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Public library issues

To the Editor:

We read the article, "Library board fends angry staff, patrons," printed in the Sept. 2 issue of the Grosse Pointe News. We also attended the Grosse Pointe Public Library Board meeting of Aug. 23 that was referenced in the article.

As active patrons of the Grosse Pointe Public Library for more than 25 years, we joined in addressing the library board that night. The experience was frustrating.

Communications with the board have turned adversarial as the board places policy impediments between itself and the public. The public comments portion of the meetings does not permit a dialogue, so the public must wait for a later section of the meeting to hear if the board has any response. In most cases, when members of the community ask for information, the head of the board, Mr. Bruce, insists the only way the library board will respond is through a written Freedom of Information Act request. This is very cumbersome and promotes resentment rather than trust.

The public is entitled to open, forthright communications with the library board not a "dental" procedure to get information. More importantly, public support for and trust in the board is rapidly collapsing.

Sadly, the Grosse Pointe school board, which created the Grosse Pointe Public Library Board and periodically appoints the members of the library board, wants nothing to do with the problem.

At the last school board meeting, when a citizen asked to speak during the open comments portion of the school board meeting in regard to problems with the library board, she was told that the school board couldn't control the library board's actions, had spent enough time on library matters already, and no further public comments would be heard.

It seems that the school board has chosen to ignore the library board until the next time they are required to appoint members. This further reduces the trust of the public in both boards.

Is there no way to repair the deteriorating relationship between the public and the library board? Apparently, the board has unlimited power.

At the last library board meeting, one member announced that according to her interpretation of the district Library Establishment Act, there is no mechanism in place at the local level to recall library board members. According to that member, the governor of the state is the only person in authority with the power to remove library board members.

The school board gets to make appointments and then walk away from the damage. The public has to wait for years to try to persuade the next school board to appoint more responsive and effective library board members. That's not a very good deal for the public.

One solution to all of this is to have an elected library board with direct accountability to the residents and taxpayers of Grosse Pointe. State Rep. Ed Gaffney is at work trying to change state law to achieve this.

Neither the library board nor the school board seem interested in assuring appropriate responsiveness and accountability to the public.

Given the attitude of both boards, we strongly urge all Grosse Pointers to contact our local representative Ed Gaffney and voice their support for his efforts to amend the district Library Establishment Act so that the citizens of Grosse Pointe can put oversight of our libraries into the hands of the community where it belongs.

Bonnie Frederickson and Edwin Frederickson

City of Grosse Pointe

Bonnie Frederickson and Edwin Frederickson
City of Grosse Pointe
September 08, 2004

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