Library Board Selection Process Leaves Out Committee

By Judith Scherr
Friday June 01, 2007

Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington criticized the library administration for announcing a process for selection of a new trustee—Trustee Laura Anderson’s eight-year term expires in October—without direction from a council-library committee established to create a new selection process. 

“It’s funny for the trustees to establish a sunshine committee and go off and do things on their own,” said Worthington, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee for Sunshining the Selection of Trustees. 

The committee is composed of two city councilmembers and two members of the Library Board of Trustees. Its purpose is to bring transparency to the trustee-selection process. 

Library director Donna Corbeil told the Daily Planet she was following the trustees’ directive when she posted an advertisement in several local newspapers, including the Daily Planet, letting people know in a timely way that there will be an opening for a trustee in October.  

“My understanding is that everyone agreed to get the word out as soon as possible, Corbeil said, noting that the ad hoc committee had met a couple of times “but hasn’t given any direction to [the trustees].” 

The newspaper advertisement says prospective trustees should come to a June 19 reception at 7 p.m. at the West Berkeley Library and submit application materials to the city clerk’s office by July 1. The advertisement suggests people contact the City Clerk’s office for information; however the Daily Planet found that the city clerk’s office is asking people to contact the library administration at 981-6195 for information. 

Historically, the trustees have chosen new members when there is a vacancy at the end of two four-year terms, with only a pro-forma reappointment process and pro-forma confirmation from the City Council.  

However, the trustees acknowledged they were in need of a more open selection process in response to community and staff outcry over a number of problems including the purchase of a controversial radio frequency identification checkout system with little public input and staff conflict with the former library director. 

The trustees also had been threatened with a lawsuit by the community group SuperBOLD, Berkeleyans Organized for Library Defense, for limiting public comment at their meetings. 

The ad hoc committee is to set qualifications for new trustees and create a more open selection process. 

“I think advertising [the reception and the date to turn in applications] is within the spirit of the committee,” said Trustee Ying Lee, a member of the ad hoc committee. “The main object is to give the public notice.” 

But SuperBOLD member Gene Bernardi said she disagrees. 

“My feeling is that the trustees’ process is undercutting the ad hoc committee,” Bernardi said, noting that they’re advertising the upcoming vacancy without the qualifications having been finalized and that the June 19 reception for perspective candidates conflicts with a City Council meeting.  

Further, Bernardi said, “A July 1 deadline seems too soon.”  

She conceded, on the other hand, that the trustees “got our message. At least they’re advertising the vacancy.”