The East Lansing Public Library Board of Trustees is searching for two new trustees – one to assume the role in the next month or so and the other to begin over the summer – and ratified a Collections and Development and Intellectual Freedom policy at its meeting on Mar. 16.
The Board has two upcoming vacancies, the first of which will need to be filled immediately.
Long-time Trustee Paul Cervenak departed from the Board effective Mar. 16. Due to the Board’s bylaws, they will have 30 days from his resignation to fill his spot.
Trustees discussed strategies to reach out to prospective applicants. A listing of the vacancies has been provided on the City’s Boards and Commissions webpage. In addition to contacting previous candidates, Trustees encouraged community members to apply for the position.
Seven individuals have already submitted applications, and according to Board President Diane Goddeeris, the Board is hoping to receive a diverse candidate pool. The City’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion provided some possible names of people for the Board to contact to encourage to apply.
Additionally, Goddeeris said, she met with the unionized non-supervisory employees of ELPL. These workers, who officially signed their first collective bargaining agreement with the City in November, said that they would like a trustee with union experience. Goddeeris told the Board that they cannot ask candidates if they favor unions, but the trustees could ask candidates if they had experience working with or in unions.
Goddeeris emphasized that future trustees should be aware that ELPL is preparing language to put on a 2022 ballot regarding renewing the ELPL millage. Trustees will be expected to help with the ELPL’s push to get the millage approved.
ELPL receives much of its financial support through two millages, which come to approximately 1.997 mills in total, with other smaller portions of revenue coming from the State of Michigan, penal fines, and private donations.
One millage for ELPL was approved by East Lansing’s Council in July 2012, and will soon either end or be renewed by Council. The other was approved by voters in November 2012 and would have to be approved by voters in 2022 to be renewed.
Trustees typically serve a five-year term with the ability to renew their term once. Any individual member, then, can serve up to ten years on the Board. Under normal circumstances one trustee is renewed or selected each year to provide a staggered annual turnover. This provides greater continuity with onboarding new members and avoids replacing all members at once.
The Board plans to recommend a candidate for Council’s approval in advance of Council’s meeting on April 5. The second vacancy will not arise until July 1, and must be filled within the month.
Find out more about the process of applying for a spot on a City board or commission here.
The Board ratified a policy on collections and intellectual freedom in addition to updating its bylaws.
At its February meeting, the ELPL Board discussed two policy initiatives – one for collections and development and a second policy about intellectual freedom at the library. The Board decided at the February meeting to combine the two policies and voted to ratify them Wednesday.
The Collections and Development and Intellectual Freedom Policy addresses distinct but intersecting matters with the library. Per the policy, collections refer to materials – books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, programs, and other materials, excluding websites and databases.
The collections policy aims to maintain a balanced and broad collection of materials reflecting the diverse cultural, informational, and educational needs of the community.
Tied to this issue is that of intellectual freedom in libraries. Library Director Kristin Shelley told the Board that libraries across the United States are updating their policies in light of what the American Library Association has called a “dramatic uptick in book challenges and outright removal of books from libraries.” The ALA cited books about the experiences of the LGBTQ+ and Black communities as those most under threat.
In response to the scene on the national level, the ELPL policy states “Materials available in the Library present a diverse point of view, enabling patrons to make the informed choices necessary in a democracy”.
ELPL recognizes that not all materials will appeal to every patron. It has set in place a procedure for the Reconsideration of Materials that will be released once the updated policy is posted to the ELPL webpage.
The Board discussed current bylaws and a means of amending bylaws and voted to approved the proposed bylaws which included some changes.
Some of the changes included language on the annual evaluation of the Executive Director of the Library, clarification on City Council approval of trustees, demarcation of the organization of the Board including election of the president via the Board, duties of the Board, and information regarding budgets. You can see the changes to the bylaws here.
The Board also reviewed finances, including fundraising revenues.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, City Manager George Lahanas recommended that Council allocate some of the City’s American Rescue Plan Act money to cover the cost of some renovations at the library. Council is expected to vote on that at its next meeting.
As ELi reported in December 2021, the library’s administration continues to struggle with repair costs, as an initial plan to spend $700,000 on repairs has ballooned to a current total of $1,444,490.
The nonprofit Friends of East Lansing Public Library, who raise revenue for ELPL through various means including running a used bookstore inside the library building, presented a report at Wednesday’s meeting, highlighting the contribution of the shop. Though traffic is slower than desired, the store is open and has some new collections that include books about World War II history, 1960s popular culture, and photography.
The Friends also plan to launch a website on April 1 that will contain a newsletter and listing of some of the books held at the store.
Emily Joan Elliott contributed to reporting.