Statement from the Salt Lake City Public Library Board of Directors President Kevin Werner and Secretary Elizabeth Barlow Gupta
Changing technology, shifting demographics and evolving service needs are challenging public libraries to demonstrate their relevance and role in the community. The Salt Lake City Public Library Board of Directors has tasked the Director and employees to help us adapt and lead the change.
The Library’s Strategic Plan is a focused, creative and modern operational guide in order to better serve our diverse city. With the community’s support, we are building two new library branches. We are providing record levels of traditional library use as well as innovative programming. Our staff is teaching individuals the critical technology skills they need to be active members of our community and economy. We are making landmark progress with outreach programs in early literacy and language. And we are creating policy and procedure to build a professional organization with opportunities for professional advancement.
The Salt Lake City Public Library’s commitment to free speech and its handling of a number of personnel issues has been under media scrutiny recently. As the governing body of the Library, the Library Board believes that the recent media coverage has omitted some important facts.
The Library is dedicated to freedom of speech and transparency, demonstrated by the Board’s support of policies and funding of collections and resources representing all points of view and in the access provided to these resources for all members of the community.
Additionally, the Board holds itself to the highest standards for operating in an open and transparent manner. In recent months, it has worked to increase transparency by adopting a transparency policy as well as public comment and communications procedures that advance this goal.
The Board supports freedom of speech of employees. We encourage employees to bring forth their concerns in a constructive manner, and the Library provides many internal channels. A clearly outlined grievance procedure is available to all employees.
Similar to many other public institutions, the Library recently set guidelines on appropriate use of email, specifically emails sent to all employees. The guidelines were constructed to clearly define expectations for current policies relating to professional conduct and respect for other employees. The Library has a responsibility to taxpayers to ensure internal communications systems are used for appropriate organizational purposes.
While the Library does not monitor or limit employee speech on their personal social networking sites, it is imperative that Library employees do not use their social networking activities to violate patron privacy. The Library holds patron privacy as a core value and a critical policy. Protection of patron privacy is not only found in the Library’s own policies but is also found in the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics. Freedom of speech does not trump this policy. The Library Board takes violations of this principle very seriously.
The Library Board acknowledges the concerns between Library administration and employees. In response to this, the Library Board adopted a new Strategic Plan outcome – Achieving Organization Excellence. This outcome is intended to build “professionalism, creativity, accountability, teamwork, adaptability, leadership and management skills” among the library’s staff. The Library Board more than tripled the budget for staff training and development for the current fiscal year to support this Strategic Plan outcome.
We are strongly committed to serving the community we represent and we have directed Library Director Beth Elder to ensure that the public trust is preserved, services are delivered to the community effectively and efficiently, and the Library is well prepared for the future.
As a Board, we are committed to the highest standards of service and professionalism at the Salt Lake City Public Library, standards our community expects and deserves.