In my opinion: Library mess is far from over

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A lot of people are angry over the way county property was removed from the Gattis-Logan County Library in Paris and the firing of librarian Rita Eckart by the Logan County Library Board.

This is far from over.

In the library board meeting that took place on Thursday, May 30, board members and Arkansas River Valley Regional Library Librarian Donna McDonald praised Eckart and her staff for the way they have handled preparations for a coming renovation of the building.

Later, the board fired Eckart and didn’t even call her into the executive session so she could defend her job performance. Even someone charged with a crime has the right to face their accuser and mount a defense. Eckart, who worked at the library for 13 years, deserved better.

The board also refused to let patrons attending the meeting address the board or ask questions. They were told they could ask to be on the agenda at the next meeting. The patrons deserved better.

At the meeting, Logan County Judge Gus Young expressed his displeasure about county property being disposed of improperly, he said. Young told the board he had to be told first and he wasn’t. However, Young later found out that the library board was within its legal rights to remove county property without notice. Courtesy would require that notice be given to Young, especially when you consider the volume of items I’m told were removed.

Libraries commonly remove items from their collections in a process called ‘weeding.’

I’m told 8,000 items were removed from the Gattis-Logan County Library during its most recent weeding. Some of the items removed were owned by the county and some were owned by the Arkansas River Valley Regional Library, according to information given at the meeting.

I’m told the weeding began in the middle of March and was finished by the middle of May. During that period, the library was open for 56 days. If 8,000 items were removed, an average of 142 items were removed each day the building was open. How could any one remove items at that pace and give sufficient and thoughtful consideration to the appropriateness of the removal?

If 8,000 items were removed, that’s 26 percent of the library’s collection of an estimated 30,000 items. Removing that many items in two months isn’t weeding, regardless of how generously you define the process.

The taxpayers of Logan County, who support the libraries here with a 1.9-mill property tax, deserved better.

At the very least, the members of the library board should produce a list of items discarded and make it public.

As it turns out, failing to inform the County Judge about the removal of county property wasn’t the first time Young has been left out of the loop.

The board decided last year to renovate the county owned building occupied by the library. However, the board neglected to tell the County Judge. Young, an ex-officio member of the board, found out about the renovation when a contract was sent to him for his signature in May.

Legally, board members acted within their rights. Although not required by law to inform the County Judge of their plans, common courtesy and respect — at the least — require that the owner of the building be informed early on.

Members of county boards are nominated by the County Judge and confirmed by the Logan County Quorum Court. The Quorum Court may have something to say about this.

The Logan County Library Board is in hot water. It’s a bath of their own making.

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