With two applicants never contacted or interviewed waiting on the sidelines, the Crawford County Library System Board of Directors chose Monday to rewrite the job description for the system director, reducing the requirements and adding a position for a mentor.
The library board met in a work session Monday (Sept. 25) to hash out requirements for applicants for the full-time director position along with those for a part-time mentor position.
The board voted at its regular meeting Sept. 19 to seek two positions in order to lower the requirement of master’s degree in library science in hopes of getting qualified applicants for the position, which has been open since late February when the former library system director Diedre Grzymala resigned amidst controversy. Eva White has served as the interim director since Feb. 24. White was the library director for Crawford County from 1999 to 2012 and then again from 2013 to January 2021.
After the Sept. 19 meeting, Tammi Hamby, chair of the library board, said it was proving difficult to find a qualified person willing to take the position.
“With all that is going on with our library, it’s difficult to find someone who wants the position,” Hamby told Talk Business & Politics.
‘DIDN’T EVEN TALK TO THEM’
But two people do want the position. During the special called meeting Monday, White raised the subject of applicants who have not been interviewed. Hamby said in the meeting, though there were a number of applicants, only one “even had the technical qualifications.” The number of applicants was mentioned as being between four and six by different people at the meeting.
“And you didn’t even talk to them,” White said. “You could have interviewed them and seen if they could do the job.”
Talk Business & Politics obtained the resumes and applications of two people who have applied for the position since it was posted as open in the spring – Madison Swaim and Cyntha Morrison. White said two others had applied, but have withdrawn their applications.
The job description posted on Salary.com and other websites in May states that the Crawford County Library System “is looking for a highly experienced and motivated administrator who can direct a broad range of public library functions.” The qualifications for the position state that a master’s degree in library science from an American Library Association (ALA) accredited college or university is required and five years of progressively responsible library admin experience including at least three years in a supervisory capacity is preferred. Experience in a multi-library system is also preferred, the job posting stated. Special requirements included basic computer skills and willingness to speak to media, government officials and public groups.
In a further description of the job on the site it said that required education included a master’s degree and required experience included five years of management and five years of library service.
According to her resume, Swaim has a master’s degree in library and information science from Texas Woman’s University. She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Central Arkansas. She has been the youth services librarian at the Van Buren Public Library since September 2021. Prior to that, she served as the substitute library assistant for the Crawford County Library System for four months.
“I am very interested in the Crawford County Library System Director position. I have two years of related experience and am looking for new opportunities. … My relevant background includes library management, collection development, and communication expertise,” Swaim said in her application.
Morrison has a master’s degree in information science, which is ALA accredited, from the University of Texas at Austin. She has a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Colorado. Morrison has worked as a part-time library assistant for the Crawford County Library System since October 2021. Prior to that she served as an IT Consultant for the Bee County Chamber of Commerce in 2015; library director of the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library in Beeville, Texas, from 2013-2015; and a reference librarian for the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library from 2011-2013.
“While I have enjoyed the easy pace of part-time public library work while raising a family, I feel it is time to contribute more to my community and focus on how I can best serve the public library. In my current position I have had opportunities to learn some of the inner workings of a multi-branch library system. I especially enjoy working at the different branches as the opportunity arises,” Morrison said in her application. “During my career as a library director, I negotiated a $20,000 increase in the library budget, streamlined the overdue notices process, upgraded patron accessible technologies, and brought the library up to date regarding their website, services and fees, and library policies.”
CHANGING THE STANDARDS
Hamby said at Monday’s meeting that all applications would be considered but because the board had voted to have two positions, they had to follow through on that decision and advertise for the director position and the mentor position.
She suggested that the full-time director position did not have to have a master’s degree, just need to be working toward that degree. During the discussion, board member Keith Pigg said the candidate should have at least started their master’s degree program. Hamby countered that, saying she didn’t think that was necessary as long as they completed the degree in two years.
“Someone can complete (36) hours in two years, even working full-time,” Hamby said.
The standards for state aid to public libraries distributed at the May meeting of the Arkansas State Library board meeting state that “city, county, and regional library systems participating in the State Aid to Public Libraries program shall be administered by a qualified librarian.”
A master’s degree in library science awarded through a program accredited by the American Library Association is recognized as the minimum qualifying degree,” the guidelines state.
In the past, exceptions have been made when no applicants have had a master’s degree, White had told the board. In those instances, a fully qualified mentor has been hired who oversees the director until they have completed their master’s degree.
The ALA website says that considerable variation exists in curricula offered by master of library science programs, including the number and types of required courses.
Hamby also stated during Monday’s meeting she believes business experience is a must for the full-time director position. She said the experience didn’t necessarily need to be library experience as long as the candidate had experience in making a budget. White countered by saying there is a big difference in working with a regular business budget and working with a government budget.
The board decided that the person would need to have library administration experience, preferably with a library system that had multiple libraries. The candidate also needs to be computer savvy and familiar with library software, the board said. The mentor position will be a temporary, part-time position for up to two years, they said.
The board agreed that while White would have to reapply for the position since that is not the position she currently holds, they would want her to stay on as the mentor. Hamby also said she believed it would take months to find a qualified person for the full-time position, noting that White had told the board at the Sept. 19 meeting that she would be willing to stay on until March.
“I am not leaving this place until I can see it’s alright,” White said. “But right now, it’s not alright.”
Pigg noted that corporations throughout the country find reliable employees for management positions in much less time. Pigg said the board could not afford to sit around and wait for the “perfect” candidate. He said he did not see the search taking more than five to six weeks.
“You can hire someone who is qualified to do the job. They might not be the perfect person, but they are on a short contract. If you don’t like them, you can get rid of them,” Pigg said.
The board agreed to look at applicants who have submitted by Oct. 24 and conduct interviews before the next board meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 14.
The search for a new director was needed after Gryzmala resigned with a $40,687.50 severance deal Feb. 21. The controversy began in November 2022 when Hamby and her husband Dr. Jeffrey Hamby, a Van Buren family physician, spearheaded a campaign against LBGQT+ books being available through the library system, and then Library Director Diedre Grzymala’s book display of LBGQT+ children’s books set up at the Van Buren Public Library.
Hamby was appointed to the Crawford County Library Board by Keith and named the board chair after Jamie Balkman, former chair, and two other board members resigned after a contentious Quorum Court meeting in December.
On June 2, several Arkansas libraries and library associations filed a lawsuit in the Fayetteville Division of the Western District Court of Arkansas against Crawford County officials and state prosecuting attorneys to overturn Act 372. The Act is primarily a measure allowing books in public libraries to be banned or relocated. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Brooks granted a preliminary injunction July 29 against Act 689 implementation, which was set to go into effect Aug. 1.
The June 2 lawsuit was the second to be filed attempting to block libraries from censoring books. Attorney Brian Meadors filed a federal complaint May 30 against book censorship actions by the Crawford County Public Library. The Crawford County Library has in recent months approved the removal and relocation of books largely because of objections from citizens to LGBTQ content.
Crawford County has spend and/or budgeted more around $245,000 on legal bills related to the actions by Hamby and others to censor or relocate books.