Tuesday, June 18, 2024

CLN trustees to review all materials purchases

Staff Writer | January 20, 2024 1:08 AM

Staff members of the Community Library Network will now be required to present the board of trustees with a report of new materials purchases every other month.

This was approved by the board majority — Chair Rachelle Ottosen, Vice Chair Tom Hanley and Trustee Tim Plass — in a 3-2 vote during Thursday's meeting at the Hayden Library.

Plass made the motion to implement this requirement after Hanley read from a statement that this subject has come up at previous meetings, but was too vague to put into motion. He provided specifics detailing how he would like to see a monthly or bi-monthly report of all overdrive, digital, eBooks, audio and physical books purchased and he wants them sorted by audience: preschool, primary, juvenile, pre-adolescent, adolescent and adult.

“I think that’s more clear,” Hanley said.

This was approved by the board majority despite objections from Library Director Alexa Eccles and nay votes from Trustees Katie Blank and Vanessa Robinson.

Eccles said the network needs to be very careful about creating unnecessary reports.

"It actually increases our risk for liability," she said.

Robinson said she was confused.

"Can a person get this list on their own on the computer?" she asked. "Can a person literally just go on the computer and get it by themself?"

Eccles nodded as Ottosen responded that the director report indicated a person could get "a sample of one of the collections, which isn’t really with the whole thing."

On communitylibrary.net, users have the ability to search Community Library Network materials by acquisition date once they click on "log in or search catalog." From there, they can choose an advanced search in which they can choose to sort by collection, shelving location, group of libraries and acquisition date, among other filters.

Blank said she doesn’t understand why the trustees who want this information are not willing to find it themselves on the website.

“New acquisitions are on the website, all of them," she said. "I don’t understand."

Hanley read from a statement and referred to a comment by Eccles during a past meeting, when she voiced an ethical concern that the reason for requiring these lists of new acquisitions is to make them available through public records requests.

Hanley said he didn’t think it was being requested for that reason.

Even if it were, he said, it’s up to the trustees to decide. 

“I would think the library staff would be proud of the way they spend the taxpayers’ money and they would be thrilled to showcase their book purchases,” he said.

Eccles informed the board the library network recently denied a public records request that was similar in nature to what the board majority was requesting "because this item is not a report that library staff run."

“It has no business purpose," she said. "Library administration have better tools and means to oversee and manage collection and purchases.

“What I’m saying is that, if the reason that a trustee made this motion is to create a record so that the public can request it, that that is unethical."

Eccles said she needed to know what specifically trustees plan to do with this information, "because I cannot see, from your chair, what you will be doing with this information."

Plass said he had received an email from a constituent from the Hayden Facebook site regarding new Halloween-themed books.

“I saw books that didn’t look very good to me,” he said.

He said the books were “occult.” 

“I’m not saying they were sexually explicit. I don’t know anything about them,” he said. “I’m alarmed that we’re buying books and as a trustee on behalf of our constituents, I believe we should know what is being bought and that is all there is to it. I want to know what’s being bought.”

Eccles responded the intention, then, must be to censor.

"If you’re concerned about the content of the book, and that is the purpose for your requesting this list, then that is to put undue pressure on myself and the staff to censor based on content, which we just discussed is inappropriate and illegal," she said.

Ottosen called the question to stop the debate.

Eccles stated, on the record, she recommended legal counsel review this, and that was not done.

The next regular meeting of the Community Library Network's board is set for Feb. 15 from 2 to 5:30 p.m. at the Post Falls Library, though the location may change as the library is closed while it undergoes moisture mitigation due to winter weather damage.