It is not a secret in LibraryLand that my Board would vote against the Agreement. I was pretty outspoken about it even before I talked to my Board. We researched, we crunched numbers and we surveyed our community to see if we could make this work. And we can't. Is this another case of a "big" library protecting their turf? Or is it something more?
In a nutshell, the Library System of Lancaster County's (LSLC) Fundraising Agreement would allow a fundraiser employed by the System - funded by taxpayer's money - to solicit donations within a library's service area. There are 2 things that are inconsistent with LSLC's claim of transparency.
- LSLC asked each library to have their Boards vote on whether they will sign the agreement. What isn't told is that the entire process is flawed with one single item: The board didn't even wait until the deadline for the votes. They hired a fundraiser and have assured the libraries who didn't sign the agreement that they're still coming.
- The fundraising agreement does not really allow a member library to say no, even if they sign it. They can say no, followed by a bunch of votes from a variety of random groups that aren't even formal organizations with the ability to vote. What's worse is that the final say is on the shoulders of the "President's Circle," a group LSLC's board invented.
Here's the part that is unbelievable. Whether Presidents show up for the meeting or not, a vote will be taken with those in attendance. Further, an illegal vote (by Board Presidents without the vote of their member library board) could approve a request from LSLC. But here - here's the part that is crazy - the vote will be considered passed if the majority of the Presidents in attendance vote in favor of letting LSLC go into a library's service area. Even if the library signs the Agreement, LSLC can override their wishes with a President's Circle vote of only 4 libraries out of 14. Oh, and if there's a tie, the President of the LSLC Board will break the tie.
These things do not even address the philosophic objections I have to this nonsense. If a member library wants LSLC to go into their service area and raise funds, then I think that member library should receive the lion's share of the donation. All the things LSLC is imagining is on a "countywide" level, but local libraries need that money to keep the lights on. This is not a statement exaggerated to make a point. This is the honest truth. I can tell you this from my personal experience, and also from stories I hear from other library directors. We're not crying "wolf." There is a true wolf here, and it's the Library System of Lancaster County.
Where did it all go so wrong?
If I could answer this, everyone would love me. Currently, as the song says,"nobody likes me, everybody hates me..." I can only tell you my experience. I do not feel like LSLC is being transparent. If they were, there would not be the "Us vs. Them" mentality. There wouldn't be the death-grip fear about a newspaper story. Sometimes, it seems a newspaper story is the only thing that makes them care at all. That is not transparency or collaboration.
Understanding the "Big Picture" Conflict
The truth is, hardly anyone actually understands what's going on. It's easy to say that it's about money - and a big part of it is. However, there is an underlying issue that, I believe, is where the solution lies. LSLC does not reflect the direction our library is going. If LSLC wants to be a "Leader" for libraries, they better clean up their house before representing our library to our patrons.
In addition, LSLC needs to stop hiring other people to do what they should be able to do in-house. They need to be innovative - but innovation only happens when there is an organization that understands the reason it even exists, and requires everyone - Board & staff - to have excellent skills and professionalism. Consultants focus on plans and surveys. They cannot teach someone how to not take things personally. They cannot teach people that conflict does not equal hatred or dislike. This conflict was evident and predictable.
Here's the part that's pretty goofy. I don't think LSLC is going to be able to make any difference for libraries. In order to make this pay off, they first have to raise enough to pay the salary and benefits of the fundraiser. Let's say that this number will be larger than $60,000. So really, that first $60K is a wash.
However, the part that cannot be measured is the part that is the lifeline of libraries. Community connections. It is the biggest strength of our library and we simply cannot allow LSLC to interfere with those relationships.