CLERMONT COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
JUNE 15, 2020
BROADCAST VIA FACEBOOK
Present: Tony Cardinal, Joe Braun, Mary Jo Waite, Jennifer Doss, Adam Bird
Staff: Theresa Herron, Lynn Baird
Mr. Cardinal called the meeting to order at 6:04 p.m.
Tony Cardinal, Joe Braun, Mary Jo Waite, Jennifer Doss, Adam Bird, here. Judith Kocica and Tricia Lyons, absent.
The meeting was broadcast via Facebook Live.
Attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
MAY 18, 2020, REGULAR MEETING MINUTES AND MAY 20, 2020, SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES:
Motion by Ms. Doss, seconded by Ms. Waite, to approve the May 18, 2020, regular meeting minutes and the May 20, 2020, special meeting minutes. In favor: Mr. Cardinal, Mr. Bird, Ms. Doss, Ms. Waite with the following abstaining: Mr. Braun. Motion was adopted.
Library Director Christine Wick read questions submitted via the Library’s website.
Question was from Travis Neil. What is the plan for returning staff to their regular hours and how will this affect the hours of operation available to the public? Answer: as soon as all the information needed to formulate a responsible plan is available, the Library hopes to restore staff to regular hours and pay.
Question: the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is going fine free for the rest of the year. Is this something the Clermont County Public Library is considering? Answer: the Clermont County Public Library is not considering going fine free for the rest of the year. The Library feels fines can serve as a motivator to bring materials back so other residents may check them out. For the time being, all returns continue to be backdated to March 13 and auto renewals have been expanded to 10. All fines, just as a reminder, are now 20 cents a day.
Additional questions came from anonymous individuals in two separate emails. Ms. Wick said the questions would be read at this meeting, but anonymous questions would not be responded to in the future.
Question 1: Why is the Library now open to the public, but not the Board meetings? Why are you willing to expose the staff to the public, but not administration and Board members? Answer: The library is open because we are able to control and regulate patrons and activities at the branches so that they conform with the Health District’s Guidelines to keep staff and patrons safe. We are not able to institute the same safety measures to conform with social distancing requirements at the Meetings of the Board of Trustees because they are public meetings. We can’t limit the number of individuals that attend in order to comply with social distancing and therefore, we will continue to provide access to the Board Meeting to all individuals that wish to observe the meeting via Facebook live or such other designated platform.
Question 2A: Why was the Assistant Director approved by the Director to go on vacation during a time of pandemic, union activity and the reopening of branches to the public? Answer: The Library is not limiting the use of vacation by anyone at this time. The Assistant Director’s vacation plans were made before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
Question 2B: the Assistant Director left the state and went to Florida. Florida reported 2,016 new coronavirus cases and six new deaths June 14, continuing the surge of reported infections in that state over the past week and a half. Will she be expected to quarantine for 14 days upon her return to keep staff safe? Answer: The Library will comply with guidance from the state of Ohio and the CDC. Currently, neither would require quarantine.
Question 2C: How is this exercising, good judgment and leadership by the Director or Assistant Director? Answer: The Library is following all the applicable guidelines, orders, rules, and regulations set forth by the Governor and Director of the Ohio Department of Health. At this time, there are no longer any restrictions on traveling and neither requires that an individual self-quarantine based solely upon traveling to another state.
Question 3A: Why were staff directed in a memo last week to reach out to the Fiscal Officer for HR issues while the Assistant Director is away? Answer: Staff were directed to include both the Director and the Fiscal Officer on HR-related questions. The Fiscal Officer was included because there are many questions regarding benefits and leave at this time. The Fiscal Officer will assist in addressing any necessary HR matters as they relate to leave and benefits on a short-term basis while the assistant Director is away.
Question 3B: Is the Library not concerned with confidentiality and HIPAA laws when it comes to HR issues and medical information? Answer: Administration and management regularly deal with confidential items.
Question 3C: What are Ms. Gray’s qualifications for handling HR matters or is the Fiscal Officer overreaching on her duties and responsibilities again? Answer: The Fiscal Officer routinely handles benefit and leave related questions.
Question 3D: Why did the director approve this? Answer: Because the Director and FO are the appropriate people to step in while Ms. Jacobs is away.
Question 4A: What is the status of the HR director’s position? Answer: The Library is in the process of filling the HR Director’s position.
Question 4B: How long is the library willing to go without a dedicated HR person? Answer: We have made filling this position a priority and it is the only position we are filling during the hiring freeze.
Question 5: When the HR director is onboarded, are we to assume the assistant director will forfeit the 4-percent increase she received in June 2019 as additional compensation specifically for HR duties? Answer: We will make a determination on that issue at a later time.
Question 6A: Why has the administration not tried to fill or post the HR specialist position held by the previous employee? It was vacated before the hiring freeze and never posted for hire. Answer The HR Director will determine their needs and whether to hire a replacement for the HR Specialist and once the hiring freeze is lifted.
Question 6B: The previous HR specialist was the only one accessible, knowledgeable, responsive, and unbiased to staff about insurance benefits, FMLA leaves, employee concerns, and HR policy. Is this not an essential position? Answer: Staff reported the need for a dedicated HR professional and we listened to their input. We will build the HR department with the input of the HR Director.
Question 7A: Since the hiring freeze was established, how many staff have vacated their positions currently? Answer: Two.
Question 7B: How many total positions were originally budgeted for in 2020 are open? Answer: There are currently eight vacancies.
Question 7C: How long is the hiring freeze in place? Answer: Until the Library is in a financial position to lift it, and we hope that’s soon.
Question 8A: What is the plan or timeline to restore manager pay since their hourly rate in many cases is now less than their employees? Answer: The plan/timeline is uncertain at this time. We are continuing to monitor revenue sources and library needs so that we can formulate a responsible plan. Restoration of hours and pay, may be incremental or it may be all at once depending on the variables. The hours of operation are only one piece of that equation.
Question 9A: At the recommendation of the fiscal officer’s speculated Public Library Fund decrease of 40 percent, the board cut staff paid hours by 20 percent. Contrary to her speculation, the PLF is down 35 percent in April and only 14 percent in May. The staff was told by the fiscal officer that the cuts are in effect until the end of the year. Is this true? Answer: The PLF is only one factor. The cuts are currently budgeted until the end of the year. We are continuing to assess the revenue stream and the needs of the Library. While we hope to restore hours and pay before then, we are taking into account many factors in the development of a responsible plan.
Question 9B: What assurance does staff have that the surplus will go to restoring staff pay and not primarily debt service. Answer: Our priority is to restore staff pay and hours before any non-required transfers to debt service.
Question 10A: Why has the Board allowed the Director to operate the Library without a strategic plan since 2018 and Question 10B: Why does the Director need the State Library to step in and help her write a strategic plan after six years as Director? Answer: The Strategic Planning Committee was in favor of using the State Library’s strategic planning services, as do many other libraries. We were put on a waiting list before the service was available. The completion of the Strategic Plan was interrupted with the outbreak of the pandemic.
Question 10B: How many more years is the Board willing to allow the lack of leadership with no guiding plan in place from the Director? Answer: Mr. Cardinal said the Board does not believe there is a lack of leadership. The Board has complete faith and trust in the Director, the Fiscal Officer and the administrative and management teams. The Board is working with the available data and is being fiscally-responsible.
Mr. Braun added the Board has addressed issues as they’re brought forth and will continue to do so. The Board is directly responsible for hiring the Director and the Fiscal Officer. He agreed with Mr. Cardinal that the Board has confidence in the leadership and in staff. He hopes staff recognize the Board supported the administrative team’s hard work to preserve everyone’s jobs. It is the hope of the Board to restore the same level of compensation the staff deserves.
Mr. Braun said the Board would like nothing more than to have the public in their meetings if social distancing could be achieved. He said the Board appreciates the staff working with the public during the pandemic.
Mr. Cardinal reminded everyone that going forward, any questions answered by the Board during their meetings must be signed by the person asking the question or questions.
Ms. Wick read additional questions.
Question 1: Why has the Library not applied for SharedWork Ohio when it is clear that staff members qualify? Answer: It is still the Library’s understanding that the Library doesn’t qualify to apply, but administration will try.
Question 2: Why have hours not been reassessed when it is clear funds have not been impacted as initially anticipated? When will hours be reinstated? Why not some hours? Answer: the PLF is only one piece of the puzzle. As soon as more information is available to formulate a responsible plan, the Library hopes to restore staff to their regular hours and regular pay. This may be incremental or it may be all at once, depending on the variables.
Question 3: Why has there been no further compensation for staff members who have gone beyond their job descriptions? Answer: We feel the work staff have performed is within their job descriptions.
Question 4: Why is your Communications Manager in charge of not only your online content, but apparently your programming, as well? Furthermore, with the retirement of your Programming Manager, why has it not been considered imperative to post outside of the hiring freeze? Answer: The Communications Manager has temporarily assumed management of the marketing and programming department. Due to the hiring freeze, no positions have been posted with the exception of the HR Director.
Question 5: Why did the Library close a branch June 15 in light of a peaceful protest? Answer: It was the response from the counter protesters that made the actual protest confrontational and dangerous. That is why the branch was closed in an abundance of caution for the safety of staff and patrons.
Question 6: Why were employees sent home from one particular branch June 15 on opening day when other branches would have gladly taken their help? Why were they sent home in the first place? Answer: The Director discussed the situation with the Branch Manager and out of an abundance of caution closed the branch for the day. Staff were given the option, as stated in the HR policy manual, to work in another location or take vacation. They chose to take vacation.
FISCAL OFFICERS REPORT:
Ms. Gray presented the Fiscal Officer’s report for May.
Ms. Gray reported the Public Library Fund was down by 14 percent in June. This is one data point of many used to make financial projections for the Library. She also uses the Governor’s budget projections, county property tax collections along with other data to assess the budgetary projections. Ms. Gray stated that the Tax Budget will be prepared as directed by the Budget Committee and filed with the County.
Motion by Mr. Bird, seconded by Mr. Braun, to accept the May financial report. All in favor. Motion was adopted.
Motion by Ms. Waite, seconded by Mr. Bird, to pay the May bills. In favor: Mr. Cardinal, Mr. Braun, Ms. Waite, Mr. Bird. Abstained: Ms. Doss. Motion was adopted.
Ms. Wick said the branches opened to the public June 15. It was exciting to see people back in the library. Staff worked hard to get the branches ready to open.
Ms. Wick said the material return bins were unlocked May 19. Patrons are being urged to return items in the outside bins, not inside the branches.
Ms. Wick reviewed the reopening plan included in the board packet. The plan includes information about the minimal or reduced services and outlines steps staff must take to keep the branches safe for themselves and the public.
Ms. Wick said patrons are strongly encouraged to wear masks when in the Library, high-touch surfaces are cleaned every two hours, hand sanitizer is available, materials are quarantined for 72 hours, reduced-capacity limits are in effect in each branch, furniture and the number of public computers have been reduced in each facility to allow for successful social distancing, patrons are allowed to use public computers for 45 minutes because fewer terminals are available, hours of operation are reduced to four hours a day Monday through Saturday. The hours open are at the end of each day because the committee that worked on this plan felt these times were the busiest. Updates to the plans and procedures will be made as needed. Each branch still offers Curbside Pickup service. Staff members can log into a public computer remotely to help a patron with questions, which allows for good social distancing. Drinking fountains were disabled. The coffee bar at Miami Township is closed.
Mr. Cardinal asked about protecting valuable books in the collection in light of recent protests across the nation. Ms. Wick said the Library has some local history and genealogy books that are no longer in print. Libraries are looking at digitizing items like these and CCPL can do that, too.
Ms. Doss asked Ms. Wick to share feedback from patrons who visited the Libraries June 15. Ms. Wick said people were happy to be back in the libraries. The response has been good so far.
Ms. Doss asked about capacity limits. Ms. Wick stated the capacity limits have not been an issue.
Mr. Bird asked if patrons questioned safety through email or social media. Ms. Herron said yes, those questions have been asked on social media. The Library has responded with the same information as Ms. Wick reported earlier.
Ms. Wick commended the Reopening Task Force for their work: Beth Lammrish, Joel Walters, Jim George, Robb Hirschauer, Lisa Breithaupt, Elyse French, Kasey Richey and Chris Rich. The plan they developed was very thorough.
Ms. Wick provided some Curbside Pickup service statistics: Branches filled just under 2,100 orders, more than 8,100 holds were picked up, and more than 250 documents were printed. In addition, 650 items were checked out. Curbside Pickup has been very successful.
Ms. Wick thanked staff for providing online content. This is totally new for the Library and programmers are creating online storytimes, book talks, demonstrations, and narrating slideshows. An example of the narrated slideshow includes Emily Wichman’s creation of a video about Milford history that was very well received online.
Jester Jim performed for the Library as a kick off to Summer Reading. The Library received a lot of positive comments about the show.
Ms. Wick reviewed the revised 2020 board meeting schedule, which was in the board packet.
The Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library has the United Way as the sponsoring fiscal agent. The Library will be the referral agent. Fund-raising efforts are underway.
Motion by Mr. Bird, seconded by Ms. Doss, to approve Resolution 2020-14, Acceptance of Gifts to the Library. All in favor. Motion was adopted.
Motion by Ms. Waite, seconded by Ms. Doss, to approve Resolution 2020-15, Disposal of Unneeded or Obsolete Library Inventory. Roll call: In favor, Mr. Cardinal, Mr. Braun, Mr. Bird, Ms. Waite, Ms. Doss. Motion was adopted.
Mr. Braun discussed the closure of the Bethel Branch June 15. There was a protest and counter protest in Bethel June 14 similar to those across the country calling for racial equality. There were verbal confrontations and some assaults. He stands behind the decision of the Director to close a branch any time there is a perceived threat to patrons and staff. Because the situation was out of the control of employees, Mr. Braun suggested paying these employees as normal, but not deducting vacation hours.
Motion by Mr. Braun, seconded by Ms. Doss, to waive the Library’s HR policy and not require employees to take a vacation day as a result of the Bethel closure. This would be done in the future on a case-by-case basis. All in favor. Motion was adopted.
Motion by Mr. Bird, seconded by Ms. Waite, to adjourn the meeting at 6:50 p.m. All were in favor. Motion was adopted.
Next meeting date is July 20.
Board President Board Secretary