In April, Manatee County commissioners came to a compromise with residents who didn’t want an additional advisory board overseeing the library system’s book collection.
Instead of adding a whole new board, commissioners voted to expand the current board from five members to nine. The additional seats are now up for grabs, and East County residents are eligible to apply for all four. Applications must be submitted by Dec. 20.
One seat was added to represent the Lakewood Ranch and Myakka City area. The other three were added to represent different roles, so applicants can live anywhere in the county.
One of the three is reserved for someone with a master’s degree in library science from an accredited school, and the other two are for parents — one with a child enrolled in a Manatee County school and one who is homeschooling.
The Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Library was against having two boards, but President Sue Ann Miller said her organization is pleased to see more members being added to the original board.
“We thought it made sense since this area continues to grow, so why not increase the numbers on that advisory board,” Miller said. “I’ve always found with different boards, whether it’s an advisory board or like our Friends board, we need people with lots of different experiences and backgrounds.”
Up until now, board members were only representing the areas in which they live. The matter came up when Commissioner Amanda Ballard was pushing for a separate board to assist librarians in choosing the book collection, which is not part of the old or new board's job description. The Library Advisory Board only weighs in on matters of policy.
Parents and library volunteers viewed Ballard’s move as a book ban and protested in front of the Administration Building before the vote on Apr. 18. The majority of Ballard’s motion, which included genre labels and parental consent forms for mature titles, was nixed during the meeting.
However, the commission unanimously agreed to add the four new members and one more duty “to include collection development process review responsibilities.”
Library Services Manager Tammy Parrott said active collection development is a year-round, full-time job for three people, so it wouldn’t be fair to ask a volunteer to take on that kind of load.
“That’s more than anyone has signed up for,” she said, “But as an advisory board, it would be completely appropriate for them to look at our process and how we’re distributing our efforts in the collection.”
For example, the board could suggest spending more money on audio visual materials, but not what materials would be purchased. That task would be sent to the library staff to execute.
“Their input will be valuable because of the diversity of the board,” Parrott said. “We can make sure that different segments of the population are seeing themselves reflected in the library.”
The advisory board meets once a month at the Central Library, where Parrott briefs members on the library’s budget, staff, policies and programs.
Duties of the advisory board include providing input on the library’s annual plan and updating commissioners on “the state of the library system.” The board also creates and recommends operational and development policies for the commission to approve or deny.
Once the applications have been reviewed, commissioners will appoint the new members.
“We did our Mailchimp eblast out to all of our members so that they know the positions are available,” Miller said. “It takes people with a vast array of knowledge to really contribute to boards in an advisory position. I think the mix of different qualifications is good.”