City Government

Library Not Being “Run By The Book?”

Seems there is unrest at the Boise Public Library, given the reports filtering into the GUARDIAN.

While we aren’t ready to declare things aren’t being “run by the book,” some recent personnel actions certainly have caused some staffers to question what pages management may be reading. Consider this:

“Recently, Boise Public Library administration internally hand-picked two men who do not have Masters of Library Science degrees to be promoted to librarian positions. A third male librarian was hand-picked to be a branch director. More concerning, the two highest-paid women at Boise Public Library lost their jobs when their positions were eliminated due to budget cuts. Coincidence? I think not.”

We did some “corroborating” from other sources and got an earful. The morale problems could go well beyond allegations of sexism. Consider this from a well informed source: “In past years the Library developed, with the approval of the Board of Directors a plan for laying off staff in times of financial exigency. This plan has not been followed in these instances and some of the staff fear for their own job-future if they question why it has not been used. The plan was developed several years ago and not all staff is aware of it.”

Another comment characterized the director as, “arbitrary and inflexible.” This kind of unrest needs intervention from the top down and should not be festering. The mayor and council need to have a chat with the director and discreetly with some staff. IF he is out of line, they need to tell him so and if not, they need to make their views known to the library staff and the public.

Staffers at several city departments have been cautioned about “airing dirty laundry” at the GUARDIAN. When these public servants fear for their jobs and management hides behind “personnel action” claims, about the only way citizens AND candidates for City Council can get the word is on this blog–for better or worse.

When city workers have complaints about department heads, they have a right to be heard without fear of termination or demotion.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Grumpy ole guy
    Oct 23, 2011, 5:30 pm

    Nice article Guardian. It is often the public (and non-union) workers who find themselves at the mercy of the less “by-the-book” types, it seems. In the case of the Boise Public Library it is too bad that the current Director is an entirely home-grown product, one who has never worked anywhere other than at that library and does not meet the minimum recommend qualifications of the State, in that he lacks a graduate degree in Library/Information Science. While Boise has had some outstanding Directors during the current incumbent’s employment there, he, and the Library, would have benefited from having someone with wider experience in a greater number of settings at the helm.

  2. The evidence presented in this article is not sufficient to conclusivly determine that the library’s management is sexist.

    Did the highest paid female employees have masters degrees in librarian studies?

    Why were they fired?
    Why were the three men promoted?

    This article on the face of it seems a bit alarmist, but if the people whom wrote it can find more evidence, perhaps they can rightly state something nefarious is afoot.

    Right now I am not sold on the villany of the librarians or its admin.

    EDITOR NOTE–The GUARDIAN is in total agreement with you! We don’t know how valid the issues may be, but felt compelled to share with one and all.

  3. I’m sorry to say that Ada County shares some of the same problems being reported by Boise City employees. Some male employees receive undeserved salary increases merely because they are buddies with my male colleagues. Poor or even despicable performance by these same buddies (and one former female supervisor who had an average 74 percent turnover rate of her employees for 12 years running!) is ignored because of the personal relationships.

    Unfortunately, Ada County does not have mandatory performance evaluations for all employees, or some of these issues would rise to the surface a lot sooner, before crises finally arise and are addressed.

    In a recent example, a female employee had been receiving inappropriate e-mail messages for EIGHT YEARS from one or more male Ada County coworkers. Many of these messages were increasingly vulgar and demeaning to women. Some of the messages were originated by the department head himself. The employee didn’t speak up for that long time period because she was so fearful of retaliation. I knew ten years ago that this department head was a terrible supervisor who promoted a hostile work environment demeaning particularly to women, but he is one of the “buddies” who receives special treatment, so my concerns are either met with combativeness or are simply dismissed entirely by my colleagues.

    When the work environment for the female employee who had been receiving the inappropriate e-mail messages had become so hostile that she had little left to lose, she finally filed a complaint. The investigation that ensued revealed that virtually every employee who has left that department in recent years has commented on the hostile “Good Ol’ Boys” environment and the retaliatory behavior that would ensue when employees spoke up about problems or concerns. The writing was on the wall, but only the Human Resources people and I were bothering to read it.

  4. Sharon
    It sounds like the state attorney general needs to get involved if there is as much rampant corruption on the part of 2 of the commissioners going on as you allude to.

    EDITOR NOTE–Speaking on behalf of the GUARDIAN only, this appears to us as a difference of political philosophy and she has made no charges of any criminal wrongdoing.

  5. Humm
    In the probation case she seems to be saying people are being defrauded. In this story there seems to be accusations of sex descrimination. Im not sure but I think those are both violations of Idaho Code.

  6. One Who Knows
    Oct 24, 2011, 12:55 pm

    Poor professional behavior by males in positions of power in levels of government is not an Idaho exclusive.

    The problem here, however, appears to be an educational one and a lack of basic respect for fellow humans. People work extremely hard to achieve the goal of a college education not to mention the expense. Modern civilization dictates that a person who is qualified for a job, based on education and experience, should get it. No school in the United States teaches a philosophy of gender bias. So why does this issue exist? It exists because we have elected some poorly educated chauvinistic morons to various levels of government and they in turn have given their poorly educated chauvinistic moron buddies good paying jobs. This is known as the “Good Ol’ Boy” philosophy of hiring and promotion.
    (If I have mislabeled any of you who actually went to college I apologize. Perhaps you can ask your school for a refund since it appears that you were too stupid to learn anything.)

    The “Good Ol’ Days” are over men. So all you “Good Ol’ Boys” suffering from rectal cranial inversion syndrome better wake up in 2011 very soon. That way our little corner of the universe can be a more peaceful place to live and work.

  7. Wow, Sharon, those are some very pointed and serious allegations. I’ll be watching this closely.

  8. It seems to me that having to have a Master’s of Library Science to be a librarian is credential overkill in this day and age.

    The internet is a wonderful tool that can be used by anyone. Granted that everything is not true on the internet, but Google or another search engine generally gives you a number of sources to answer your query. I would further bet that most Master of Library Science employees use the internet to answer patron’s questions.

    Other than the “reference” function, what does a librarian do? Order books and videos, which can be accomplished by looking at lists of what’s available or by patron request. Classify those books with a well established system is another horribly difficult task. Librarians don’t shelve books, this function is left to minions like pages and volunteers. I think lower paid people check books out, at least those that are not self checked out.

    So requiring a Master’s to be a librarian? I don’t think so. Save the money on these positions and buy more books.

  9. Would religion, perhaps be an issue, in regards to promotion, pay increase!

  10. Grumpy ole guy
    Oct 25, 2011, 1:03 am

    The area of sexism / gender bias is one which has existed for a long time, and just when we thought that things might be improving we see the attacks on women’s health and workplace protection by the reactionary and neo-cons.

    The Tea Party member seem to me to be so fearful of “all these modern changes” that they are of a throw the baby out with the bath water mind set. The attack upon the progress made in the last hundred years on voters rights, minority rights, women’s rights and what little progress there has been in gay rights seems to be what binds the Tea Party types together.

    It isn’t high taxes or increased spending that appears to bother them so much, as their own loss of economic standing brought about by the progress toward oligarchy we’ve been experiencing since Regan was in the White House. Tax breaks for the wealthy mean tax burdens for the middle class. Tax relief for the poor, inadequate as it is, has also increased the tax burden on the middle class. The middle class is being pushed down, and the anti-union, anti-worker sentiment is further damaging the middle class. Add to that Idaho’s very own tax shift in property taxes from the industry and businesses to the residential and the middle class is further burdened.

    That enormous tax shift created during Governor Risch’s special legislative session has come home to bite the middle class residential property owner. The attack on public education by our elected officials is yet another blow to the middle and lower classes.

    Now, add to that the non-library educated “librarians” who are not trained in the philosophy and history of the library service movement and you have further erosion of yet another public institution. Purchase of materials for libraries is so very much more than waiting for patron requests or reviewing lists. Reference service is so very much more than knowing advanced ways of searching the same internet which the public can access. It is the purchase of the appropriate electronic, print and visual resources to enable assisting the individuals and groups who use the Library.

  11. Hmmm … experience has taught me that the moment someone claims “discrimination against women” I should be VERY suspicious. I know as many men who have been discriminated against by women as women by men. Probably more, and have myself felt the sting. I need SPECIFIC allegations to make any judgments.

    Having said that, it comes as absolutely no surprise that there are deep problems in the “good ol’ boy” (or “good ol’ girl”) networks at the County. My own daughter held a good job with the County and left for lower pay elsewhere due to incompetent and discriminatory practices by supervisors politically appointed.

    Thanks for your insight, Sharon, and I’m hoping folks will take notice next election day.

  12. The bias at this library between areas is evident, not only in the attitude of the workers, but in the look and feel of the various floors. The bottom floor, the children’s area, the circulation area, seem to get a lot of attention and support and light and positive energy, yet the second floor and the third floor, seem not to share in that kind of care and vibe. The disparity is palpable and sad – it is too bad that everyone there is not treated well and as part of the whole – this kind of difference always, always comes from the top and filters on down. The knowledge of the librarians and the floor workers on second and third floors is tremendous and they have helped me so very, very much over the years. I had noticed the last few days that the mood had become even more hopeless than it has been, and I find this a sad, sad state of affairs. Now to see the article about the possible sexism and the recent un-advertised movements of staff and it is no wonder. Hang in there librarians and library worker bees! I hope that things straighten out for you all because we need a vital and vibrant library ‘community’ – on all levels! You are necessary to me and so very many of my friends!

  13. I’m amused by the argument that people with Master of Library Science degrees are over-qualified by one who admits to her own abject ignorance of what the job entails. In the age of Google, I can think of no greater need than for an authoritative, educated and skilled reference professional upon whom to address questions and who gives me confidence in the answer.

  14. Okay smartypants Sisyphus, what Does the job entail then? Tell us oh wise one, please, enlighten us with your wisdom – what exactly does a Master’s of Library Science endow upon its recipient that no one else can do?

  15. Nan Emouse…will this answer your question??? From the US Dept. of Labor…Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition:

    The traditional concept of a library is being redefined from a place to access paper records or books to one that also houses the most advanced electronic resources, including the Internet, digital libraries, and remote access to a wide range of information sources. Consequently, librarians, often called information professionals, combine traditional duties with tasks involving quickly changing technology. Librarians help people find information and use it effectively for personal and professional purposes. They must have knowledge of a wide variety of scholarly and public information sources and must follow trends related to publishing, computers, and the media to oversee the selection and organization of library materials. Librarians manage staff and develop and direct information programs and systems for the public and ensure that information is organized in a manner that meets users’ needs.

    Librarian positions focus on one of three aspects of library work: user services, technical services, and administrative services. Librarians in user services, such as reference and children’s librarians, work with patrons to help them find the information they need. The job involves analyzing users’ needs to determine what information is appropriate and searching for, acquiring, and providing the information. The job also includes an instructional role, such as showing users how to find and evaluate information. For example, librarians commonly help users navigate the Internet so they can search for and evaluate information efficiently. Librarians in technical services, such as acquisitions and cataloguing, acquire, prepare, and classify materials so patrons can find it easily. Some write abstracts and summaries. Often, these librarians do not deal directly with the public. Librarians in administrative services oversee the management and planning of libraries: they negotiate contracts for services, materials, and equipment; supervise library employees; perform public-relations and fundraising duties; prepare budgets; and direct activities to ensure that everything functions properly.

    In small libraries or information centers, librarians usually handle all aspects of library operations. They read book reviews, publishers’ announcements, and catalogues to keep up with current literature and other available resources, and they select and purchase materials from publishers, wholesalers, and distributors. Librarians prepare new materials, classifying them by subject matter and describing books and other library materials to make them easy to find. Librarians supervise assistants, who enter classification information and descriptions of materials into electronic catalogs. In large libraries, librarians often specialize in a single area, such as acquisitions, cataloguing, bibliography, reference, special collections, or administration. Therefore, good teamwork is important.

    Librarians also recommend materials. Many analyze collections and compile lists of books, periodicals, articles, audiovisual materials, and electronic resources on particular subjects. They collect and organize books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and other materials in a specific field, such as rare books, genealogy, or music. In addition, they coordinate programs such as storytelling for children and literacy skills and book talks for adults. Some conduct classes, publicize services, write grants, and oversee other administrative matters.

    Many libraries have access to remote databases and maintain their own computerized databases. The widespread use of electronic resources makes database-searching skills important for librarians. Librarians develop and index databases and help train users to develop searching skills. Some libraries are forming consortiums with other libraries to allow patrons to access a wider range of databases and to submit information requests to several libraries simultaneously. The Internet also has greatly expanded the amount of available reference information. Librarians must know how to use these resources and inform the public about the wealth of information they contain.

    Librarians are classified according to the type of library in which they work: a public library; school library media center; college, university, or other academic library; or special library. Librarians in special libraries work in information centers or libraries maintained by government agencies or corporations, law firms, advertising agencies, museums, professional associations, unions, medical centers, hospitals, religious organizations, or research laboratories. They acquire and arrange an organization’s information resources, which usually are limited to subjects of special interest to the organization. They can provide vital information services by preparing abstracts and indexes of current periodicals, organizing bibliographies, or analyzing background information and preparing reports on areas of particular interest. For example, a special librarian working for a corporation could provide the sales department with information on competitors or new developments affecting the field. A medical librarian may provide information about new medical treatments, clinical trials, and standard procedures to health professionals, patients, consumers, and corporations. Government document librarians, who work in a variety of depository libraries in each of the States, preserve and disseminate government publications, records, and other documents that make up a historical record of government actions.

    Some librarians work with specific groups, such as children, young adults, adults, or the disadvantaged. In school library media centers, librarians—often called school media specialists—help teachers develop curricula and acquire materials for classroom instruction. They also conduct classes for students on how to use library resources for research projects.

    Librarians with computer and information systems skills can work as automated-systems librarians, planning and operating computer systems, and as information architects, designing information storage and retrieval systems and developing procedures for collecting, organizing, interpreting, and classifying information. These librarians analyze and plan for future information needs. (See the section on computer scientists elsewhere in the Handbook.) Automated information systems enable librarians to focus on administrative and budgeting responsibilities, grant writing, and specialized research requests, while delegating more routine services responsibilities to technicians. (See the section on library technicians and library assistants elsewhere in the Handbook.)

    More and more, librarians apply their information management and research skills to arenas outside of libraries—for example, database development, reference tool development, information systems, publishing, Internet coordination, marketing, Web content management and design, and training of database users. Entrepreneurial librarians sometimes start their own consulting practices, acting as freelance librarians or information brokers and providing services to other libraries, businesses, or government agencies.

    Work environment. Librarians spend a significant portion of time at their desks or in front of computer terminals; extended work at video display terminals can cause eyestrain and headaches. Assisting users in obtaining information or books for their jobs, homework, or recreational reading can be challenging and satisfying, but working with users under deadlines can be demanding and stressful. Some librarians lift and carry books, and some climb ladders to reach high stacks, although most modern libraries have readily accessible stacks. Librarians in small settings without support staff sometimes shelve books themselves.

    Twenty-five percent of librarians work part time. Public and college librarians often work weekends, evenings, and some holidays. School librarians usually have the same workday and vacation schedules as classroom teachers. Special librarians usually work normal business hours, but in fast-paced industries—such as advertising or legal services—they can work longer hours, when needed.

    EDITOR NOTE–We appreciate the information, but please either summarize or offer readers a link. Comments are getting much longer than the original stories.

  16. Great, government gobbledygook. And at the end of the day, what part of a Master’s of Library Science do you need to work part-time, do budgeting, get eye-strain, be a consultant (then you won’t be a librarian of course) or not work with the public?

    Again, we’re talking credential creep. I’d rather have more books.

  17. Nan Emouse,

    “The Nan Emouse dost protest too much, methinks!” Surprising that you have such negative reactions to librarians and you use the mental slip ‘creep’ in your latest diatribe. (A telling slip? Did an evil librarian do you wrong at some point in your life?) The bulk of librarians I have ever known have been kind, helpful, knowledgeable, a bit introverted, but always concerned with helping people find what they need from the library. In your world books will order themselves, prepare themselves to be shelf-ready (a bigger job than most even realize), catalog themselves, index themselves, repair themselves, set up interlibrary loans and hop into envelopes to send themselves to other locales as interlibrary loan books and more. If the public can fend entirely on their own without librarians, then libraries would also no longer need directors or managers of any sort, (also usually endowed with MLS degrees) because the entire enterprise will just take care of itself. Get rid of them and buy more books too! There would be big savings at those levels. Let the minions do it all (nice put down, by the way, of hard working library pages and a few volunteers. People really like to be referred to as minions….Here let me look up a Wikipedia definition of the term: “A minion is a follower devoted to serving his/her master relentlessly.” Gosh. Really? Here is another definition from another on-line source: “An obsequious follower or dependent; a sycophant.” Oh, oh, and one more: “…a servile or fawning dependant…” Nice. Very nice.

  18. Gosh Lizzie, this issue was on someone whining that men were picked to be librarians and gasp, they don’t have a Master’s of Library Science. My belief is that one shouldn’t need a Master’s to do what librarians do. Credential creep is just that, a small incremental but relentless movement towards something illogical. I didn’t mean creep, like “Lizzie you are a such a creep” ie pervert or pedant.

    Sure librarians can be kind and even helpful. Do they have to have Masters? That’s the point, one which you seemingly haven’t yet grasped. Perhaps you could ask a librarian for help.

  19. Nan Emouse – I think unfair work practices (even just the perception of them) make for a sad workplace no matter the gender of the individuals involved. Why have a degree in any subject really? All one has to do is learn and become proficient on their own and then just do it. Then ‘credential creep’ would be a non-issue and there wouldn’t be some of the great divides that exist today in the work world, no matter if it is at a library, a university, or some other entity. ‘Minions’ both male and female will continue to do the bidding required by adminstration (whether they are properly credentialed or not) to keep the business wheels turning (but they still won’t like being labeled minions most likely.) I have grasped your point on whether a Masters in Library Science should be a requirement — in most libraries full librarian positions do require that degree. But requirements can be changed and job descriptions rewritten – especially in a municipal entity supported by the taxes of the citizens in a city. Something to ponder perhaps. Ever thought of running for the library’s board of directors?

  20. OF COURSE the current director has only ever worked at the library. Where/how else could he find a job in library land without any real qualifications And the only way he’ll ever shine at BPL is to do away with all the real, credentialed talent, replacing them with even more homegrown “librarians” like himself, which is exactly what he’s been doing. This is the good-ol’-boy syndrome that is rife in the Boise City.

  21. Who's Your Mama?
    Nov 6, 2011, 2:26 pm

    I’m not exactly proud to make this post anonymously, but I’m a library employee and can’t afford to lose my job. I am also concerned about the library’s long-standing habit of turning completely unqualified people into librarians with the stroke of a pen, then summarily terminating the employment of good, degreed librarians, with a history of stellar performance and public service, to make room for even more homegrown facsimiles that won’t question/challenge the current “powers-that-be.” One can only hope this practice never takes root in, say, the medical profession.

    But an equal concern of mine, and others, is the library’s long-standing habit of employing people who have relationships with other library employees. It exists to this day, but at times over the past 20 years this practice has been downright rampant. Husbands, wives, parents, sisters, brothers, opposite- and same-sex lovers, children, aunts, and uncles – you name it – the library has employed them all. . .at the same time. Two girls, sisters, worked at the same time their mother did, on and off for years! They’d leave for college, travel or other obligations, and then miraculously be hired back during the summer or whenever they needed the work.

    Even the current director and his wife worked here for many years at the same time, but in their defense, they did meet at the library and then marry. Still, the current director worked as the homegrown assistant director for a very long time while his wife was still an employee. It was only after he was appointed to be the homegrown director that his wife finally took her leave.

    The point is this. . .if this overwhelming propensity to hire people related to other library employees passes the stink test, even under the strictest interpretation of “nepotism,” you simply have to ask. . .is it right? Are hiring decisions being made on the basis of qualifications, skills, experience, etc., or are truly qualified candidates being passed over in favor of applicants who have a relationship with another library employee?

    It’s a question that deserves an answer.

  22. Excellent point. If the library was asked to provide a complete inventory of every current employee, as well as every former employee (over the past 15-20 years) who has had any kind of familial/domestic relationship with another employee while they were employed, I’d be willing to bet the number could easily reach 100. Mind you, not a count of each incident, but an actual head count; for example, two sisters and a mother would count as 3, a husband and wife would count as 2.

    To learn that the library’s Board of Trustees was completely clueless about this practice of nepotism would come as no surprise.

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