Kander defends plan that local librarians are unhappy with

As books referring to Missouri or by Missouri authors are digitized, the State Library’s shelves become empty, as shown in this broad overview of the Missouri State Library on the floor above the State Archives. Both are part of the secretary of state’s office where new Secretary Jason Kander has announced 10 state library employees are to be laid off July 1.

As books referring to Missouri or by Missouri authors are digitized, the State Library’s shelves become empty, as shown in this broad overview of the Missouri State Library on the floor above the State Archives. Both are part of the secretary of state’s office where new Secretary Jason Kander has announced 10 state library employees are to be laid off July 1.

Librarians around Missouri are upset with new Secretary of State Jason Kander’s plans to cut 10 State Library jobs in the business year that starts July 1.

“‘Devastation’ and ‘decimation’ are alternate terms that come to mind for the proposed position eliminations,” Missouri Library Association President Carol Smith told the News Tribune this week, in an e-mail.

And Helen Rigdon, director of the Jefferson City-based Missouri River Regional Library, said Friday: “I think there are definite problems (with the plan) that need to be re-addressed.

“I am very worried that he did not consult with any of the state libraries or, even, the library directors on this restructuring and reorganization.”

Kander’s office confirmed a week ago that 10 positions in two state library divisions will not be continued in the new state business year that begins July 1. The lay-offs won’t affect the Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library or the State Archives, which also are part of the secretary of state’s office and housed in the Kirkpatrick Information Center, 600 W. Main St.

Smith, who lives in Warrensburg and is an associate professor at the University of Central Missouri, said the MLA still hopes “to sit down with the Secretary of State, to develop a better understanding of his goals and the reasoning that went into his unfortunate decision, and to work together with him to develop an alternate approach that achieves his objectives while not adversely impacting library services to the state.”

Smith also said the group had not heard back from Kander, after the statewide group sent him a three-page letter Tuesday — prompted by last Saturday’s News Tribune and Missourinet stories reporting Kander’s decision to lay off the employees.

“These reductions reflect a 55 percent and 43 percent decrease of the workforce within the Reference and Library Development Divisions, respectively,” Smith wrote Kander. “These staffing cuts will dramatically impact the ability of the State Library to provide service to Missouri libraries, state employees, and legislators.”

But, Kander said in an interview Friday: “We’re undergoing a reorganization to provide the best-possible service to Missourians. ...

“My staff researched for months before this reorganization. (And) we determined that too much of the money was going to staff, administrative costs and little-used programs, so we eliminated those inefficiencies.”

Rigdon said Missouri’s librarians are “not questioning that the restructuring needed to take place. We don’t know that.

“We’re just asking for us to be able to put our input in and delay this implementation — to engage us, to help shape the future of the state library.”

Smith told the News Tribune: “Librarians around the state have been contacting MLA by phone and e-mail, using terms like ‘shocked,’ ‘stunned’ (and) ‘galled.’

“No one can understand how such a drastic move could have been undertaken without any consultation with the constituents who will be dramatically impacted by it.”

In the letter to Kander, the MLA asked for “any opportunity to visit with you in person to further discuss the reasoning behind the restructuring, as well as jointly explore alternate paths for enhancing the essential and highly valued services provided by the Missouri State Library.”

On Thursday, Maureen Sullivan — the American Library Association’s 2012-13 president — sent Kander a one-page letter with the same request to “meet with leaders of the Missouri Library Association and other stakeholders to discuss your office’s proposal (because) the Missouri library community will have the best insight and ideas to help with the transformation of the State Library and its services.”

Kander said Friday: “You know, we did take into account their input, because we didn’t start this from scratch. We started with the current plan of the state library, and we looked to see where we could be more efficient and effective.

“And, once the full picture is complete, I think people will realize that we kept most of the library the same — we just cleaned up inefficiencies where we could.”

He said Missouri’s local libraries ultimately “will receive more grant funding for grants that we, currently, offer, and they’ll have new grant and service opportunities, too. We’re going to streamline the application process, to make it easier for local libraries to get the funding they want.”

Rigdon said Missouri librarians “would welcome (that) with open arms, (but) our concern is the lack of personnel who’s going to help us with those grants.

“Who’s going to administrate those (grants) at the state level? Who’s going to help train (the local) staff?”

And, Smith told Kander: “MLA would like to remind the Secretary of State that grants require a substantial investment in people to successfully plan, execute, deliver and administer them.

“With such extensive cuts in staffing, we ask whether you have fully considered who is going to accomplish the work required to successfully secure and manage these additional grants and educational programs.”

Kander said Friday: “I think Missourians elected me to use their tax dollars wisely, so that’s what we’re going to do. ...

“I’m confident, when (libraries around the state) see the end result, they will see how it benefits them.”

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Please review our Policies and Procedures before registering or commenting

News Tribune - comments