from Day 2 In-person Conference, Nov. 5

Jill with mask
This year, the New York Library Association held its annual conference in both virtual (Oct. 28-29)and in-person (Nov. 3-6) day 2 of the in-person conference.
 
Friday I started with Trustees (Not In) Legal Jeopardy! with Stephanie "Cole" Adams, JD.  Adams did her session like the Jeopardy game show, with questions on the screen and the participants yelling out answers. Adams then would give us additional information.  That made the session a lot of fun and also hard to take notes.

Description:
Being a trustee takes dedication, awareness, and a willingness to learn the ropes of library and not-for-profit legal considerations. Since that is a lot of work, this session will make it fun, promoting awareness of the most critical aspects of library trustee ethics and responsibilities through a game-show format: "What is...a fiduciary?" "What is...a conflict of interest?" "What is...Director's & Officer's Insurance?"  You will wager all of your late fees as you test and build your trustee skills in this fun and highly informative session! (Non-trustees also welcome.)
Resources:

My last in-person session was Friendly Relationships, Working Together for the Library. I've already written about this session and you can read it here.

Final Thoughts

Librarians Threaten Ignorance
This was my first in-person conference since ALA Midwinter in January 2020.  If I had known that trip to Philly would be my last for many months, I would have enjoyed it more, which would have included eating more sticky buns! Since then I've attended many online events, including a number of conference, and have given webinars, conference presentations, and keynotes.  Our pivot to doing everything online wasn't always smooth, but we were able to do it...bumps and all. 
 
The in-person portion of the NYLA Annual Conference had to comply with rules for the convention center, which is a County facility. Those rules included wearing a mask at all times, except when eating.  In conference sessions, we sat 6 feet apart, which gave us space for our bags and backpacks (a positive). 
 
The conference made it easy for people to signal how comfortable they were with physical contact. A red ribbon on a person's badge meant they did not want any touching. A yellow ribbon, which I had, signaled elbow bumps. A green ribbon meant that handshakes and hugs were welcome.  I hope some version of this remains at conferences in the future, since I know that we all have different tolerances for hugs from colleagues we really don't know.

Reportedly there were 380 people registered for the in-person conference, plus those staffing the Trade Show. This is noticeably smaller than normal and fit with the rules of the convention center, which put a cap on how many people could attend. This made is a cozy conference, which I think people appreciated.

Next year's conference will be on  November 2-5, 2022 in Saratoga Springs.  That location attracts people from all across the state. Will there be an online component? Time will tell. I know it takes a tremendous effort to do a virtual conference, plus an in-person conference, plus on-demand sessions. NYLA will have to determine what is best for NYLA members and what it's conference budget can bear.

#NYLA2021: How to Hire and Inspire (and Occasionally Fire) Library Employees, Legally!

Libraries: We're all in logo
This year, the New York Library Association held its annual conference in both virtual (Oct. 28-29) and in-person (Nov. 3-6) formats, as well as having on-demand content. Below are notes from one of the virtual sessions.

Description

In this session, we will discuss a variety of employment law topics and the laws that govern them. Topics will include hiring and firing of employees, paid leave laws and policies, employee misconduct, discrimination and harassment, interpersonal conflict and bullying, wage and hour concerns, performance issues, safety concerns, and more. Using real world scenarios that arise in libraries, we will identify legal issues and plan practical approaches to resolving personnel problems. We will examine how federal and state employment laws and library policy work together, with a special focus on the requirements imposed by new legislation and recent court decisions.

Presenters

  • Ellen M. Bach, Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP 
  • Robert T. Schofield, Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP 

Notes

Bach & Schofield used hypothetical situations during this session. You will notice many questions below and not always a "do this." Also I was taking notes quickly, so there could be other laws which apply in these scenarios.

Hypothetical #1: Yes, the position sounds great...can I do it from home? The person has a child who learns from home virtually on some days.

Do you have an obligation under current law to hire this person and allow the person to work from home? Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FSCRA)? Not currently. NYS COVID leave law? But this is only during a quarantine or something else that sends the person home. And that is not remote work, but is paid leave.

But what if they ask was about accessibility and accommodations, and the person has documentation to support them working from home part-time? That changes the analysis. ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and NYS Human Rights Law would cause you to engage with the person and see what is possible for that person to work from home.

What if the person's job is being done virtually, e.g., someone doing children's programming? How does that change the scenario for you?

Can you pay a bonus to help the person cover the cost of childcare, so the person will work in the office full-time? This would not be a gift, but paying something to get something.  A gift would be illegal for libraries who are receiving public funds.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policies apply to large association libraries (over 50 employees). FMLA applies to pubic libraries, but there are more technicalities. Take to HR or your attorney before you implement a policy.

A relevant opinion from the NYS Comptroller's Office is 91-32. It is not about a library, but Bob Schofield referenced it.

Hypothetical #2: Can't we just make the employee "on leave," leave?

What laws apply?

  • Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • NYS Human Rights Law
  • Workers Compensation?
  • Civil Service?

Is there a part for discipline? Is there a pathway towards a disability? You need to talk directly to the employee.  If the person will not talk with you, you need to send a letter and know that it has been received. Explain that the employee has been out without a basis for the absence. Establish that the person needs to have a conversation with you.  If the person does not talk with you and does not respond, you can send a follow-up letter with what the discipline is.

You might want the employee to talk with their doctor, with their job description in hand, to determine what accommodation the person needs in order to do their job.

Hypothetical #3: Go sleep at home...and don't come back? An employee seems to be sleeping at work and may have a mental health condition for which the person is taking medication.

Sleeping on a job - in a perfect world - is a fire-able offense. You would need to document the occurrences, as well as have counseled and disciplined the employee. You need written warnings and perhaps a last chance warning.

However, here there is rumor of a mental health condition. Is the condition or the medication causing the employee to fall asleep?  Don't assume a disability, but also don't hide your head in the sand. If you seem to know that there is a disability, the court will take that into account.

What laws apply?

  • Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • NYS Disability?
  • Civil Service?

A disability issue is a big issue. Mental health and substance abuse issues are becoming a large part of Bach and Schofield's practice. 

Do not second guess medical professionals. You may need to ask additional questions, but don't assume the role of a doctor.

Question: We are an association library and are considering a retroactive raise this year at the end of the year. We also considering an equivalent of a week's pay at the end of the year. Are these OK? They are funded by a 414 levy. 

If they were not publicly funded, this would be fine. Private employers do this!

If it is a public library, you do not want to make a retroactive gift. You could make a longevity bonus, because you would get something (longevity) for the gift. 

The Comptroller does recognize that retroactive raise as the result of a collective bargaining settlement is fine.

Hiring Considerations:

  • Think about the basic discrimination statutes.
  • Consider blind reviews of resumes.
  • Do not ask for medical, conviction, or salary history.
  • Be careful with background sheets. Get all of the right consents.
  • Be careful of asking questions that try to get at protected information in a round about why.
  • Focus on the person's experience, etc.
  • A person may volunteer information.

Hypothetical #4: The protected poor performer...  

If a person has voiced concerns about the workplace (harassment, etc.), the library director should have someone look into these allegations.  It should be an outsider who is skilled in handling these matters.

If two employees are not getting along, is there something that is actionable? An investigator may find there is none.

Be careful that you do not overlook discriminatory circumstances.

What laws apply?

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act?
  • New York State Human Rights Law?
  • National Labor Relations Act
  • Education Law 226(7)

Communications through social media may be protected activities. The posts may be annoying, but you may not be able to do anything about it.

Employees need multiple places to report concerns, because the director might be the harasser or a friend of a harasser. A claim a discrimination made to the trustees needs to be given to someone who can dig into it.

Question: Can you elaborate more on when and how you can do background checks?

If you are going to do a background check, you need to receive consent from the employee. If you are going to use the information, perhaps not to hire the employee, you need to give the employee an opportunity to correct the information.

There are positions in libraries where you might want to do a background check. You should do it after you have made a hiring decision. Make a conditional offer and then do the background check. Does the nature of the conviction have a nexus with the requirements for the job?

Corrections Law and Human Rights Law comes into play.

Question: I have a plot twist with the association library wishing to pay retroactive raises or end of year additional week pay. The funds we would like to use this year are from the PPP/Cares Act grant from the federal government. This is the Paycheck Protection Program. Would this be allowed? 

Perhaps. Schofield would want to talk in detail with the client, to ensure that the money is segregated.

#NYLA2021: Notes from Day 1 In-person Conference, Nov. 4

Keynote session
This year, the New York Library Association held its annual conference in both virtual (Oct. 28-29)and in-person (Nov. 3-6) day 1 of the in-person conference.

The conference began - as it always does - with the NYLA Business Meeting and breakfast. For me, the most important item on the agenda was approval of the revised NYLA bylaws, because I had helped ot work on them.  Bylaws should be reviewed regularly and updated as needed. Unfortunately, the NYLA bylaws hadn't been touched in a while so an update was needed. NYLA members voted to adopt the new bylaws!

The roles of the conference facility were that we had to wear masks at all times, except when we were eating. For me, this cut down on the free food I was willing to eat, because that meant removing my mask.  In all of the sessions, people were spaced out (see photo above) to maintain social distancing. The exhibitors in the Trade Show area where also spaced out more for the same reason.

After the business meeting is the keynote speaker.  This year, the speaker was author Robert (Bob) Kolker, who wrote Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family (paid link). No notes can capture his ability to tell a story and the complexity of the real-life family in this book. The parents had 12 children (10 male, 2 female), with six of the males having schizophrenia. It is extremely rare to find Schizophrenia in that many siblings, which means that have been studied by medical researchers in order to learn more about this disorder. You can read about this book on the book website, NPR interview, and Forbes review.  It is a complex story and one that will likely draw the reader in. 

New York State Librarian Lauren Moore held a session entitled A New Way to RAC (Regents Advisory Council). The description was:

Building on the success of the Vision 2020 plan, RAC (Regents Advisory Council on Libraries) is looking at newer ways to improve services.  This program will include a discussion and we need your input.  The RAC Vision Plan 2020 presented strategic directions for New York's libraries and library systems and was developed in partnership with the state's library community.  It provided a clear vision of what excellent libraries should look like, and affirmed the ongoing value of the library system.
This was a brainstorming/feedback session, where Moore provided background on information being collected by RAC statewide, then asked for our input. We worked in small groups. 

The Regents Advisory Council thinks deeply about the needs of all type of libraries across NYS and provides information to the Board of Regents.  Having served on RAC, I think most people have no idea this group exists and how influential they can be.  It really behooves people - especially library staff - to know who represents their region on RAC and to help them think about the needs of libraries. Some members of RAC are not librarians, so giving them input can be quite helpful.

The last session I attended on Thursday was Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Toolbox with Kelly Harris and Trina Reed. The session description was:
In 2020 a group of library administrators from Nassau and Suffolk counties came together to address the issue of diversity, equity and inclusion in libraries. Together, they created a toolbox to empower libraries to give employees access to equal opportunities, no matter who they are or where they are from. Our goal is to educate, engage and create policies for staff, trustees and patrons to make libraries truly a place where everyone feels that they belong. The toolbox provides tips and templates to create policy, educate staff and trustees, and provide resources to help recruit and retain a diverse workforce.

A good portion of the content they covered can be found in the Nassau County Library Association The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Toolbox.

Additional Resources:

And that was the end of day 1 in-person!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

#NYLA2021: Fundraising Without Book Sales

Libraries: We're all in logo

This year, the New York Library Association held its annual conference in both virtual (Oct. 28-29) and in-person (Nov. 3-6) formats, as well as having on-demand content. Below are notes from one of the on-demand sessions.

Description

Friends groups are always searching for new ideas that go beyond the book sale. Come discover how our panelists are using new and trusted out-of-the-box thinking and creative ideas to redefine fundraising.

Speakers

  • Emily Cullings, Friends of the Hampton Bays Library
  • Mary Giardini, Friends of the Olean Public Library
  • Helen Rados,  Friends of the Ethelbert B. Crawford Public Library
  • Kerstin Cruger,  Friends of Libraries Section (moderator)

 

Notes

Helen Rados 

  • Pave the Way
  • LilyDale Trip
  • Holiday Cookie Bake Off
  • Chair Auction 
  • Commemorative Journals
  • Taste of Sullivan County
    • Gift cards donations from over 30 restaurants. 
    • Make specific requests (e.g., $25 gift certificate). 
    • Restaurants were given a decal marking them as a participant. 
    • Gift cards were bundled to make four unique prizes worth $500, $200, and $100 (x2). 
    • Friends members and local businesses sold tickets (1 for $5.00 or 6 for $20.00).
    • Told restaurants what was in it for them. They were seen as "proud contributors."
      • When approaching the restaurants, they talked with the owner or manager.
    • One of the benefits was raising library awareness.
    • Tried to keep costs low by having local businesses donate printing, etc. or provide those services at a low cost. 
    • Prize totals, etc., all depend on how many donations are obtained.
    • They do this every other year.
    • Do check with NYS Gaming Commission on raffles as well as local laws/guidelines.  Make sure you are compliant.

Mary Giardini

  • "Our Library Can Read Between the Wines"
  • Got the idea from Cuba, NY. 
  • Olean Friends only had been doing author receptions.
  • Did both a wine tasting and a beer tasting, six months apart.
  • The wine tasting was 7:00-9:00 p.m. on a Friday night in the library. Having it in the library allowed them to show of recent library reservations.
  • Tickets were $20/each or $35 for two, purchased in advanced.
  • Had wine tasting and an educational talk from a sommelier. Sommelier did two talks in the gallery room.
  • Also had a basket raffle. (25 baskets)
  • Had light appetizers (donated by the friends) and non-alcoholic options.
  • Did constant communications with her committee members.
  • Contacted all of the wineries within 1-2 hours drive by letter and received zero responses. A friend - former bartender - drove to wineries and asked in person, and he was able to get wine donations.
  • Created pouring stations using tables already in the library. Decorated the tables with existing materials and with rented materials. Rented wine glasses.
  • Had about 100 guests.
  • At the end, gave thanks, made announcements, and ensured people were able to get home (e.g., Uber, Lyft).
  • For this event, needed approval from the Board of Trustees and the library's insurer.
  • Workers need TIP training, which is good for three years. ($40 per person)
  • They hired a professional security guard.
  • Had to get a liquor license.
  • Considered different music options.
  • Used social media and other options for advertising.
  • Their first event brought in over $3000 in total.  It also brought people into the library, who had not done so in a long time.
  • They learned from their events and made changes over time.

Emily Cullings

  • They decided to do a calendar fundraiser, which was an idea they got from other library.
  • Wanted to do a 2021 calendar, but produce it in summer 2020 so it could be sold to tourists.
  • They reached out to photographers on Facebook and received a good response.
  • However...then the pandemic happened. They decided to highlight local businesses and first responders in the photos.
  • They went to every store and restaurant. A business photo could be in the calendar for $25. (This covered their cost.)
    • They also asked that businesses wanted to buy calendars to sell in their businesses, but that didn't work.
    • The businesses that said "yes" were indeed very local businesses. The friends made better connections with these businesses.
  • The calendar also had a page about the library and a page about the friends group. 
    • There were also a couple pages dedicated to highlighting local first responders. This helped them build relationships with them.
    • There was a page decided to the local schools.
    • They stapled their membership form in the middle of the calendar. It did yield a few new members.
  • The created the calendar online and used an online printing service, which was cost effective. Someone in the friends, who was tech savvy, was able to help with the production.
  • They bought 500 calendars. Sold about 200 at $10/piece.
  • For 2021-2022 they are doing different photography (more scenic). Business donors gave $100 each to sponsor a page, as well as sponsors on the back page.  These sponsors covered the cost of production.
    • 16 month calendar.
    • Giving partial proceeds to the photographer, which had previously been in a life altering accident.
    • Calendars will be sold in a variety of different ways, including at local grocery stores.
    • $12/each.
  • Calendars are a lot of work, but she says the work is worth it, because they built new connections in their community as well as raising funds.

Questions

How do you define a successful funding raising program? 

  • How much money raised
  • Visibility of the library and friends increased
  • New friends members - active members
  • Get new people on their mailing list
  • Making community connections

Advice to other friends groups?

  • Get out there so the friends group is not a secret anymore.
  • Allow the friends to brainstorm ideas without immediately dismissing ideas.
  • Get all of the friends involved in the ideas.
  • Don't expect that the event will go as envisioned. Be adaptable. 
  • Don't try to control everything. 
  • Leave your ego out of it. 
  • Delegate and coordinate.
  • Give people tasks within their range of abilities.

#NYLA2021: Community Partnership Social Workers in Libraries

Libraries: We're all in logo

This year, the New York Library Association held its annual conference in both virtual (Oct. 28-29) and in-person (Nov. 3-6) formats, as well as having on-demand content. Below are notes from one of the virtual sessions.

Description

Middle Country Public Library (MCPL) welcomed a licensed social worker into their service model over 15 years ago and has sustained this model through deep community partnership.  Learn about how this model has been so successful in forging new relationships and meeting patron needs. Meet our licensed social worker who will talk about the types of services she can offer with her professional training and how these services work within a public library. Kristen Todd-Wurm, National Coordinator for Family Place Libraries will talk about how the library set up and sustained this ongoing beneficial relationship over the years.

Speaker

Kristen Todd-Wurm, Middle Country Public Library (MCPL). She is the National Coordinator for Family Place Libraries. Her title for this talk was "Expanding Library Services with Social Workers."

Notes

I've organized these notes around a list Todd-Wurm had at the end of her talk.

Assess the need in your community 

Parents, seniors, teens, children, and adults -- What stressors are we seeing in our libraries for these groups? 

Librarians are not equipped to help people with all of the needs that they have. 18 years ago, MCPL realized that it needed to help community members with their stressors.

Poverty in NYS is at 15.1%.  Poverty by race: 

  • 9.8%White NYers
  • 22.5% Black NYers
  • 24.4% Hispanic NYers.

A living wage for one adult and one child household, $36/hr.

What can we do? Libraries are always changing to meet our community needs.

What limitations do libraries face in addressing the se needs?

  • Not sure it falls under library purview
  • Lack of funding - partner with county services. look for grant funding
  • Lack of staff - no more work by staff than usual
  • Lack of space - a private space for meeting. A filing cabinet that locks (to comply with HIPPA/ Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Ac), phone, and computer.
  • Lack of staff expertise - the social worker brings expertise.
  • Attitude of staff, administration, and community - This isn't want libraries do? Look for grants so it is not all out of library funds.

Identify potential health and human service partners

How can libraries be part of the solution to some of these issues without doing it all on their own?

  • Partnership!
  • MCPL worked with an agency who could hire and supervise social workers
  • The partnership helps the agency gain access to more people who need their services. People who need help may be more comfortable coming to a library.
  • Work cooperatively.
  • Planning is important, so you can find adequate funding and structure the services. 

MCPL has a social worker for 15 hours per week with those hours varied across days. Yes, they have turnover often because social workers obtain a full-time position.

The outside organizations captures statistics and helps the library show the need in the community.

Get administration support

Understand what roles will need to be filled by library staff and administration.

  • Liaison
  • Scheduler
    • Staff can make appointments for people. They ask for very limited info from people (initials).
  • Outreach in the community and in the library
  • Publicity - on social media and through other agencies
  • Grant writer / grant reporter
  • Interviewer of potential new social work hires
  • Fiscal agent - for MCPL this is done by Family Services which works with them as their fiscal agent

Meet with a prospective partner and present proof. Work towards a win-win.


Develop a memorandum of understanding with your partner(s). Document each organization's responsibilities, as well as the library's responsibilities.

 

Identify and solicit funds.

MCPL is building some funding into their programming budget to help sustain this service, because they want to be able to continue during years when grants are not a prevalent.

Funders also appreciate seeing  a breath of funding sources. They don't want you to rely on one source.

Setup space, etc. See info above on what is needed.

 

Create and disseminate publicity.

 

Engage in ongoing communications

  • Regularly scheduled meetings between the library and its partners
    • Share ideas
    • Identify trends
    • Keep minutes
  • Administrative level communication 
    • Fiscal issues
    • Personnel
    • Future plans

Engage and educate library staff.

Do outreach to community agencies.

Other

Best Practices:

  • Periodic meetings of everyone involved
  • Social worker schedules that balance client sessions with time to do outreach
  • Family centers are most effective when there is designated library staff/liaison

Evolution? More services and programs to address:

  • Homing insecurity (homelessness) - at Riverhead Library they've implemented a "I Can do This" Group.
  • Food insecurity - added the Long Island Cares Mobile Food Van
  • Gang recruitment - have a social worker interacting directly with teens. Help parents recognize the signs of gang recruitment.
  • Immigration - started a "Amigas Latinas" group

Final Thoughts

First, this session related to the NYLA 2018 keynote, Our Voices Together: How Conversations Create Change.

Second, given what our communities have been through in 2020 and 2021, I hope more public libraries - and perhaps K-12 and academic libraries - will have social workers available in their buildings. Doing so could be a huge help to our communities.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

#NYLA2021: Friendly Relationships, Working Together for the Library

Libraries: We're all in logo

This year, the New York Library Association held its annual conference in both virtual (Oct. 28-29) and in-person (Nov. 3-6) formats, as well as having on-demand content. Below are notes from one of the in-person sessions.

Description

Friends of the Library can be valuable members of the library team. Trustees provide governance, library directors manage the operations of the library, and a Friends group provides an opportunity for citizen volunteers to give support and financial assistance. All parties in this alliance need to understand their well-defined responsibilities and the limits of their roles. Frequent, clear, and open communication is the key to a successful partnership, along with joint planning sessions and establishing an operating agreement to address the needs and expectations of all. Robust, positive relationships between these key players will impact customer satisfaction and achieve long-term goals, helping libraries to be strong and resilient. Our panelists from the Hamilton Public Library will share ways their Friends, director, and trustees work together successfully.

Speakers

  • Travis Olivera, Library Director, Hamilton Public Library
  • Diane Finch, Board member, Friends of the Hamilton Public Library 
  • David Hopper, Member of the friends, Hamilton Public Library 

Notes

The three speakers interacted well with each other and provided a lot of information.  I did not capture everything they said. 
  • Note that the Hamilton (NY) Public Library website contains information about their friends group. 
  • Friends help the library with items that are "beyond the scope of normal funding."
    • Someone gave the example of a friends group providing funding towards digital resources for their library system, which benefited their library.
  • Friends do not have their own agenda. They are a booster club for the library.
  • The friends group should consider whether it needs to have its own insurance.
  • Friends may be asked to have a representative on the search committee for a new executive director. Why is this important? The friends will interact with that person frequently. The director needs to work well with the friends group,
  • Friends should have a newsletter which talks about what they are doing.
  • Among the things that a friends group might do is to fund snacks and thank yous for the library staff.
  • What can the library do for its friends group? 
    • Provide physical space which the friends can use. They did state that sometimes a friends group - especially if the group does book sales - may need more space than the library can provide.
    • Provide advice and act as an intermediary.
    • Promote what the friends are doing through the library's website, social media, and/or newsletter.
    • Allow the friends group to use the library's mailing address. 
    • The library may understand purchasing better than the friends, so when possible help the friends with their purchases.
    • Include information in the library's annual report about what the friends have done. (example)
  • The friends need to focus on library programs only. They are the friends of the library, not the friends of some other group.
  • The friends need to have a memorandum of understanding with the library and the library's board of trustees. The friends should also have written policies.  The speakers noted that they are putting various documents in place now.
  • Recruit friends from frequent patrons.

Final Thoughts

Good to hear these three talk about their friends group. While some of the information overlapped with other friends sessions I've attended, some tidbits were new. That's a good reminder that there is always something new to learn! 

I hope they will speak again at NYLA once they have created all of the documents they mentioned (bylaw, etc.). I think that could be an important update to this session.

#NYLA2021: ABCs of Best Practices for Friends Groups

Libraries: We're all in logo

This year, the New York Library Association held its annual conference in both virtual (Oct. 28-29) and in-person (Nov. 3-6) formats, as well as having on-demand content. Below are notes from one of the virtual sessions.

Description

Every Friends of the Library group can learn from their peers. Ideas ripe for the picking abound in successful, thriving Friends organizations! Learn some outstanding ways to market your group, keep membership numbers growing, engage your community with your activities, and raise some money, all by borrowing tips and creative tricks from Friends groups large and small. Come prepared to add your own “letters” into this alphabet stew. Together we’ll highlight noteworthy advice, best habits to adopt, and practical ways to keep Friends successful in their important work.

Speaker

Notes

Lisa Wemett organized her talk by using the ABCs, with each letter focusing on something a friends groups should do. Sometimes she was quite creative!
  • A - Have an Annual Report that shares your success.
  • A - Engage in Advocacy and helped heighten the visibility of your library.
  • B - Many friends groups have Book Sales or a Bookstore. These are one way to engage people in supporting the library. 
    • Use your website to show people how easy it is to donate to the library (whether its books or something else). 
    • Frame book or other donations using positive language, rather than talking about what you don't want. 
    • For book donations, provide information on recycling centers or thrift stores that might take donations that the friends cannot take.
  • C - Communications. 
    • Communicate with staff, so the staff can inform the community about what the friends are doing and so the friends can talk about what the library is doing.
    • Have liaisons between the friends, staff, and board of trustees. 
    • Effective communications is crucial. It should be frequent and clear.
  • D - Donors. Some friends groups have dues.  However, it is about how many people are supporting the friends. Consider creating dues and donor categories. You might think of book-themed categories.
    • Have 501(c)(3) status
    • Be sure to thank donors
  • E - Engaging with your community. In some communities, the friends help connect the library with people who cannot physically come to the library.
    • Use social media to talk abut what you're doing or what the library is doing.
  • F - Fundraising
    • Be creative
    • Diversify your revenue streams
    • Consider having a "Library Giving Day". That idea was begun in Seattle during National Library Week.
    • Have ways for people to donate online.
  • F - If you're in New York State, join the Friends of Library Section of NYLA. FYI Their past newsletters are online.
  • F - Be Friendly.
  • G - Gather Good ideas from all over! Interact with other friends groups and learn from what they are doing.
  • Half Dozen Helpful Hints
    • Delegate
    • Review your organization's bylaws regularly
    • Don't be afraid to drop a friend, whose actions are working against what the friends group is doing.
    • Assemble a board book, so that the friends' board knows what it is supposed to do.
    • Understand if you need to collect sales tax.  There are times when that might be necessary.
    • If your group has nonprofit status, keep compliant with IRS regulations.
  • I - Stay Informed! Read the FLS Friends News and Notes newsletter (quarterly).
  • J - Join in! Be supportive members of other organizations in your community.
  • K - Keystone! Who is the keystone individual in your organization? Identify who that person is, what that person does, and how they person does it. Document that person's activities!
  • L - Little Free Libraries (LFL). This can dovetail nicely with what friends do. It is a free book exchange. Use your book donations to stock LFLs. This can lead to partnerships with other groups in your area.
  • M - Marketing. Market what you do. Reach out so more people know what you do. Use social media as well as earned media (e.g., newspapers).
  • M- Micro-volunteering. Help people engage with the friends by providing short-term volunteer opportunities when possible. Find uncomplicated and time time limited tasks for them to do.
  • N- Networking. Share ideas with like-minded volunteers.
  • N - New Initiatives. Be willing to try new things.
  • O - Online. Use your website to:
    • Provide information about the friends.
    • Gather donations (e.g., PayPal).
    • Give access to your membership form.
    • Have a way for people to sign-up to volunteer.
      • Tell the public exactly what you need.
      • Consider also using Volunteer Match (VolunteerMatch.org).
      • Besides recruiting online, post info on community bulletin boards.
    • Provide the friends contact information.
    • Be transparent.
    • Show the diversity of the community you serve.
  • P - Partnerships. Involve like-minded community groups or businesses.
  • Q - Quantifiable. Quantify your impact. 
    • Wemett mentioned quantifying your participation rate. What is that? Your participation rate for the friends group Equals the Number of friends members Divided by the Number of people in the library's service area. Strive for a rate of 1% or higher.
  • R - Recognition. Recognize your volunteers. 
    • Thank your volunteers frequently.
  • R - Recruitment.
  • S - Succession Planning. Friends groups that thrive are intentional about who will be stepping into leadership roles. 
    • Let the community know that you are looking for leaders.
    • Have job descriptions for your leadership roles.
  • T - Teamwork. Consider if you want to use alternate leadership models for the friends group.
  • U - Underwriting. Remind your community what the friends are underwriting (or funding) for the library.
  • U - There is a larger friends organization called United for Libraries, which is a division of the American Library Association.
  • V - Visibility. Find creative ways of being visible in tour community.
  • V - Volunteers. Friends are professional grade volunteers. Volunteers are priceless!
  • W - Webpages. Consider having a tab on the library's website, in addition to having your own website.
    • Also from the friends website, point to the library's website.
  • X - Extras. The friends supplement the library's budget. Fund the extras.
  • Y - Youth. Every friends group wants younger volunteers. Perhaps the library's teen advisory board is a place to find volunteers from the friends.
    • Perhaps there are area youth groups that are looking for volunteer opportunities.
  • Z - ZZZZs (sleep) No, lots of information in the presentation that kept everyone awake!

Final Thoughts

It has only been in the last several months that I have begun to think deeply about friends groups. I've learned that they are not all the same, however, they do all have things in common and they can learn from each other.

While it doesn't stand out above, a friends group needs to work with the library's trustees and the library staff. Those relationships should be formal (e.g., MOU) and informal.  It's important to eleiminate assumptions.

Finally, the number of times Wemett mentioned the friends website really stands out to me. Having an online presence is important and the friends should use it to the fullest.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Copyright discussion on Reddit

Reddit logo from Icon Archive
Public Knowledge hosted a copyright discussion on the Reddit platform recently. They wrote:

We are copyright experts here to talk to you about this week’s anticircumvention exemptions from the U.S. Copyright Office. Ask us anything.
And people did ask! There is a lot of good content in the long thread which followed. Definitely worth bookmarking and reading. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

#NYLA2021: Mental Health in BIPOC Services

Libraries: We're all in logo
This year, the New York Library Association held its annual conference in both virtual (Oct. 28-29) and in-person (Nov. 3-6) formats, as well as having on-demand content. Below are notes from one of the virtual sessions.

Description

Professional insights and understanding about some of the psychological and emotional factors that play against mental health awareness and interfere with the therapeutic process among African American women and Hispanic/Latinx populations will be discussed. Participants will learn skills to reduce shame, guilt and how to handle these challenges in productive ways.  Insights into preparing and offering virtual mental health programs and services; collection development; and outreach to and working with mental health organizations will also be addressed.

Speakers

  • Maria Ruiz de Toro, Mental Health Counselor
  • Wendy Petties, Simmer, LLC
  • Patty Sussmann, Newburgh Free Library 
  • Chris Morgan, Newburgh Free Library 
  • Sarah Gluck, Queens Public Library (moderator)

Notes

BIPOC is an acronym which stands for Black, Indigenous, (and) People of Color. It is pronounced "bi-pock."

Maria Ruiz de Toro - Mental Health Awareness with the Latinx Community

  • Who are the Latinx?
    • Very diverse in terms of languages, countries, and ethnic/cultural backgrounds 
  • There are numerous common misbeliefs around mental health and therapy. Similar to other communities. These are barriers to obtaining help.
  • Challenges to mental health awareness
    • Psychological
      • Defense mechanism
      • Identify issues - e.g., fears of transformation
      • Reappearance of early relationships - abandonment, trust, attachment style. etc.
    • Emotional: Fears, loneliness, anxiety
    • Cultural / social factors
      • Betrayal of family, cultural and religious identity
      • Source of shame
      • Fear of disclosing immigration status
      • Suicidal guilt
  • Solutions including having interventions

Wendy Petties - Mental Health Stigma in the Black Community

  • 1 in 5 Americans struggle with mental illness every year. However, more African Americans have mental health concerns.
  • What is mental health? Emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
  • Depression - Approx. 280 million people in the world have depression.
  • Signs of depression
    • Persistent aches, pains, headaches, cramps, digestive problems
    • Lost of interest
    • Problems concentrating
    • Problems sleeping
    • Thinking abut suicide
    • Eating too much or too little
  • Why don't we talk about mental health? Stigma - public or private.
  • Mental help in the black community. We tell ourselves:
    • I'm strong enough to handle it on my own
    • If I go to therapy, I don't have enough faith.
    • We don't suffer from mental illness
    • Keep it inside the family.
    • Our ancestors have been through much worse.
  • Stigma also grows out of a mistrust of mental and medical healthcare 
  • Barriers to mental health treatment
    • Stigma
    • Lack of access to care
    • Lack of insurance
    • Poor cultural understanding by therapists
  • What can we do?
    • Reach out. Check up on the person.
    • Don't make someone regret opening up to you. It takes courage to speak about depression.
  • Messaging:
    • You need to maintain a positive mental health
    • You and others deserve to life a full and healthy life, including your mental health
  • We need more Black mental health professionals

 Patty Sussmann - Mental Health in BIPOC Community

  • Problems
    • Racism and discrimination
    • Stigma against mental health
    • Limited access to health care
    • Providers don't reflect the communities they serve
  • What can libraries do to provide health equity?
    • Trusted source in the community
    • Provide resources and programs
    • Promote health literacy
    • Understand the health issues in your community
  • Check our resources from the National Institute of Health, CDC, and Webjunction, for example.
  • Who can you partner with in your community?
  • Keep in mind what is in your collection and what should be in your collection. Collection development is important and having diverse books are important.
    • Help people see themselves in the library's collection. 
    • The collection can help people have a window into themselves.
    • Get to know selection tools for diverse materials.
    • Conduct an equity, diversity and inclusion audit of your collection.
      • Teen library Toolbox
      • Diversity Analysis
      • Evaluating, Auditing, and Diversifying Your Collections
    • Understand the problems with every collection organization model (e.g. DDC)
    • Use book displays and readers advisory materials
    • Find ways to connect diverse members in your community with materials in your collection
    • Use books to help people examine their situations from a different point of view

Chris Morgan

  • Graphic novels and comic books can bed used for "graphic medicine" 
  • Create partnerships to help the library develop more ambitious mental health programming
  • The digital divide can cause community members to feel isolated.
    • Recognize the importance of in-person program
    • Consider placing programs online where people normally spend time
  • Provide tabling opportunities for community organizations 
  • Host relevant documentaries and follow them with panel discussions, which include mental health providers
  • Partner with LGBTQ+ centers
  • Have events that education library staff

Question:

How do we approach mental health stigma?

  • We have to make mental health a part of normal conversation.
  • Be in touch with hospitals, schools, etc., and make yourself available to help them  promote mental health services. 
  • Reach out to those who you are concerned about. 
  • We need mental health professionals who look like our community.
  • Promote the benefits of mental health services.


#NYLA2021: How to Run an Effective Meeting

Libraries: We're all in logo
This year, the New York Library Association held its annual conference in both virtual (Oct. 28-29) and in-person (Nov. 3-6) formats, as well as having on-demand content. Below are notes from one of the virtual sessions.

Description

Attendees will learn how to construct an effective meeting by deciding what structure will meet the meeting's needs. We will discuss when and if, using Robert's Rules of Order is necessary, and give a quick introduction into best practices when using that structure. Key meeting management tips will be introduced, including how to empower all meeting attendees to participate; communicate effectively with a large group; value the attendees' time; stay on task; tactfully end off-topic discussions, and finish meetings in a timely matter.

Presenters

  • Jen Park, Ramapo Catskills Library System 
  • Joanna Goldfarb, Ramapo Catskills Library System 
  • Carolyn Bennett Glauda, Southeastern NY Library Resources Council 

Notes

Construct an effective meeting:

  • Know what makes a good meeting.
  • You need to plan the meeting, which will make you feel collected and in control.
  • Share your meeting plans (agenda) with your attendees in advance.
  • Have someone take notes. It cannot be the meeting facilitator.
  • Meetings need to be inclusive and include participation from everyone.
  • Have a community agreement when you're facilitating a meeting. The group decides on the structure of the meeting and how participants will conduct themselves. The Drawing Change website has information on "Co-creating community agreements in meetings." Creating those agreements is a process that cannot be rushed.

Decide on meeting structure:

  • Two most important officers in a group are the secretary and chair.
    • The chair keeps things moving forward and on topic.
    • In Robert's Rules of Order, the committee chair says as little as possible to keep the meeting on track.
  • Make "old business" on the agenda "unfinished business". This can make the meetings more efficient.
  • The minutes are not a transcript or notes. They are a record of what was done. You do not need to include the process of how you arrived at that decision. 
  • For a virtual meeting, the chair need to announce how attendees should participate and how they should be recognized to speak.
    • If people are participating through chat, make sure that someone is monitoring chat.

Crafting the meeting:

  • Send the agenda out at least a week in advance, so people can look at it and perhaps suggest additions.
  • Before ending the meeting, review any items that need to occur before the next meeting and who is responsible. 
  • In 1-2 days after the meeting, send an email with actions that need follow-up. This is different than the meeting minutes.
  • Try to get meeting minutes out to people 1-2 weeks after the meeting.
  • If you need a parliamentarian, how do you find one? Check the National Association of Parliamentarians.
  • Whether or not your meeting uses Roberts Rules depends on your organization's bylaws.

Final thoughts:

I always find it helpful to attend sessions on running a good meeting, because often something different is emphasized. One of the things that struck me in this session was the need or desire to have a parliamentarian. Most of our daily meetings do not use Robert's Rules. Those meetings are run based on the community agreements we have or on our organizational structures. One benefit of Robert's Rules is the formality of how decisions are made during a meeting. However, any group can create its own agreements on how decisions are made.

I've been in associations that rely on parliamentarians and others that do not. I do believe it is helpful to have someone - whether that be a parliamentarian or a person knowledgeable in Robert's Rules, if you are using them - to help with specific elements of a meeting, especially regarding motions. However, I've seen some become very reliant on their parliamentarian and that makes me wonder about who is in charge of the meeting.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

NDSL - Digital Initiatives: Hardware & Software

A colleague asked me recently about digitization equipment. I don't follow equipment as closely as I used to, but I know that equipment has become less expensive and more versatile. I looked quickly for a good list of equipment and found this from the North Dakota State Library. This list contains a wide range of hardware and software. It is not dated, but seems up to date and could be a good starting point.

Monday, November 08, 2021

New Book: Compact Copyright: Quick Answers to Common Questions

I haven't written a blog post in a while, although I have several in draft form. October was a busy month and I'll be saying more about that busyness soon. For now, I want to be sure you know about this book from Sara R. Benson, which was published in September.

The ALA Store describes Compact Copyright: Quick Answers to Common Questions as:

Focusing on copyright topics that arise frequently, including the right of first sale, fair use, and copying for preservation, this book will help library workers provide quick guidance for common situations.

Faculty, students, and colleagues come to you with copyright questions, both simple and complex. And they all want reliable answers—as fast as you can get them. With this guide, designed for ready access, you’ll be prepared to deliver. Lawyer, copyright librarian, and iSchool instructor Benson presents succinct explanations ideal for both on-the-fly reference and staff training. Copyright specialists will appreciate excerpts from the law itself alongside tools and resources for digging deeper. Practical discussions of key legal concepts, illustrated using 52 scenarios, will lead you to fast, accurate answers on a range of topics, such as

  • barriers to using the TEACH Act provisions in content for online teaching;
  • showing a full-length movie in a university class;
  • public domain and the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act;
  • your legal options when receiving a DMCA take-down notice;
  • court interpretations of fair use in three key recent cases;
  • Creative Commons licenses, complete with a quick reference chart;
  • library rights to license photographs in a digital collection;
  • using letters under copyright in a special collections display case;
  • a grad student’s right to use in a thesis writing published in their professor’s journal article;
  • applying the implied license option to post historical student dissertations in institutional repositories;
  • the Marrakesh Treaty provision supporting transfer of accessible works internationally; and
  • limiting factors for interlibrary loan.
This 176-page book is available through the ALA Store and Amazon (paid link).

Sara R. Benson is a respected voice in regards to copyright and a frequent contributor to the conversations which surround it, including being a speaker and podcaster. She is currently the copyright librarian and an assistant professor at the Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Webinar: Before Friends Become Frienemies

For nearly the past two years, I have been the board president for my library system's board of trustees. Our system also has a friends group. So it was only natural that I be interested in this webinar sponsored by the Friends of Libraries Section of the New York Library Association

The webinar was on Sept. 30 and it has taken me a while to get my notes together.

Presenters

  • Lisa C. Wemett, Immediate Past President of FLS/NYLA
  • Melissa Tacke, Director, Castleton Library  

Short Description:

Hear some practical strategies to facilitate positive and productive discussions, working together to avoid potential conflict between the library administration, library trustees, and Friends of the Library. We’ll discuss some common situations where the community volunteers and library civic leaders could conceivably lock horns.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of the webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Relate the basics of conflict behavior and approaches to conflict resolution
  • Explain and utilize the outline of “Working Together: Roles & Responsibilities Guidelines” for discussion with all parties (library administration, Board of Trustees, Friends)
  • Formulate a basic operating agreement for the Friends, library administration, and library’s Board of Trustees to manage operations smoothly and guide the arrangements for a constructive partnership
  • Prepare a standardized document to guide financial contributions from the Friends to the library
Thomas-Kilmann: Assertiveness versus Cooperation

Notes:

This session was focused on what friends of a library do and how to avoid conflict between the friends, the library, and the library's board of trustees.

Friends are a valuable support system. They provide goodwill, public awareness, and advocacy. This is a team that helps to support the library's efforts.  The library director, library board, and friends should work together to benefit the library.

Board of trustees and friends often find their relationship to be complicated, because of how they intertwine. Conflict includes:

  • Misunderstanding
  • lack of information 
  • poor communication
  • looking for a scapegoat

If a conflict becomes wide spread, more people can become affected by it. Strategies to avoid conflict include:

Open Communications

  • Clear and open communications including written reports, emails, memos, and meeting minutes
  • Face to face meetings can be helpful in ensuring cooperation
  • The trio of liaisons, who serve as ex-officio members
  • Staff liaison to the friends - the director or designee
  • The entire library staff can be champions for the friends' activities
  • trustee liaison to the friends
  • Helps the friends feel like true partners
  • A representative of the friends should  be invited to the library's board of trustees

Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities

  • All parties must be clear in their roles.
  • See Library Friends and Foundations in the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State.
  • See also Working Together: Roles & Responsibilities Guidelines in the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State.
  • The director, board, and friends all have specific responsibilities
  • Friends control their own operations and decision-making, but cannot make decisions about library operations.
  • Friends may collaborate with staff on specific activities
  • Keep in mind that the role of the friends may depend on the interests of its members

Having a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

  • Consider this a "pre-nup" for friends, board, and staff
  • It defines how the entities will function together
  • Written, provides guidelines, clarifies roles and responsibilities
  • United for Libraries has guidelines for drafting these documents in Libraries Need Friends: Starting a Friends Group or Revitalizing the One You Have (see "The Formal Operating Agreement" and "Sample Memorandum of Understanding").
    • See also "Understanding Roles"
    • Development of this document requires frank and open discussions. 
    • Parties need to consider "what ifs" and scenarios.
    • Should be jointly drafted by all parties.
  • The sample MOU from United for Libraries is short. Consider what information it might contain including:
    • Names of the parties involved
    • Purpose and mission
      • Include that the friends are an independent group 
    • Friends roles and responsibilities
      • Friends will publicly support library policies
    • What are the friends initiatives, e.g., purpose of fundraising
      • Document should include what the friends will not fund.
    • How funds will be distributed
    • Support needed from the library, e.g., staff support. Statements may be broad.
    • How friends will be included in the library's planning processes
    • A plan for communications
    • Assurance that friend will maintain their non-profit status
  • MOU is signed by the board president, friends president and director.
  • The MOU should be reviewed regularly and when there is a change in leadership.
  • Should include a succession plan. 
  • Disbanding and dissolution language, which allows the group to continue with new leadership and new members. This is separate from the text required by the IRS.

Other Thoughts

  • If there is no current MOU, what are the current operating procedures? That could be the start point for the development of an MOU.
  • There should be an annual joint meeting of the friends and the board of trustees. 
  • Could their be a joint standing committee? Would that be helpful?
  • How does volunteer support fit into the long term plans for the library?
    • Discuss the library's budget and what the friends hope to contribute.
    • Note that friends cannot tell the library how to spend money. They also cannot withhold money. Friends funds are for the library.
    • Create guidelines for expenditures of funds.
  • There should be transparency on how the funds are used. "We made this happen."
    • Friends and the library should agree on how funds will be used. Fund extras.
    • What kinds of expenses have the friends been covering? These should be things that are outside the library's normal operating budget.
  • How much revenue should the friends hold to help with their organizational expenses? 20%?
  • Who should request funds from the friends? When are requests sent to the friends? How often can requests be sent?
  • Friends need good, clear financial systems. Put safe guards in place. Create guidelines.

Takeaways

We tend to shy away from having formal agreements, thinking that a handshake (informal) agreement will suffice. Creating an MOU may seem like too much work, but they create a framework to ensure that everything proceeds as the friends, library board, and director intend. It could be that the MOU does not need to be consulted frequently. It will be vital, though, when questions are asked or people are unsure what to do. 

The defined processes - e.g., having specific meetings between the friends, library board, and director - are another step in assuring that each party is communicating well and asking as expected. Yes, having liaisons are good, but joint meetings brings more people into the conversation and hopefully into agreement.

Having a friends group is work for all involved - library board, library director, and the friends themselves. There is a cookware ad that says, "set it and forget it".  That phrase is not one to use with your friends group! Just like the library itself and the board of trustees, the friends group needs regular attention.

Additional Resources

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

CDL Co-Op Releases Statement on Using Controlled Digital Lending as a Mechanism for Interlibrary Loan

I am very pleased to have been part of this effort below. Please feel free to share this press release with people in your library, library system, or consortia.


PRESS RELEASE

October 4, 2021

CDL Co-Op Releases Statement on Using Controlled Digital Lending as a Mechanism for Interlibrary Loan

In September 2021, the CDL Co-Op, a group of librarians and information professionals working on issues of resource sharing, interlibrary loan, and controlled digital lending, announced its Statement on Using Controlled Digital Lending as a Mechanism for Interlibrary Loan, available at https://controlleddigitallending.org/illstatement. Developed with deep community input, the Statement’s introduction provides context for library use of controlled digital lending (a modern method for libraries to loan digitized items from their print collection to their patrons in a “lend like print” fashion) as a mechanism for Interlibrary Loan. By situating it within the purpose of libraries and the ways they serve their communities and society, the introduction lays the foundation for 10 brief statements that define and affirm the use of Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) in library and interlibrary loan (ILL) contexts.

The Statement was developed by the CDL Co-op during 2020 and 2021 in response to community need, and in conjunction with broad library community conversation and feedback. This approach to the development of the Statement increased awareness of controlled digital lending (CDL) in the context of interlibrary loan among librarians and library staff, and also provides an opportunity to improve the services provided by the library resource sharing community by ensuring libraries and consortia are operating from a shared set of assumptions and principles.

Recognizing the uncertainty many library staff and related organizations feel around CDL practices and legalities, the CDL Co-Op framed its Statement as a shared starting point for broader community conversation around these issues. CDL Co-Op participant Charlie Barlow, Executive Director at the Boston Library Consortium, noted, “These statements were intended to build comfort with CDL among members of the library community, and to diminish the fears and misconceptions that prevent us from properly and permissibly using technology to increase equitable access to information. The sudden switch to remote learning for so many this past year and a half made this work even more urgent.  These statements are a starting point that we hope will generate an open and candid discussion among all stakeholders.”

The authors are now calling on libraries, related organizations, and individuals to endorse the Statement by adding their names to its list of signatories, which includes a dozen organizations such as the Boston Library Consortium (BLC), Duke University Libraries, the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI), the Partnership for Academic Library Collaboration & Innovation (PALCI) Board of Directors, Orbis Cascade Alliance, VIVA - the Virginia Academic Library Consortium, and the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL), among others. Organizations may endorse the statement online at https://controlleddigitallending.org/ill/sign. In the coming months, the CDL Co-Op will build on this work with a forthcoming white paper that further explores the use of Controlled Digital Lending for ILL purposes.

Media Contact:
CDL Co-op
Email: cdl-co-op@googlegroups.com
https://controlleddigitallending.org/illstatement