As I am nearing the end of an eight-year term on the Library Board, I feel I can contribute some further insight into the on-going commentary in the Trail Times article regarding the Riverfront Centre, writes McDonnell.

Council’s approach to library board a concern

Letter to the Editor by library board vice-chair Karen McDonnell

As I am nearing the end of an eight-year term on the Library Board, I feel I can contribute some further insight into the on-going commentary in the Trail Times article regarding the Riverfront Centre (“Trail addresses politics of the public library,” Trail Times Nov. 22).

The Library Board is to be an independent entity (defined in the 1996 Library Act—with revisions made in 2003) which without bias oversees the running of the library. Each board member can serve for maximum of eight years but can reapply after a hiatus. The city council is responsible for appointing the applicants to the board and can chose not to renew members’ terms just as members can chose not to have their terms renewed. Finding volunteers can be challenging and we have vacancies which have remained open for almost a year as council’s recent choices did not work out well. A full complement of members makes it much easier for the board to function. It is more than just filling the vacancies—we need committed people; library users with a broad range of experience, an open mind and a willingness to make a time commitment to the board and library patrons.

I am certain the Riverfront Centre is going to be a wonderful addition to downtown Trail. Because it is a much different design than the original proposed by the library and museum, it will be more expensive to staff. But that was the design chosen by council to ensure the “wow” factor. Now they are concerned about the costs.

I have lost count of the number of different budgets we have submitted. And yet again, an amended budget is ready to be submitted. As the library employees will make up the majority of the staff at the Riverfront Centre, it stands to reason that our costs will go up. Spread over two floors, safety of our staff—the majority of which are female—is a concern and additional tasks will be added to their already full shifts. Changing job descriptions will come with additional costs. Some of council’s suggestions—to increase revenue— are being investigated: to charge for programming and to use contractors to deliver some programs. Not what one expects when using a public library.

The most concerning of Mayor Mike Martin’s statements however, was his reference to working “closely with library board and executive director through the design parameters and operational plans and budgets for the new facility.”

With all due respect, this is not the collective experience of the Library Board. Members have been stone-walled, refused attendance at meetings, our integrity and expertise questioned at almost every meeting with the city. Paid consultants (whose written reports have never been shared) handed out tasks often without sufficient direction and expected them completed in a timely fashion by an already overworked library director and volunteer board.

Not until the board raised the concern regarding the workload of the director did council release extra funding to help with her library workload. Crucial information was frequently disseminated through the Trail Times.

This close to opening, we are still not privy to many things we need to know in order to move forward. To say that working with this council has been a challenging experience would be an understatement.

And Mayor Martin has the gall to question how the library board is being run. I dare say, council has taken on too much, too quickly and many of their priorities are woefully questionable.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I am grateful to be given this opportunity to put my concerns out in public.

Karen McDonnell,

Vice-Chair, Trail and District Public Library Board

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