Bill on library board withdrawn

Measure was designed to alter appointment process of panel

March 23, 2001|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

A bill in the House of Delegates designed to expand the pool of people who serve on Carroll County Public Library's board of trustees has been withdrawn.

The Carroll delegation's bill, which would have allowed Carroll commissioners to appoint members to the voluntary board from "other sources" without the recommendation of the standing library board, had been opposed by the library board and the library director.

"We have reached an understanding with the Library Board of Trustees and believe the issues can be resolved without legislation," Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale, a Republican, wrote in a letter this week withdrawing the measure.

The process by which library boards are chosen is outlined in state law. The library board interviews candidates and makes recommendations to the county commissioners, who appoint trustees to five-year terms.

Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., a St. Mary's County Democrat and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, expressed concern at a hearing last week that the Carroll bill as introduced would have set a precedent statewide.

Also during the hearing, committee members focused on the apparent conflict of interest regarding the library director's involvement in selecting members of the board of trustees, to whom she reports.

Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Republican, said the delegation attempted to amend the bill by striking the board appointment issue and changing its focus to exclude library director Linda Mielke from the board selection process.

However, after speaking several times with Calvin Seitz, the library board president, Getty said the delegation decided to return the issue to the library board. The board meets Wednesday.

"The issue is in the board's hands," Getty said yesterday. "There is a commitment from them to discuss it."

The bill seeking to broaden the library board's membership had its roots in a dispute last fall over the interfiling of books at the North Carroll library branch.

The practice, which combined adult and nonfiction children's books on the same shelf, drew dozens of complaints from library users, including mothers Alesia Miller and Donna Schott who were angry and concerned that their children were being exposed to inappropriate books.

The library board stopped interfiling in October, but Schott and Miller, who said they were displeased about how they were treated by the library board, approached the delegation in November about changing the way the board is appointed.

Yesterday, Miller said that given the board's quick response to her concerns about interfiling, she was hopeful members would explore the relationship between the director and the board.

"We have to have faith in the library board that they will do what they were asked to do," she said.

The seven-member library board meets 11 times a year and is responsible for appointing a library director, reviewing the library budget, and developing personnel and public service policies. The two dozen or so other boards in Carroll are appointed directly by the county commissioners.

Library director Mielke applauded the withdrawal of the bill.

"Running the library is a local responsibility," she said. "And clearly the library board nominates board members and the commissioners appoint them according to Maryland law."

Mielke said nothing is wrong with how she works with the board to select new members.

"The library board and the library director will continue to work together as we have in the past," she said.

Seitz, the board president, agreed. "It is certainly within our power to limit her involvement if we feel she is overstepping her bounds," he said. "The fact is, we value her opinions."

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