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OUR VIEW: Library system needs new vision

It's no secret the business landscape is changing and changing rapidly. From the postal system to the newspaper industry, businesses are having to look at the way they operate and adapt accordingly. It's no different with the Gwinnett Public Library system, which fired director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam this week.

"There are many things that will need a new look," library board of trustees chairman Dick Goodman said. "Libraries are having to redefine their purpose."

Goodman is right about the next director having a fresh perspective, But to be fair, this can't all fall at the feet of Stanbery-Kellam. She answers to a board, the same group that let her go on Wednesday. Moving forward the "new look" at things needs to be systemwide, not just by the person hired for the director's position.

Stanbery-Kellam's tenure, which lasted seven years, was marked by drastic decreases in funding and the controversies that came with trying to work within those constraints. In 2009, a decision to cut services that included closing the Dacula branch (three years old at the time) in favor of a new Hamilton Mill branch located nearby set off an uproar. After that plan was rescinded, hours were cut, nearly in half, at the county's 15 branches, which also was not well received.

Though recently the hours were extended, the library's materials budget was not. In fact, it was cut by a third. Though Stanbery-Kellam is gone (with a severance package of a year's salary -- $121,414), the problems facing the next director certainly are not. Which is why a fresh approach -- by all involved -- is a must.

The next director is well advised to be a consensus builder rather than an autocrat. The problem with previous attempts to deal with budget cuts, in our opinion, was that they didn't include input from the patrons. The system tried to go with a plan that never garnered support, damning it to fail before it ever got started. Seeking input from the people who use your product is just good business, and in these trying economic times that acumen is much needed.

With Stanbery-Kellam's firing comes the chance for the library system to turn a new page. But the catch is, in this day and age there are a lot more ways to do so than there used to be -- a fact the new director must keep in mind.

Comments

KP 10 months, 1 week ago

I think it was a good move to get rid of the Director and I hope that the incoming new Director will clean house starting with the Finance Director and others in the Library system. The top few people have been connected to this system for a long time and need to go. It will be good the get some fresh management in this library system. Kudos to the board.

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BettyA 10 months, 1 week ago

I'm so sick and tired of disgruntled ex-employee(s) who missing the big picture and only focus on their sorry selves.

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MaryHarmon5 10 months, 1 week ago

I don't know if this comment will make it or not because several others have been censored. You need to look closely at this library board. This is politics at its worst. Charlotte Nash is the driving force behind this...political payback for the Dacula situation. You know, years ago, every commissioner promised a library their every corner. Well, they got that and then the fund dried up. Rather than supporting the library, they are playing politics and usualy. There is so much political inbreeding in this situation that no one of any integrity wants to touch it...except maybe Deborah Oscarson and Suzanne. Yes, Suzanne voted to oust Ms. Kellam, but don't you folks see...this is much bigger than that. It is about your government and your right to read what you want. I don't think either Ms. Pinder or Ms. Kellam deserved they way they were dismissed nor do I think we deserve to pick up the bill for the board's inability to work with the directors. Why can't they get folks on the board who are qualified and stop stacking the deck with former employees (phyllis oxendine) and other folks with higher political ambitions. I have a feeling that some money will magically appear in an attempt to make Dick Goodman look like it was the right move and he's a hero...he can expand hours and make the public think he has all the answers. Think again. I hope this comment gets posted. Let's see. If not, shame on you Post for censoring comments opposed to your views.

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SuxBeanU 10 months, 1 week ago

This board can hire and fire as many directors as they please, but until a new board is put in place, it wil just continue to be more of the same.Get rid of this bunch and start over.

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SurelyNot 10 months, 1 week ago

Who are the people on the board and who is the chair?

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Veryconcernedcitizen 10 months, 1 week ago

Get rid of the libraries all together and save a bunch of $ !!!!!

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notblind 10 months, 1 week ago

How much do we spend on all those computers, ISP and tech support ???? Libraries = books.

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JodyR 10 months, 1 week ago

$121,414 severance package would buy a lot of books!!! Stanbery-Kellam should not accept this! She wanted to turn libraries soley into computer work stations; what was she thinking??

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CoryLev 10 months, 1 week ago

They need to close and consolidate some libraries. Norcross and Peachtree Corners is only 3 miles apart and the library staff sit and stare at their computers most of the day. The only questions they are asked are ""Where is the bathroom?" "Is there a fax machine?" "Do you notarize?" and "Why don't you have my summer reading titles?"

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PatrickTMalone 10 months, 1 week ago

In most successful organizations, the board creates a strategic plan that is built off the mission and vision that has been developed by all the stakeholders ( In this case, the board, ex director, customers, GCPS and the BOC). The ex director and operational staff is then responsible for the successful execution of the strategic plan. So changing the ex-director is only one part of the equation. Customers, GCPS reps and the BOC are not changeable but the library board is. So maybe changing the board along with the ex-director should be the first step in creating a new vision for the Library.

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sharonestelle 9 months, 1 week ago

If you want to change the Library Board, talk to your County Commissioners (they make appointments to the Board) or attend a meeting of the Board to express your opinions. I agree that the Board must work harmoniously with the Director to provide the services the public expects. The Board members are responsible for communicating the needs and wishes of the public. The Director is responsible for keeping the Board informed of the latest innovations and trends in public library service. these days, libraries are so much more than books. They are a destination for stay at home moms and homeschoolers. Students of all ages use their resources (not just books, but computers and other technology as well) to complete homework assignments. The unemployed use libraries to search for jobs. The poor use libraries to apply for social services. Libraries provide free help with income tax file, and often serve as a convenient polling place for voters. Citizens from all walks of life use libraries as meeting places (they are free). Anyone can use their public library to access information, much of which now comes to us via the Internet. And, of course, everyone uses public libraries for recreational reading. The public library is an important resource for every community. Please, get involved by talking to your Commissioners and attending Library Board meetings.

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