Southern Connecticut State University
ILS 561 Online Fall 2008
December 6, 2008
Here are the questions:
1. You have been the Library Director of the medium-sized public library for the town of Abington for 5 years. Your Library Board of Trustees is a governing one. They have adopted all of the ALA Intellectual Freedom documents, including the Code of Ethics, the Library Bill of Rights and its interpretations, the Right to Read statements, etc.
Beth, your Community Service Librarian, has started a film series open to all—this is the 6th such series since you arrived in Abington. It is to be held on Thursday nights at 7 pm, beginning next week, with most showings over fairly early. Experience has proven this series to be popular, mainly because the films are shown on a large screen, so the experience is similar to going to a movie theatre. And, the library furnishes popcorn, too! After the films are shown, experts from the local colleges (there are two nearby) will comment on the film’s content, meaning, symbolism, etc., and they will answer questions from the audience.
The films were chosen via a survey of library patrons. The titles of the films were listed in the local paper over a week ago. For the first time ever, two people have protested the only “R” film on the list, “Little Miss Sunshine.” They object to the language and also to some of the insensitivity in the film. As it happens, it is the film that got the most votes in the survey—the one most people wanted to be part of the series. As you may know, it’s become somewhat of a classic.
George Foster, the Chairman of the Board, called you yesterday and said that he spoke with several Board members, and he wants the Community Service Librarian to check the age of anyone she thinks may not be 17, and to not allow those under 17, including groups of high school youngsters, to attend the film showing.
Yesterday, when you spoke to Beth*, she objected strongly to the request from the Board Chairman. Today she came into your office and told you that she refuses to act as the movie police, and she reminded you that the library has always opened up its programs to everyone.
Of course, the local newspaper has gotten wind of the controversy, and a reporter has been calling your office and leaving voicemails requesting to speak to you.
What will you do now? Tell me what your action(s) will be? What will you do and say? To whom will you speak? In what order? Be thorough and make sure to justify everything. *Beth does an outstanding job and the whole town loves her.
1. Once Beth has shared her opinion and that she refuses to act, I would share with her that her concerns are well taken and that the policy is under review. I would appreciate it if she took this under consideration if contacted by the press.
2. Place a notice on the library’s internal blog for staff to be aware that if the media calls, to forward the calls to the Director.
3. Contact George to make him aware that the controversy is two-sided and that it is your duty to inform him that the new position is in conflict with the library’s stated policy of upholding the ALA documents (Getrtzog, 1994). It is leading to a staff labor dispute and it is your advice that the requirement to check identification be reviewed by the full Board after legal counsel. I would remind George that the press is looking for comment. I would inform him that I would research current case studies on the subject and keep him informed daily. Meanwhile, the library’s official release is that the situation is under review and a statement will be issued upon completion.
Also, I would advise that I will call our State Library Association’s and ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) and will look at ALA’s Web site for advice on dealing with challenges from the public. As I am not an attorney, I would suggest the Board speak with legal counsel to see if the library has an obligation to check identification for entrance to the movie and if it is advisable or if the library has no obligation to check identification. George may want to ask counsel what steps can the Board legally take in executive session or in public hearing in order to create and deliver a position statement to the media and the concerned citizens (Gertzog, 1994). If the Board decides to adhere to their ruling after research and legal counsel, we will probably have a personnel issue to work through with Human Resources.
4. Contact the press to issue statement that the policy is under review.
5. Call Human Resources to understand the correct path to take with an employee who states a refusal to follow instructions. I want to be sure I am following current employment and union laws as well as understand the employee grievance process (Gertzog, 1994).
6. Contact legal counsel for advice on the two issues: checking identification and labor dispute. (Back to the Top)
1. After discussion with ALA’s OIF, I understand that a complaint or concern must be filed in writing and the parties properly identified before action can be taken.
2. Contact George to advise there are procedures to address formal complaint according to ALA’s OIF. A Formal Request for Consideration Form should be completed by the concerned parties and filed with the library. I can call the parties and ask them to meet with me to discuss their concerns and to complete a form and return it to me. This way we understand exactly where their concerns lie. From there we can finalize a Board position statement for Board approval. The Board will need to provide that explanation in writing, after legal counsel, to the concerned parties and the media. Hopefully our statement will end their concerns. I will file the appropriate paperwork with OIF (“ALA”, 2008).
3. Contacted concerned citizens for discussion and received written challenge to the movie showing.
Motion Picture Association of America: The rating system is a voluntary system sponsored by the MPAA and the National Association of Theater Owners. After viewing the film, a Board made up of parents votes its rating based on theme, language, violence, nudity, sex and drug use (“MPAA”, 2005). Although the rating system is voluntary, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) strongly encourages its members to clearly post every film’s rating, admission policy, including to require photo identification for children under 17 to attend R-rated motion pictures unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. MPAA generally recommends R-rated movies not suitable for younger audiences. NATO’s position states that a parent knows what material is or isn't acceptable for their child so therefore NATO assumes that the parent has not approved their child to see R-rated movies. NATO urges parents to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their child (“MPAA”, 2005. p. FAQs). This position is very similar to ALA’s amended Access For Children and Young Adults to Non-print Materials An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (2004) which states that although librarians cannot act in loco parentis, libraries should provide published reviews and/or reference works that contain information about the content, subject matter, and recommended audiences for non-print materials. These resources will assist parents in guiding their children without implicating the library in censorship. In this way, the library recognizes the parents’ efforts to guide their own children’s reading and viewing (“ALA”, 2008).
Cases - In the U.S. Supreme Court Case Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville, 422 U.S. 205, 213-14, 45 L. Ed. 2d 125, 95 S. Ct. 2268 (1975), the court ruled that the town could not place an ordinance to suppress a film the town did not think it suitable for minors to view because minors are protected by the First Amendment (“Caselaw.lp.findlaw.com”, 2008).
ALA: OIF has many supporting documents to indicate that the library cannot restrict minors from checking out R-rated films including resisting all efforts by groups or individuals to censor materials per the Code of Ethics. In revisiting the Freedom to Read statement, there is no room for society to coerce taste or to impose standards on others (Gertzog, 1994). The Library Bill of Rights reaffirms that materials are for the interest and enlightenment of all people regardless of age and censorship should be challenged (Gertzog, 1994). In fact, a bill proposed in Wisconsin asked the State to enforce this policy for all libraries throughout Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Libraries Association and MPAA opposed it for the same reasons: the bill would violate the First Amendment and effectively put legislative powers in private hands. MPAA stated that their rating system is voluntary, advisory and was never intended to have the weight of law (Sheehan, 2005). By the same token, if the library applied the MPAA movie ratings or any other private industry’s rating system to library materials would be a form of labeling and censorship (“ALA”, 2008). (Back to the Top)
Meet with George to update on my research advise of my research and to learn what legal counsel explained to him.
1. Although I am not an attorney, I recommend that the Board reconsider the policy as the Abington Library’s Board of Trustees governs by applying all of ALA’s Intellectual Freedom documents. I would suggest to the Board that we are a library and not parents in absentia. In addition, as the Board of Trustees subscribes to the Right to Read then it follows that the Board also subscribes to the Right to View, both of which endorse challenging censorship (“ALA, 2008).
2. Suggest that the Board review the policy at their next meeting, if it falls before the movie. If not, suggest an Executive Session to discuss legal counsel’s findings and advice. This needs to occur as soon as possible to ensure that the necessary policies are in place and to diffuse the press.
1. Board meeting with the concerned citizens sharing their opinions per ALA’s challenge hearing procedures.
2. Legal counsel presents opinion.
3. Board discusses motion/policy and acts to vote to postpone vote on motion/policy.
4. I present a draft of two possible media statements for counsel and Board review (Gertzog, 1994).
A. The Abington Library Board of Trustees presents cultural and educational programs to serve community members and meet their information needs. Library programs also may be used to increase awareness of and promote the use of Library resources and services and are open to the general public. However, the Library may find it necessary to restrict attendance based on the appropriateness of the subject matter to the age of the attendee and reserves the right to request photo identification of age verification to certain programs or program series.
B. The Abington Library Board of Trustees’ goal is to serve the community’s needs and provide free access to all types of material, regardless of race, creed, or age. We do not censor material or monitor people’s activities here and we extend that right to our children. From time to time a member of our community may not approve or enjoy material that others do. We believe that parents know what’s best for their children and we encourage parents to investigate the library for copies of reviews and ratings and to use them in guiding their children’s library use.
5. After Board decision, conduct private conference with Beth reiterating that she is a valuable employee and I appreciate her coming to me first with her concerns so we can work to resolve the issues together.
6. Review the Sample Q&A on the ALA web site to practice my answer to the questions from the press.
1. Media Statements signed by the Board (Gertzog, 1994) will be issued to the concerned citizens, media, professors, and posted on the library’s web site or internal blog.
2. Call the concerned citizens with the Board’s statement. Alert the media, professors, and key library personnel to let them know the statement is coming.
3. Close the discussion with Human Resources.
3. Your library, in the center of a small Connecticut municipality with a population of around 49,000, is having a lot of trouble with disruptive and unruly patrons—in a range of age and gender categories. There was one incident where rival gangs claimed the library as their territory, but the police were called and no further incident of that kind has occurred for over a year.
Your Director has decided that it’s time to employ security personnel during all of library’s open hours. She has contacted some agencies that provide such services and has found several that have experience working in libraries. She is in the process of asking for cost estimates from three such agencies. She is planning to bring this matter to the Library Board at its June meeting.
The one question that she has not been able to answer to her own satisfaction is this one:
Should the security guards carry guns or not? She is requesting cost estimates based on both possibilities—with guns and without guns. However, she will have to make a recommendation for the Board on that issue. In anticipation of that recommendation, she has convened a meeting of all staff tomorrow at 2 pm. All staff will be able to express their views—and you know already that there are some people who hold strong opinions pro and con. You know your Director well enough to know that she will want not just people’s gut feelings about this, but she will want facts in support of the divergent points of view.
You know that you’re going to express your opinion about this issue at the meeting. What will you say and what rationale will you provide? If you can find articles, statistics, etc., on this kind of situation, your Director would be very grateful.
After the Director presented her logic and goals for library security, I would say thank you for allowing staff to give input on the process. I understand the need for hiring security staff due to the number of incidents within the last year. I strongly suggest that the Director meets with our municipal police department to evaluate the town’s Connecticut Uniform Crime Reports (UCCR), which must be filed with the state per the FBI, to assess the probability of a serious incident occurring within our library (Clark, 1995). I would also analyze the response time of the police department and take steps to ensure that the time is maintained at top efficiency by having an established procedure in place partnered by both sides. I would request information on the degree of activity relating to the gangs involved last year and if they are becoming stronger. Unless the results of this meeting were overwhelmingly negative, I would oppose the hiring of armed security. My opposition is based on the facts that:
1. Any security, armed or unarmed, will cause a drop in incidents, as people are less likely to commit crimes in the presence of authority. I researched WebJunction.org and a library Director, Chantal Benson of Timmins, Ontario said that after her library hired security guards, disruptive behavior problems were reduce by 50% (“Webjunction”, 2008).
2. An armed security staff does not deter a determined perpetrator. People still commit crimes of passion or rob banks regardless of the presence of guns as stated in Iowa State Senator Professor Quirmbach’s letter to the President of Iowa State University (2007, p.3) arguing against arming campus police after the Virginia Tech tragedy.
3. Adding a gun to the equation always carries the risk that the gun can be misused no matter how well trained the security employee is. The employee may overact in a situation, have their weapon taken from them or shoot an innocent bystander during an exchange. (Quirmbach, 2007)
4. Lastly, there is always the added financial cost as armed guards increase of the library’s exposure thereby requiring the library to carry a higher liability insurance premium (Clark, 1995).
In addition to hiring security, I feel consideration should be given to the following items to ensure we have a comprehensive and effective security policy. If the library already has one in place, these suggestions may bring it up-to-date. I found the Library Leadership & Management Association’s (LAMA) web site which provides guidelines for safety and security within the library. LAMA realizes that not all libraries can afford security officers or staff, but all libraries can provide a policy and procedure manual for the staff to refer to when senior management is not available (“ALA”, LAMA, 2006). Also, LAMA suggests the minimum security training for staff should be one day of classroom instruction as well as continuing on-the-job training by a competent and experienced instructor as staff is the first line of enforcement of patron behavior policy (Gertzog, 1994). Also, I looked at East Hartford Public Library’s web site as East Hartford, Connecticut’s population is approximately 49,000 (“U. S. Census”, 2000). They have a very strong behavior policy that we may want to consider using as a template. It outlines the approved or suggested behavior for patrons and library personnel when in the library and the stages of reprimand for unacceptable behavior (“East Hartford Library”, 2007). This policy should be made readily available to staff and patrons by posting it on the web site, in the staff lunchroom, and at the service desks. Although East Hartford’s policy doesn’t have an incident report, we should incorporate one that can be given to the Board, police, and kept in a library file so we can track incidents. In addition, Salem Ohio’s Public Library’s web site has a policy of how the library staff will interact with the library’s security service (“Salem”, 2000) which also could be considered part of the library’s discussion with the security firms. (Back to the Top)
4. You are the Head of the Children’s Department in a small public library. There are 5 full-time (2 with an MLS—the Director and you) and 3 part-time employees, plus 2 volunteers. The library is open 37 hours a week—Mon and Tues from 1-9 pm, Wed, Thurs and Fri from 10 am-5 pm.
As with most small libraries, it’s considered by the patrons to be a very friendly place. Most of the patrons are familiar to the staff, with friendly exchanges taking place as a matter of course.
However, the newest full-time employee, a Circulation Desk worker who has been there about 7 months, is icily efficient. She is often the only person at the adult services desk. She does exceptional work in terms of checking things out quickly, putting information into the computer, locating materials for interlibrary loan, generating statistics, etc. However, she does not engage in conversations with patrons, never makes suggestions about books or videos or audios to the patrons, never initiates an interlibrary loan, and doesn’t even look people in the eye. She has her back to the patrons more often than not.
You, as Children’s Department Head, have begun to get people coming to your area and saying, “I came to see you because I wanted to see a friendly face.” They make it clear that there was no friendly face at the adult desk, and you know full well what they mean. However, you haven’t said anything to the Director (She spends most of her time preparing materials for the shelves and in dealing with budget and Board issues, so she is rarely at the desk.) because you feel uncomfortable doing that. This is a library where the employees get along and don’t criticize each other. You’ve encouraged the patrons to say something to the Director, but they are reluctant to do that.
You don’t want to be the library tattletale but you also don’t want the library’s image to suffer further damage. You have spent a lot of time thinking about this lately and you’ve come to a decision. What will you do and why?
Performance discussions can stressful for many people so many do not like to conduct assessments for fellow employees. When delivered with respect and facts, the conversation can be very instructional and successful for the individual and the establishment. My first responsibility as professional librarian is to uphold the Code of Ethics which states that “we treat co-workers and other colleagues with respect, fairness, and good faith, and advocate conditions of employment that safeguard the rights and welfare of all employees of our institutions” (Gertzog, 1994). Second, I would review my job description when I was hired as Children’s Department Head. In many small libraries, such as Monroe, Connecticut, the Children’s Head Librarian reports to the Director and acts at the Director in their absence (“Webjunction”, 2008). Third, to whom do Circulation Desk employees report? To the Children’s Head Librarian, the Director or both? Based on this, I would sit down with the Director, as the Director is ultimately responsible for personnel administration, to review the Circulation Desk’s job description to verify that the individual is performing the duties and responsibilities outlined. It is important that to keep to the facts. As it seems the Director is unaware of the situation developing on the floor, there are a number of ways to address it from the Director level and on the operations level.
Circulation Desk job descriptions vary between libraries. Some discuss only the duties of the job while others include the requisite that the duties be performed “in a friendly manner”. With the Director, I would assess the individual’s performance for each bulleted responsibility to determine where there may be gaps on their performance. In addition, I would review the training the individual received. Seven months may not be a long enough period of time for some people to become comfortable in their position depending on the training received. I would also suggest looking at the Circulation Desk’s schedule to determine if there are staffing deficiencies that perhaps the Director or I could fill to continue coaching and mentoring a new employee. At a minimum, both can agree to make a conscience effort to observe her behavior at the desk for future coaching and mentoring.
Once the Director and I understand the baseline for the position, we can develop a continued education plan to fill in whatever holes may exist and work together to monitor performance at the Circulation Desk. In any employment situation, personnel action requires documentation whether it is to coach to success or to determine that person is not a good fit and needs to be let go or moved to a more suitable position. We would need to consult the union requirements, if applicable, at this time as well. The Director can use this opportunity to have a six-month review conversation with the employee to get their perceptions about their training, the job, the work environment, and their needs. As a Children’s Head Librarian or a Director, I wouldn’t feel comfortable at this time to share the individual’s performance concerns unless I have documented evidence. It doesn’t appear that the individual received a 30-day or 60-day performance evaluation so it would seem unfounded if issues came up now. The Director can reiterate the position description expectations and to clarify the nuances, such as smiling and saying hello. The Director can state that a review of the schedule reveals times of day that circulation needs support therefore the Children’s Head Librarian and Director will fill those slots.
By working closely together, an assessment of the individual’s performance can be made to see if her actions are personality traits: some people don’t smile or aren’t talkative. Perhaps she is afraid of insulting someone by recommending a book or DVD because her tastes do not match the patrons’ tastes. This may be an opportunity train her on Reader Advisory reference tools. If the library doesn’t subscribe to one of these tools, perhaps it is something to purchase to benefit staff and patrons. By working with the individual and observing the traffic at the desk, the investigation may determine she does suggest materials or she doesn’t have time to suggest at certain points in the day or she doesn’t interact with patrons. All of which require documentation for future employment action, if necessary.
The same investigative process will determine if in fact she keeps her back to the public or if it is a perception. If the Circulation Desk is designed like many, the reserves, the to call area, and the re-shelving book carts are all on the back wall. So if an employee were alone on the desk then yes, perception is that her back is to the patrons. By being on the desk with the employee will determine if this is the case or if the individual really doesn’t smile or engage with patrons. Again it may be a personality trait that makes the person seem like they are “not a friendly face”. The investigation may determine that Circulation Desk could be considered for a redesign or it is performing tasks that could or should be shared with other departments, such as Children’s. The Director must maintain an open mind when approaching this situation, as it already seems the other employees have a preconceived notion of what is going on. Or perhaps they have correctly assessed the situation.
As Children’s Head Librarian, I would make a conscience attempt to ask patrons what they really mean when they say, “I came to see you because I wanted to see a friendly face.” I would ask them to step aside in a confidential area and ask for their side of the story as the library encourages open dialogue with patrons and employees. Again I would reiterate that if the patron is not comfortable sharing with me face-to-face, there is a suggestion box that the Director just instituted.
Once all documentation is collected, the Director assesses the results. If the employee is under a union contract, the Director will consult the union and human resources to ensure the appropriate actions are taken to protect the employee and the institution. The Director meets with the employee to discuss performance gaps based on the job description, documented observations, and perhaps patron input. The outcome of the meeting is to determine a mutually agreed upon action plan to improve the employee’s performance. This will include regularly scheduled meetings to assess progress with written documentation of each meeting that both parties sign-off on. The goal is to make the employee feel like a valuable part of the team, but if the situation doesn’t improve then the Director will have the documentation to fairly take action. Alternatively, the results may show other individuals or departments could benefit from the same assessment process to improve the entire library’s service to the community.
This situation offers the library a great opportunity to reassess their employee training, mentoring, and evaluation policies and forms. Perhaps they are already in place but are not followed and need to be revisited. The best way to have an organization operate the way a leader envisions is to have clearly established expectations and consequences, but most of all, to lead by example. (Back to the Top)
American Library Association. ALA.org. 2008. Access for children and young adults to non-print materials an interpretation of the library bill of rights. 2004. Retrieved November 22, 2008 from http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/statementspols/statementsif/interpretations/accessnonprintmaterials.pdf.
Coping with Challenges. Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials. Retrieved November 26, 2008 from http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/challengesupport/dealing/copingchallengesstrategies.cfm.
Guidelines for the Development of Policies and Procedures Regarding User Behavior and Library Usage. Retrieved November 28, 2008 from http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/statementspols/otherpolicies/guidelinesdevelopment.cfm
Library Security Guidelines Document June 7, 2001. ALA.org, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2008 from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/llama/lamapublications/librarysecurity.cfm#securityduty.
Video Round Table. Freedom to View. 1989. Retrieved November 26, 2008 from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/rts/vrt/professionalresources/vrtresources/freedomtoview.cfm.
Clark, Bill. (1995, October 1). A call to arms The Free Library. (1995). Retrieved December 05, 2008 from http://www.thefreelibrary.com/A call to arms.-a017477244
East Hartford Public Library. 2007. Behavior Policy. Retrieved November 28, 2008 from http://www.ehtfdlib.info/LIBPOL.htm.
Gertzog, A., & Beckerman, E. (1994). Chapter 18. Financial Management. Administration of the Public Library. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.
Motion Picture Association of America. 2005. Ratings page. Retrieved November 21, 2008 from http://www.mpaa.org/FlmRat_Ratings.asp.
FAQs page. Retrieved November 21, 2008 from http://www.mpaa.org/Ratings_FAQ.asp.
Quirmbach, H. C., Iowa State Senate, District 23, and Associate Professor of Economics, Iowa State University. September 10, 2007. Letter to President Gregory Geoffroy, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Comment on arming campus police. Retrieved November 30, 2008 from http://www2.state.ia.us/regents/News/Email%20Communications/2007/hermanquirmbachemail.pdf
Salem Public Library. Salem, Ohio. Security Guard. May 27, 1977. Retrieved November 28, 2008 from http://winslo.state.oh.us/publib/jobsecur1.html.
Sheehan, T. “Bill would restrict minors from checking out R-rated films at libraries”. LaCrosse Tribune. July 21, 2005. Retrieved November 25, 2008 from http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2005/07/21/news/01library.txt.
U.S. Census Bureau. Fact Finder. Connecticut Place and County Subdivision. 2000. Retrieved November 27, 2008 from http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/GCTTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=04000US09&-_box_head_nbr=GCT-PH1&-ds_name=DEC_2000_SF1_U&-format=ST-7.
U.S. Supreme Court Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville, 422 U.S. 205, 213-14, 45 L. Ed. 2d 125, 95 S. Ct. 2268 (1975). FindLaw. 2008. Retrieved November 22, 2008 from http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=422&invol=205.
WebJunction. 2005. Difficult Patron Behavior: Success Stories from the WebJunction Community. Retrieved November 29, 2008 from http://www.webjunction.org/513/articles/content/437956.
Children’s Librarians Job Descriptions. Town Of Monroe. Job Description. Children’s Services Librarian. March 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2008 from http://ct.webjunction.org/techplan-writing/articles/content/2943639. (Back to the Top)