Library doors closed

Resignations close Rawlins branch, reopening date unclear

 


With last week’s resignation of information specialist Palma Jack, the Rawlins library was left unable to open its doors to the public for the July 1 beginning of fiscal year 2017. In response to the resignation, Carbon County Library System Board (CCLSB) members held an emergency vote July 1 to shutter the Rawlins branch until they’ve had a chance to discuss the situation at their next meeting July 6. It is unclear when the library will reopen.

Jack’s resignation was the latest blow to a library system that has been left reeling from funding cutbacks, internal divisions and, by CCLSB chair Joanne Whitson’s count, 10 resignations since early spring. Atop the list of resignations is that of CCLSB director Bobbie Morgan, who announced she would step down effective July 18 at an emergency meeting of the CCLSB June 24.

In a letter explaining her departure, Jack cited many of the same reasons for leaving that Morgan had. “(I am) unable to work for a library board who, for whatever reason, does not like or respect the employees at the Rawlins library,” Jack wrote. Morgan’s letter likewise called out CCLSB members Tom Callison and Joyce Menke for “degrading staff contributions and value to the library in public statements.” Callison has vigorously disputed this charge and Menke said that her comments have been misconstrued and misinterpreted.


Outside of the CCLSB, Jack said that Carbon County Commissioner Sue Jones had meddled in the library system’s internal affairs and played politics with library funding. Jack accused Jones of colluding with “two board members” to undermine Morgan’s authority prior to budget meetings, and of pitting libraries against one another in a scramble for funding following precipitous budget cuts.

Like Morgan, who has issued multiple warning about coming “declines in services,” Jack’s portrayal of the current situation is grim.

“The Main library no longer has enough staff to operate, let alone provide services to the other seven branches. There is no one to process new books or items for any of the libraries. There is no one to order supplies; or pay bills,” Jack wrote.

Freshly-minted CCLSB member Cindy Bloomquist was quick to offer a rosier assessment. Bloomquist and Ellie Behrmann began their three-year terms on the CCLSB July 1, replacing departing members Julie Evans and Gail Lorick, whose terms on the five-member CCLSB expired June 30.

“We just didn’t have enough information and we didn’t know where we stood,” Bloomquist said to explain the unexpected closing.

In Bloomquist’s recounting, the board voted to close the Rawlins branch pending their July 6 meeting because the situation was murky and information was uncertain. “We can’t figure out if they have the money or don’t have the money; if they have the people or they don’t have the people,” Bloomquist said.

Bloomquist also wanted to begin the process of mending bridges, expressing hopefulness that some of the employees who had left could be lured back. “These people are necessary and they have to be paid,” Bloomquist said, praising Carbon County library staff in general.

Whatever the outcome, it is clear that a lot will be at stake at the 5 p.m. July 6 CCLSB meeting in the Rawlins library. Whether staff stay at the table or decide to cut their losses may determine what kind of access citizens will have to their library system.

 

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