The Allen County Public Library Board of Trustees has not acted in the best interests of the taxpayers, one library patron told the Allen County Council on Thursday.
Speaking during the council's public comment period, Kim Fenoglio, an organizer of Concerned Library Patrons, bemoaned the removal of a large number of books from the library's collection, done through a process library officials call “weeding.” Critics of the practice call it a purge and are urging the Allen County Council to act.
The council appoints two of the ACPL board members. They are County Councilwoman Sharon Tucker and former Councilman Paul Moss.
“Over 1.4 million books have been purged from the collection in an ill-conceived, radical change of vision and without the public's knowledge,” Fenoglio said. “Tremendous damage has already been done.”
At a March 28 public hearing, library officials disputed accuracy of claims that 1.4 million books have been removed but could not give definitive numbers to the more than 250-person audience.
“There's widespread denial and no concrete answers,” Fenoglio said. “We do not believe the trustees have acted thus far in the best interest of all Allen County taxpayers.”
Fenoglio accused ACPL board members of being “complacent in their responsibilities” and trusting Library Director Greta Southard as they had previous directors.
“However, this director took advantage of their complacency in order to do whatever she wanted, with no oversight,” Fenoglio said. “(The board) has not acted in the best interest of the community and more specifically, has acted against the best interests of the taxpayers in your districts and the county at large.”
Fenoglio requested the County Council make sure that Tucker and Moss “fulfill their duties as representatives of the Allen County Council” by committing to a policy “to maintain the breadth and depth of the materials in the ACPL collection that this community values and desires.”
“We ask that you demand that the community branch managers be allowed to maintain a collection that reflects the needs of the schoolchildren and the families they serve,” Fenoglio said.
Time is of the essence, Fenoglio said, because the weeding process was expected to begin again in less than two weeks. That's something Tucker disputed.
“There is weeding going on, however the board did suspend that until they had additional time to review the concerns that have been brought forward,” Tucker said. “The two weeks has not been set by the board and (weeding is suspended) until we have time to do that.”
Many of the other complaints that have been raised, Tucker said, are HR concerns that can't be discussed publicly. The library is in a difficult position, she added, as it tries to meet the needs of people who prefer traditional books to other groups – typically younger patrons – who desire more electronic materials rather than ink on paper.
“We're at that bridge,” Tucker said. “How do we bridge that gap between keeping this amount of material and having enough e-book materials for students, on a limited budget.”