Library Board meeting minutes - June 26, 2019

Draft minutes pending approval at the next library board meeting

The public is welcome at all library board meetings.

The Hennepin County Library Board met Wednesday, June 26, 2019, Ridgedale Library, Robert H. Rohlf meeting room.


Present: Katherine Blauvelt, Chris Damsgard, Tim Dolan, Rahfat Hussain, Sheila Letscher, Margy Ligon, LaBelle Nambangi, and Erin Vrieze Daniels

Hennepin County Staff: Commissioner Irene Fernando, Commissioner Debbie Goettel, Commissioner Marion Greene, Interim Library Director Janet Mills, Kari Boe Schmidt, Nancy Palmer, and Michael Rossman

Public: Anna Zillinger

Call to Order

President Blauvelt called the Hennepin County Library Board meeting of June 26, 2019, to order at 5:02 p.m., and welcomed all in attendance.

Approval of Agenda

Changes to the agenda included adding an American Library Association annual conference report by board attendees Sheila Letscher and Erin Vrieze Daniels. Margy Ligon made a motion to approve the amended agenda; seconded by Sheila Letscher. Motion passed.

Consent Items

Chris Damsgard made a motion to approve the consent items; seconded by Erin Vrieze Daniels. Motion passed.

Public Comment

Anna Zillinger, Minneapolis, East Lake Library, shared her concerns of the Southeast Group Service Manager hiring process, and the change to the state statute removing the requirement of the MLIS degree from the Library Director’s education credentials.


Ken Behringer, MELSA Executive Director

President Blauvelt read the resolutions commending Ken Behringer. A Board Resolution thanking Mr. Behringer for his years of service to public libraries was moved by President Blauvelt; seconded by Rahfat Hussain, and approved by the Board.

Mr. Behringer expressed his gratitude for the recognition and for a career spent with the staff, boards, and leaders of communities that worked to build the library system in Minnesota. He shared it was the pleasure of his life to work with people dedicated to public service and committed to making that service excellent. He expressed his thanks to county boards and library boards of the MELSA system and their helpful involvement in legislative processes that support libraries.

County Commissioner Update

Hennepin County Commissioner Irene Fernando, District 2

Irene Fernando was elected to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners in November of 2018. Before joining the County Board, she worked at Thrivent Financial leading around organizational design, culture, and talent. Libraries in district 2 include Golden Valley, North Regional, Northeast, Pierre Bottineau, Plymouth, St. Anthony, Sumner, and Webber Park. She is dedicated to serving the people of District 2 and Hennepin County by delivering change, fostering innovation, and achieving a more equitable county. Her office works to increase visibility, transparency, and accountability in the county layer of government.

Commissioner Fernando shared that her parents found libraries as places where her family found refuge after immigrating to the United States. In college, she utilized central libraries to help with grant work. She finds the Library system an important part of her individual story and a place to advocate for knowledge, as well as those marginalized and disenfranchised. She sees libraries as a place to advocate for ways in which everyone should see themselves in their neighborhoods and governments.

Letscher inquired where libraries fit in to county goals as we look forward to the Hennepin County Comprehensive Plan 2040. Commissioner Fernando feels that libraries are places of trust and refuge as communities and people increasingly find themselves marginalized and not feeling safe. The Library has a community-facing role, and she hopes to help expand and continue the trust the library has built with residents. She is grateful that we have a place that is open and receptive to all.

Dolan encouraged the commissioner to see the Library as a window of opportunity for everybody who works with communities and that the window works both ways. Commissioner Fernando sees an opportunity for the Library to play a role in the upcoming census and hopes a partnership can develop to ensure everyone is counted.

President Blauvelt thanked the commissioner for her commitment and making time to speak with the Library Board.

County Commissioner Update

Hennepin County Commissioner Marion Greene, Chair, District 3

Recently elected to her second term, Marion Greene serves as Hennepin County Board Chair and Commissioner representing District 3, which includes all of St. Louis Park, most of southwest Minneapolis and much of downtown. A former state representative, she has gained a reputation as an innovative, solutions-oriented progressive and coalition builder. Libraries in district 3 include Linden Hills, St. Louis Park, Walker, and Washburn.

Commissioner Greene acknowledged and congratulated the Franklin Library staff on their recent Employee Recognition Customer Service award win at the county level.

Commissioner Greene finds many good things happen at the Library. She shared that upon arrival, she was reminded in the hot summer weather that one of the ways libraries support communities during hot summer weather is by providing cool air-conditioned spaces. She also finds that libraries have a particular and special role in the current political climate. She thinks everyone has their library story; one of hers includes while growing up her grandmother would anticipate her visits by going to the local library and checking out books for her.

Commissioner Greene shared the recent election of the first people of color to serve on the County Board; and how their voices, and the stories they bring are important and resonate with the community. She informed the Board she was recently appointed as one of two commissioners assigned to the Hospital Board and their search committee, who are preparing to start the search process for a new CEO. She encouraged everyone to contact her office on what they want the next CEO to be. This year she was elected as Chair of the County Board and is currently working on several light rail projects. She is interested in and considering the county’s role in justice reform, as well as our role in being an environmental steward. She would like to see the County help further conversations on global warming and lead by example.

Ligon asked the Commissioner what the Library Board could do to help County Commissioners in general and with the hiring of the new Library Director. Commissioner Greene shared she feels the Board is already helping by the time and thoughtfulness they have put into the Director Selection Process so far. The Commissioner feels the Library Director is an important community leadership role, and encouraged the Library Board to reach out if there are any barriers the County Board may be able to remove.

President Blauvelt advocated for the upcoming Franklin Library building project. She asked that thoughtful consideration be given to how we support libraries with our resources and how we utilize a unique footprint and historic designation. Commissioner Greene agreed that as much as we can get ahead of any of big project undertakings the more thoughtful we can be. She affirmed she would facilitate questions on this project at the County Board level.

President Blauvelt thanked the Commissioner for attending and shared that she is always welcome to visit.

President Blauvelt made motion for a brief recess; seconded by Erin Vrieze Daniels. Motion passed.

President’s Report

Employee Recognition Awards

Employee Recognition Awards are given annually to honor current county employees who made exceptional contributions in their workplace or community. Nominations are made by employees for their colleagues or peers.

The Library Board recognized all staff who were nominated within the Library department, and from that group, employees who were selected by the Library’s selection committee as Library Department winners to move on for county consideration.

President Blauvelt shared it is a pleasure to get to take time each year to recognize the remarkable work being done within our system by individuals and teams. The board always finds this a great opportunity to showcase the excellent things that are happening in our libraries.

Employees were presented with a certificate and a gift of appreciation.


A Library Board retreat focused on Community Engagement is tentatively planned for August, and will be led by the county’s community engagement expert. Library staff will contact board members to schedule.

Executive Committee Report

President Blauvelt summarized the June 5 Executive Committee meeting discussion on the 2020 operating budget and remaining 2019 agendas. The Executive Committee will meet again on Wednesday, August 14, 5:30 p.m., Northeast Library, to discuss agendas and locations for 2020 – 2021.

Director Selection Process Committee Report

President Blauvelt summarized the June 5 Director Selection Process Committee meeting. The committee discussed a list of suggestions for how to think about the forthcoming search for the Library Director role. The DSP Committee will meet again on Tuesday, August 13, 5:00 p.m., at Washburn Library.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Michael Rossman shared County Human Resources plans to utilize the same processes before, but with the addition of support from national executive recruitment firm Baker Tilly.

2020 Budget

2020 Operating Budget and Capital Improvement Plan

Janet Mills and Nancy Palmer shared they were given new budget figures by the County the morning of the Library Board meeting. The Board elected to defer supporting the budget to have more time with the materials; a special meeting may be held this summer, in addition to further budget discussions at the August Executive Committee meeting.

Letscher questioned how our collections and expenditures of collections compares to peer institutions. Interim Director Mills advised in 2020 we will be spending approximately 11% of our budget on collections, which would maintain HCL’s place as in the middle of our peer group. Blauvelt queried what the reduction to collection would impact. Mills informed that most likely there would be fewer copies of new titles or a smaller number of new materials.

Letscher probed how reductions will impact our priorities and how open positions and reductions will be prioritized. Mills disclosed budget decisions will be data driven, especially around collections and staffing allocation, and that no open positions have been earmarked at this point in the process. She shared the Library is looking at ways of being more sustainable moving forward, especially around the use of fund balance and how to build a budget strategy to support future needs and goals.

Letscher requested the Board receive forecasting data more frequently as they look for opportunities and challenges as part of their strategic planning.

Nambangi inquired how budget cuts affect communities of color with unique challenges. Mills shared that this early in the budget process, they only preliminarily identify areas to make cuts based on the target they need to make and that no specific decisions have been made. She shared in terms of purchasing and collections, they use a racial equity lens and tools to influence decisions. She asserted more conversations will happen to determine specific budget decisions for 2020.

Ligon questioned if Library hours would be impacted by 2020 budget numbers. Mills confirmed that Library hours will not change in 2020, with the exception of the increase in hours approved in the 2019 budget for the Southeast Library upon reopening.

Vrieze Daniels inquired at what point add backs would be decided and what items are up for consideration. Mills advised that is still an item being discussed and no decisions have been made at this point.

Commissioner Goettel; Libraries, Operations, and Administration County Board Chair, apprised the Board that they are the stewards of the Library budget and it is the Library Board’s duty to review the information they are given and ask probing and thoughtful questions. She encouraged members to bring concerns or inconsistencies to the Library Director. She acknowledged that there are more needs than we have money for and there are areas that have a greater need than others. She recognized that when MELSA is not granted full funding by the legislature that affects all library systems, including HCL. She disclosed she is happy and intrigued to hear the Library Board consider long term budgets and fund balances and the need to plan strategically for the future. She reiterated that the Library Board’s role is to share questions with the County Board so they can help make the difficult decisions in front of us.

Director’s Report

Library, Community and County Updates

Interim Director Mills informed the Board of upcoming reopening celebrations for Hosmer and Oxboro libraries, and encouraged the board to attend the upcoming community building project meeting for North Regional Library.

Letscher asked if conversations have progressed on a substitute location for services during the North Regional Closing. Mills disclosed that while discussions are happening, there are significant expenses to consider around IT needs and access to computers. The Library is also evaluating their ability to sustainably offer temporary services during library closures. Letscher encouraged the director to engage with FHCL and other partners to find funding as North Regional not offering services will be a huge gap to the community.

Library Board Policies

First Read

President Blauvelt conducted a first read of five policies: Collection development and management, freedom to read, freedom to view, lending, and policy review.

Collection Development and Management: Vrieze Daniels inquired further why special collections wasn’t defined specifically. Mills suggested Library Staff develop a separate, but accompanying Administrative policy. The Board requested this be available to review as part of their second read process. The Board requested having further conversations with staff on if the Library has a responsibility to the collection being truthful and accurate, and if so, how to reflect that within the policy. Letscher requested further information on how machine learning and bias is being considered by staff when utilizing software to help select collection items.

Freedom to Read: The Board agreed to adopt the policy

Freedom to View: The Board agreed to adopt the policy.

Lending: Dolan requested that since we try to service all of our varied and diverse communities the language should reflect that in lieu of using the term “community” as a whole.

Policy Review: Letscher inquired why there is no language on considering new policies or the process for evaluating what is missing from policies. Staff suggested this may be reflected in the bylaws and will do further investigation prior to the second read.

Staff will modify policies based on board member feedback and present to the board for a second read in September.

Committee Reports

Friends of Hennepin County Library, Erin Vrieze Daniels

Vrieze Daniels shared that the Pen Pals full season tickets are now available and selling quickly. FHCL is currently reviewing their strategic plan and Executive Director Kristi Pearson will present to the Library Board this fall.

Unfinished Business

Computers in Libraries Conference Report, Chris Damsgard

Damsgard reported the conference was small, but rich in information. He shared there was a breadth of technology reviewed, including using virtual reality to help individuals prepare for job interviews and public speaking.

New Business

American Library Association Annual Conference, Sheila Letscher and Erin Vrieze Daniels

Vrieze Daniels found keynote speaker Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s session magnetic, delightful, and amazing. Justice Sotomayor shared her first experience visiting a library happened because of the library’s proximity to the mall she was in. Vrieze Daniels found her story inspiring as the new Southdale Library will be located in Southdale Center in Edina. Vrieze Daniels connected with board trustees from around the nation that shared their own director selection processes took over a year and included a failed search. She found that other systems often had stories of HCL programs they had replicated in their own systems.

Letscher encouraged all Library Board members to attend an ALA conference. She shared the conference was rich in content and networking opportunities, both with employees of peer systems and other board trustees. She appreciated the diversity, inclusion, and equity sessions sharing how to educate oneself and have conversations where there are no answers. She found HCL was often recognized, especially for innovation, by other attendees.


There being no further business, Margy Ligon made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 7:26p.m.; seconded by Erin Vrieze Daniels. Motion passed. The next meeting of the Hennepin County Library Board will be held at 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 25, Plymouth Library, meeting room, 15700 36th Ave. N., Plymouth , MN 55446.

- Jonathan Gaw, Secretary