Community Wants Input Into Library Director Search

By Judith Scherr
Friday September 22, 2006

Some library activists have been watching the search process for a new library head and say they don’t like what they see. 

“It’s very exclusive,” said Jim Fisher, a member of SuperBOLD, Berkeleyans Organizing for Library Defense. To date, the library board chair has hired a professional “head hunter” and established an ad hoc committee of library directors to begin the search.  

While Fisher says the community is being left out of the mix, Board of Library Trustees Chair Susan Kupfer counters that such fears are unfounded. 

“There will be lots of input from the community,” Kupfer told the Daily Planet. “The community can interview the candidates and rate the candidates very early in the process.”  

The ad hoc committee that Kupfer has put together consists of current and former library managers and includes directors from Oakland and San Francisco and the interim Berkeley director. “The purpose of using the expertise of library directors is that they are people who have run libraries,” Kupfer said. 

The ad hoc committee will help in the recruiting process, as will the search firm Kupfer has hired, Dubberly Garcia Associates, Inc. of Atlanta. 

In addition to concerns expressed by Fisher and SuperBOLD, the library union, Service Employees International Union 535, has concerns, particularly because the union was often at odds with former embattled director Jackie Griffin. 

“The brochure [announcing the job] should say something about working collaboratively with labor unions and line staff,” said Andrea Segall, SEIU 535 shop steward. 

The brochure announcing the position, posted on the Dubberly-Garcia website, does not address “collaboration,” but says: “The ideal candidate…has the ability to work effectively in a collective bargaining environment.” It goes on to say that the director is responsible for “supervising and evaluating the activities of professional and support staff.” 

The brochure speaks to the importance of working collaboratively with the library board, the Friends of the Library and the Berkeley Library Foundation. 

The city’s Human Resource Department has not yet advertised the position, which, according to the Dubberly-Garcia website, closes on Oct. 18. 

Charged with creating a community process, Library Trustee Ying Lee said that at the Tuesday trustee’s meeting she will propose an inclusive process for interviewing the finalists. According to her plan, there would be four interview panels: one would consist of the library professionals group already functioning; one would be made up of library staff; a third would be a panel of community leaders including representation from SuperBOLD, the Friends of the Library, the Berkeley Library Foundation, the Berkeley School Bboard and others. The fourth panel would be made up of the Board of Library Trustees, which would make the final decision.  

(As mandated by the City Charter, the Board of Trustees consists of five people, four of whom are appointed by the board itself, with confirmation by the City Council, and one—Darryl Moore—who is a councilmember appointed by the council.) 

The individual selected “should be able to work with shelvers to supervisors,” said Lee, underscoring the importance of director-staff relations. “A happy staff is vested in sustaining the library. A lot is riding on the new director.”  

The next meeting of the library board will be Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Hearst Avenue.