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Library board exodus continues

The St. Paul Municipal Library’s board is facing an exodus of board members, which started last year and continued with the resignation of one more board member on Sept.

The St. Paul Municipal Library’s board is facing an exodus of board members, which started last year and continued with the resignation of one more board member on Sept. 30, bringing the total number of resigning board members in 2009 and 2010 to nine.

Now only four people sit on the board, while the Libraries Act dictates that “A municipal board shall consist of not fewer than five and not more than 10 members appointed by council.”

“There’s got to be an issue because you don’t lose and not replace that many board members in two years,” notes Irene Van Brabant, who was on the library board for 25 years. She was one of four board members that quit early last year. While she still works with the county library board, she said she had problems working with the town councillor, Ken Kwiatkowski, assigned to St. Paul’s library board. “He just took over,” she said. “The library board was working very well until he came in.”

The members on the previously full board were working within the parameters of the Libraries Act, and she said some had dedicated 30 or more years to helping out their local library. The number of the years some people had been on the board also became an issue, which led to long-time board members leaving that still have yet to be replaced, Van Brabant said.

“We put in a lot of years and volunteer time with the library,” she said, adding she’d hate to see all those years of effort lost or to see anything happen that would affect the facility. “You don’t devote that many years if you don’t like libraries.”

Following the loss of four board members earlier last year, Lucille Froese took on the responsibilities of chairing the board, but she too resigned this June. “Some people on the board have their own agenda and refuse to work together as a team. It causes too much stress and dissension,” she explained as her reason for leaving.

She stated she had talked to the town council representative on the board last year about library procedures and protocol, and while the board functioning seemed to improve, this January, things began deteriorating again, forcing her to make the decision to leave.

Although Van Brabant stated she had tried to talk to the mayor about the situation earlier, Mayor Glenn Andersen said he hasn’t heard of problems within the library board in the past year or so.

If there are complaints about a councillor’s role on a committee and it poses a big issue, then the councillor can be moved to another committee. “Normally we don’t do anything like that until our organizational meeting,” he said, noting this meeting takes place once a year. But in the current case, he says there didn’t seem to be a reason to do such a shuffle.

“I didn’t get any report that there’s issues with the library board itself. I haven’t in awhile. You just assume things are going well,” he said.

Kwiatkowski, who is now acting chair of the library board, feels that everything is indeed working smoothly.

“Everyone on the board, we get along great. We don’t have many issues amongst each other. We’re all on the same page. I think we work very well together,” he said. He said the last board member to leave this past month had too much on her plate, which is why she resigned.

When asked if anyone had brought up any problems about his representation on the committee, he expressed surprise. “That’s the first I hear of it.”

The library board’s functioning today isn’t much different from three years ago, he said. While new policies are continually getting implemented, these are in response to patrons’ suggestions, such as adding audio books or more programming for young people. Youths’ needs are changing, and to get young people involved and interested in their library, “we have to change with them,” said Kwiatkowski. He noted efforts to recruit new board members are ongoing.

Since the Libraries Act states that the board needs to maintain at least five members, Patricia McName, policy legislative consultant at the Libraries Branch in Edmonton, says that the municipal council – in this case, the Town of St. Paul – needs to find more board members as soon as possible. “They’re the accountable body,” she said, adding as long as advertising is ongoing, library funding is not in jeopardy. “They can appoint up to two councillors if push came to shove.”

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