I thought it would be good to share with you some of my observations about the New City Library and its staff. Following is my first Director's Report as Interim Director to the Board of Trustees of the New City Library; it addresses these topics.
I welcome your comments, suggestions, and concerns on what follows or on any other library matter of interest to you.
Maurice J. Freedman, MLS, PhD
Interim Director, New City Library
845-634-4997 x 111
Interim Director’s Report
Maurice J. Freedman, Interim Director
June 20, 2013
I am writing this report about one month after I began as Interim Director, May 13, 2013.
I’ll begin by expressing my gratitude to Tom Ninan, President, for seeking me out and inviting me to apply for the position. I’m especially grateful to the eight trustees present for their unanimous vote in support of my appointment at the May Special Board Meeting.
Now, I’m here, and it is time for me to reflect on the past month, what I’ve seen, done, and recommend.
The Staff: I’m happy with the staff. They all seem to know their jobs very well and seem to be comfortable carrying them out. This would reflect on the quality of the training, the quality of the staff, and the library environment in which they are flourishing.
I have not met every staff member, but probably all but a few. By working late several evenings it enabled me to meet some of the pages and library assistants who work after most of the regulars leave. Uniformly they have been gracious and welcoming. My observation is that the staff is dedicated, hard working, and does its job well.
I have no specific recommendations concerning the library’s operations other than the one I implemented already. I spoke with an irate patron who made it clear that her anger wasn’t really over fines charged to her, but with being informed at the circulation desk that she lost her borrowing privileges because her fine total exceeded $10.00. I resolved the issue with the patron. I subsequently discussed this matter with the department head, Gail Seidenfrau, and asked her to see if she could instruct her staff to suggest that a patron step aside to a less public area to discuss any potentially embarrassing issues. The people waiting in line don’t need to know the person’s business, and avoiding the personal embarrassment is good service. (I’ve heard the same complaint from another unhappy patron, as well.)
- Union Relations: Jim Collins and I had a formal meeting with the New City Library Staff Association officers. We managed to resolve all of the agenda issues amicably. So far the union and management have found constructive solutions for any issues that have arisen. To date relations are good. The union expects the Board to approve the contract at the June Board meeting.
- Building Survey Proposals: Jim Collins and I have now met with two firms that have offered proposals to do a survey of the physical plant. We know that there are problems with the roof(s), but the rest of the building must be surveyed as well. We have been working with the building committee and will keep the Board apprised of what we have learned. The third vendor will be interviewed prior to the Board meeting. Additionally Jim Collins has been interviewing HVAC vendors for the maintenance of the library’s HVAC systems and equipment. One of them will replace Blend-Air, and we trust that the library will have a better relationship with the vendor selected to replace Blend-Air.
- State AV Grant: Work is proceeding with Degensheim Architects. They were on-site to take measurements of the affected areas. They also took a much closer look at “what is where” to ensure that they have a better understanding of what needs to be done. The meeting with the architects was constructive. Nothing was written in stone, but I expressed quite strongly the opinion that the library must continue to maintain the security of the DVDs and CDs while at the same time remove the labor intensity of the procedures the library and the patrons go through in managing and borrowing them. In acquisitions color copies are made of the outside matter that accompanies the DVD and CD cases. Then the copies must be cut, sized and laminated onto the large card surrogates for the actual DVD and case. These then must be filed into their respective bins. It is these cards that the patron browses. The patron then brings the selected items (cards) to the circulation desk. The staff then retrieves the DVD from the shelf, and charges the DVD to the patron. (Ditto for CDs.) I will work closely with the staff to come up with a method for circulating the DVDs that offers a high degree of security, but also substantially reduces the labor of the staff and the time spent waiting in line by patrons at the circulation desk. We will proceed on both fronts: (1) with the architects to rearrange the space; and (2) with the circulation staff to change the handling procedures.
- Quiet Area &Tutors: These two questions, creating a quiet area and exercising some control of tutors—seemingly separate issues—are related to each other. We receive complaints from patrons that the library is too noisy. I will work with Marianne Silver to identify some space that we can set aside as a dedicated quiet area.
- The related issue is the intrusiveness of tutors in the library. Some complainants specifically identify as a problem the noise made by tutors while they assist their clients. This concern does not apply to the tutoring done by the Literacy Volunteers of Rockland County. (Incidentally the LV Rockland office is located in the technical services area of the library. Helping people become literate is an important part of the library mission.) Tutors are not the only ones who use the library for commercial or non-profit purposes. Individuals have routinely used public space in the library for their own purposes. We’ll investigate what should be recommended to the Board as an appropriate library policy concerning private tutoring in the library, and also dedicated quiet space(s).
Additions, Replacements, Enhancements & Other
Following is a laundry list of things I would recommend that should be changed, added, or eliminated. Note that none of these require a major capital expenditure. The savings in the operating budget should be adequate to pay for what is recommended while still leaving a substantial fund balance. The multiple vacancies the library has carried and the ones it continues to carry, as well as under spending in almost every category of the materials budget have added the overage in operating funds that are addition to the fund balance at the end of the last fiscal year. Note well that I will review all of these items with the building committee and not have them interfere with the deadline-sensitive AV grant.
The following are the recommended improvements.
- AV System for the Meeting Room: I was dismayed when I found how much was lacking in the audiovisual system in the meeting room. This is a first class library. The library received a proposal that was submitted to install an AV system in the meeting room. It has been turned over to me. I will contact two other vendors and invite them to propose a similar system.
- New Telephone System: The phone system is an ongoing challenge because of how outdated it is (installed in the 1990s). Checking my voice mail is a challenge that shouldn’t be a challenge. What the library should have now is a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) system with new telephone instruments. Lightpath (the part of Cablevision that handles data communication/internet/fiber optic installations) was the company that installed the VOIP system at the Yonkers Riverfront Library. Yonkers is happy with it. Also Lightpath already is a presence on the library’s server configuration.
- Flat Panel LCD TV for the Children’s Room; The programming possibilities will be significantly increased with access to a TV in the Children’s Room.
- Possible Mural for the Children’s Room: I have worked with a mural artist who did an extraordinary job at the Purchase Free Library (under my direction) and at the Ardsley Public Library at the time of Ardsley’s last major renovation. The cost of the artist’s work is modest. I have asked Janet Makoujy to go to both libraries to evaluate the desirability and worthiness of her painting a mural in New City’s children’s room.
- Replace Teleconference TV (CRT) and Camera: The TV is an embarrassment because of the quality of the picture and its age.
- Statistics: The statistical reports shows a trend of decreased use of library services pretty much in every category. This is a matter that is of concern to me. I plan to take a good look and see what the trends in other libraries are.
- ALA Annual Meeting: I plan to attend the ALA Annual Meeting in Chicago. The Board has a history of supporting the director’s attendance at major library conferences—which I wholeheartedly support. In this instance, I want to learn as much as I can about the latest options in displaying and maintaining AV collections, their security, and circulation as well as see what else is new in library products and services. There are several interesting programs. What is especially valuable and unique at conferences is ‘networking’ with colleagues and vendors. What I have learned from informal and small meetings over the years has been vital to my work as a library professional.
- Personnel: I will list all personnel transactions between Board meetings in this and all future reports. Each month I will forward proposed recommendations to the Personnel & Finance Committee and then to the Board for approval. New hires are told that their being hired is subject to the approval of the Board. This is consistent with New York State library regulations and library policy.
- New Hires:
Christina Maher has been hired as a Page, subject to the Board’s approval. She is a junior at Nanuet High School
Mitchell Backelman has been hired as a Page, subject to the Board’s approval. He is a junior at Clarkstown South High School.
Reclassification: I recommend that Janice Paley, Community Relations, who currently is a Library Assistant I (the title of people who work the circ desk at night who are a grade 21) be promoted to the title Community Services Assistant (grade 25). A modest raise will accompany the reclassification. Simply, Ms. Paley is doing most of the work associated with a professional community relations person.
Department Head Reports: Attached are the complete department head reports. I prefer that the Board see the full reports.
Maurice J. Freedman
June 13, 2013