MINUTES OF
HENNEPIN COUNTY LIBRARY BOARD MEETING
JANUARY 28, 2009

The Hennepin County Library Board met Wed., Jan. 28, 2009 at Ridgedale Library.

Present: John Gibbs, Holly Guncheon, Roger Hale, Patricia Izek, Jill Joseph, Claudia Kelly, Kathleen Lamb, John Pacheco, David Pratt, Cynthia Steinke and Therese VanBlarcom
Hennepin County Staff: Kim Battern, Bill Berg, Mary Bowman, Juli Bratvold, Sharon Charles, Joanne Frankena, Judith Friedrich, Margaret Gillespie, Maureen Hartman, Julaine Heit, Richard P. Johnson, Lois Lenroot-Ernt, Karen Levinson, Melinda Ludwiczak, Michael McConnell, Lisa McFerrin, Jodi Monson, Holly Rakocy, Renee Reed, Steve Richter, Charles Salter, Margie Schuster, Char Sohlberg, Lynn Stetler, Marilyn Turner, Ardis Wiley, Gretchen Wronka and Marilyn Zastrow
Public: Rev. Diane Bland, Cathy Fischer, Baba Krishnaji, Phill Lindsay, Wizard Marks, Mary Jane Smetanka, Todd Suomela, Renáta Tichá, Julia Wallace, Stu Wilson

CALL TO ORDER
President Patricia Izek called the Hennepin County Library Board meeting of Jan. 28, 2009 to order at 5:02 p.m. and welcomed attendees.

APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Cynthia Steinke made a motion to approve the agenda which was seconded by Jill Joseph. Motion passed.

CONSENT ITEMS
Roger Hale made a motion to approve the minutes of the Nov. 19, 2008 Library Board meeting and accept donations which was seconded by Jill Joseph. Motion passed.

PUBLIC COMMENT
There were three public comments. Wizard Marks expressed concerns about the Hosmer Library CD collection and communication between library managers and Director. She asked the Board to task the new Director with changing the institutional culture. Reverend Diane Bland, complimented the Library Board on the renovation of Sumner Library and current programs. She expressed concern about a lack of librarians and board members of color. She commended staff efforts but expressed concern about North Regional Library where security-related incidents in her opinion have resulted in seniors in the neighborhood choosing not to use the library. Baba Krishnaji informed Board members of his background through Renáta Tichá. Mr. Krishnaji indicated he has heard positive remarks about the head of Hennepin County, and looks forward to real change.

LIBRARY DIRECTOR INTERVIEWS
President Patricia Izek introduced the process for conducting Library Director interviews with the Library Board. There were two finalists: Rivkah Sass and Lois Langer Thompson. The finalists were asked eight questions and follow-up questions were limited to the relevancy of the question originally posed. Library Board members introduced themselves to the candidates when they arrived for their interview. Summary of responses from finalists:
  • Rivkah Sass
    Ms. Sass introduced herself and summarized her background and reasons she is interested in the position. She recognized the success of Hennepin County Library (HCL) and her desire to be Library Director. She described her personality traits which would result in successful leadership if chosen which include: passion, intuitive vision for where libraries are going, and compassion. She described herself as an open, direct communicator. Public leaders that she would consider role models were Charles Robinson former Director of Baltimore County Library, Ginnie Cooper current District of Columbia Public Library Director, and Kit Hadley former Director of Minneapolis Public Library and she explained reasons why. In describing an example of leadership she felt was unsuccessful, she talked of a situation where she and a group of colleagues visited another library and came back to their library system and implemented the same changes; she felt it would have been more successful to have had a little more time and conversation before mandating change. She felt good ideas come from staff who are implementing change. She felt the most challenging role for herself as Library Director would be creating a balance for herself. She indicated she gets so immersed, excited about possibilities and passionate she has to tell herself to step back and do an environmental scan, decide where to start and then move forward. What she finds the most ease in administering is her excitement of what a public library is and does; the advocacy portion in the community. She indicated she had given more than 200 presentations in the community for various groups; advocating for what a public library is, is easiest for her. When asked about the leadership qualities she would bring to foster the continued success of integrated services and staff in a recently unified library system with blended cultures, Ms. Sass indicated she would use the word compassion as she felt that was needed right now. She expressed excitement for what HCL has done and is doing and felt a fresh perspective is always helpful along with her experience and understanding having worked in different types of libraries. She mentioned she currently works in a library with a fraction of the funding HCL has so she brings to the table her knowledge of how to do it with fewer resources. She said she is passionate about having a good strategic plan which is an action she would take early on to make sure that a shared vision is built. When asked for her views on the role of the public library in a broadband-centric world, Ms. Sass indicated she did not have a magic answer but she did not think the role of the library is fundamentally different in that type of world because it would still serve as a connector, still very much an incubator for good ideas, a place for bringing people together to have conversations around issues, civic engagement, a safe-haven for people who don't always quite fit and noted important connections between teens and librarians. She noted improved technology allows libraries to deliver what we have more easily along with conversations and programs, all are still very much a role for the public library. Her vision for a 21st century library: libraries co-located with other services, still recognized as a public space, flexible buildings, mobile shelving, programming spaces, collections still in use in whatever the future format of a book will be, multi-purpose aspects with more partnerships with other institutions and schools, job training aspects, literacy and lifelong learning components are essential. Looking ahead perhaps training, skill-building and learning opportunities that may respond to other public policy needs such as partnerships with social work or other agencies in the public sector. When asked about her view of the role of the Library Director in relation to a Board of both elected officials and of an appointed advisory Board, Ms. Sass replied she felt it was essential to have a very clear, shared vision and the need to speak with the same voice. She viewed the Library Director as a connector in that. She noted her experience working with Board development, training and communicating, and programs that strengthen their role. Ms. Sass felt the Library Director is critical in making sure that all are communicating clearly and speaking the same language when it comes to the library. When asked what she would do if there were a fissure in the roles, Ms. Sass indicated she would work together to know what it is, what caused it and she would gather ideas about what would fix it; communication is essential. She recognized HCL has a lot of national attention because of the merger. Questions from Ms. Sass to the Library Board and follow-up questions from Board members related to the original interview questions were completed and the interview concluded.

  • Lois Langer Thompson
    Ms. Langer Thompson introduced herself and summarized her background and reasons she is interested in the position. She expressed her belief that every person deserves a great library and even in a time of great financial stress it is important to not be held back. She is interested in finding the place that is true to what a public library is, continues to be innovative and ready for what customers are looking for which is somewhere between offering only essential core services which may fail to meet the needs and interests of our communities and being everything to everyone which may run the risk of diluting our services. She noted HCL is complex and the answer isn't a one-size-fits-all library. She described her personality traits which would result in successful leadership: open leadership style that is inclusive, collaborative, respectful and decisive. She mentioned her strong commitment to Hennepin County as evidenced by her number of years with HCL and a history of proven leadership. The public leader she considered a role model and admired was President Barack Obama and she explained reasons why. In describing an example of leadership she felt was unsuccessful, she spoke of leaders who make decisions with a real top-down management style. She acknowledged that it can work but it doesn't allow creativity and include staff so it is not the best model and it may become a difficult situation to work in. She felt staff bring something to the table that should be heard. She felt the most challenging role for the Director would be finding the way to effectively communicate across a broad number of staff at 41+ locations, with Board members, and the community which requires communicating in a number of different ways. She shared examples currently in use and possibilities being considered for the future. What she found the most ease in administering would be looking beyond the current financial issues, thinking about the next 5-10 years and being prepared for it. Looking forward, moving through, and making the decisions would be challenging but the part she would most enjoy. When asked about the leadership qualities she would bring to foster the continued success of integrated services and staff in a recently unified library system with blended cultures, Ms. Langer Thompson expressed her respect for the history of both organizations and provided her opinion that both systems relied on each other for how their services were provided prior to the merger. She noted she values different approaches and recognized decisions are made due to what fits at a particular time; different decisions are not necessarily bad decisions. She said she has the ability to make a decision about where we are going forward as an organization. She recognized our communities are diverse so building the same kind of library with the same services may not make sense; noting other variables such as being part of a large county, with many cities, and elected officials with different investments in the library and respecting those differences. When asked for her views on the role of the public library in a broadband-centric world Ms. Thompson indicated libraries have always been about connecting people with information and ideas without judgment; she viewed the role as not changing the core mission of what a library is about, but adapting it to what is current. She felt there would be library buildings as places to go, but we may a different view of how people access information, the methods may change. Recognizing that we don't have to be on the cutting edge but still out there because libraries are the places where people come to learn so we don't want to be behind either. She felt it was important to find the place between that we can sustain and at the same time prepare and be ready for the ways libraries may provide and people will access information. Ms. Thompson's vision for a 21st century library: she was unsure what it would look like but noted important components -- library buildings will exist but maybe not look like they do today, it is important to be agile while in the planning process which allows us to adapt as we move along. She provided examples of changes in buildings in the last ten years and the need to make sure buildings can adapt and change. The importance of remaining community-based, analyzing community projections, and building community partnerships; also noted was keeping the essence of a library part of the plan while continuing to move forward strategically. When asked about her view of the role of the Library Director in relation to a Board of both elected officials and of an appointed advisory Board, Ms. Langer Thompson used the words interactive and collaborative. She noted each plays an important, specific role and described the Library Director as the person who makes sure the directions are administered, acknowledging each group works together. She stressed the importance of sitting down and talking together to understand what challenges each is facing and knowing what is important. They key is to respect and fulfill the roles each has been given. When asked what she would do if there were a fissure in the roles, Ms. Langer Thompson indicated she would work with others to see how they got to a point of departure in lieu of what they were trying to accomplish; she recognized preventative measures could be taken beforehand so when a split begins you address it before it is irreparable. She noted the importance of communication and the need to respect individual roles. Questions from Ms. Langer Thompson to the Library Board and follow-up questions from Board members related to the original interview questions were asked and the interview concluded.
President Izek called a 15 minute recess and the Library Board reconvened at 7 p.m.

A review of the Library Director hiring process to date was provided. Library Board discussion followed. Therese VanBlarcom moved Lois Langer Thompson as the Library Board's recommendation for Hennepin County Library Director. Motion was seconded by John Pacheco and the motion passed (9 yea, 1 nay, 1 member absent from vote).

ADJOURNMENT
There being no further business, Roger Hale made a motion to adjourn the Library Board meeting of Jan. 28, 2009 at 7:56 p.m. which was seconded by Jill Joseph. The motion passed. The next meeting is scheduled Feb. 25, 2009 at Ridgedale Library.

 

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John Pacheco, Secretary