Library Board Election

I would have loved to attend the Voices of Worcester Women book launch and the election of the two new library board members last night, but I had to attend to my cat and finish reading a book for the book club.

[The above sentence will be included in my nomination papers for “official town spinster librarian”.]

Once a year, right after Thanksgiving, the City Clerk accepts applications for two open seats on the library board.  (There are twelve seats on the board, and two expire each year.  Terms last six years.)

Unlike other boards, the library board is voted on by the City Council only — no CAC, no City Manager.

And if you’ve served on the library board before, you must wait a year before seeking reappointment.

From Daily Worcesteria:

Lukes asks if for the next library board vote there could be some kind of note or presentation that shows folks what typically earns a city councilor’s vote for library board, and how this process differs from joining other committees.

I know that part of the City Council kabuki is to ask for a report on something that you already know about to get it on the record.

But when someone has served on the City Council for nigh on 362 years, one should be well aware of what typically earns a city councilor’s vote.

I think most folks who are not politically involved assume that they should submit their resume to the City Clerk, show up at the City Council meeting in their best suit, and present themselves to the City Council on a Tuesday night.

This is, unfortunately, not how the process works.

[I should note before I continue that the two folks who were elected to the library board — James A. Kersten and Judy F. Finkel  — are people I’m fond of.  As I’ve mentioned before, Jim and I went to high school together.  Judy previously served on the library board; I know her through that and through a book group and when I grow up I want to dress exactly like her.  What will follow is not against these people in particular, but against this process as a whole.]

The process, as I understand it, is to secure as many City Council votes before Tuesday night as you can.

You need to make sure that you have more City Councilors willing to vote for you than any other applicant (save one).

If you do not have those votes lined up, it does not matter how much volunteer work you do for the library.  It does not matter if you go to the library every day of the week.  It does not matter if you’ve paid your Friends membership dues for the last fifteen years.

You need to make sure you get the votes.

Many folks have asked me why I don’t apply for the library board.  Part of the reason is that I’m having an absolute blast on the cemetery commission and do not want to leave before my term is up.

But the other part is — not to put it too bluntly — that I do not believe I would be able to get the votes, no matter what kind of hustling I could do.

Of course I would love to serve on the library board someday, and I don’t think I’ve ever made a secret about that.  You all don’t need to hear any more about how much I love the library.

Folks who are applying to serve on the library board should be judged on their merits.  Those voting should be made aware of the current makeup of the board: where folks live, the male-to-female ratio, the range of ages and backgrounds.  We need a board that truly represents the citizenry of the city and the patrons of the library.

Right now, many of those who apply are at an unfair disadvantage.  They assume that the evaluation will happen at the meeting.

Unfortunately, much of the evaluation has already happened before the meeting begins.

As long as there are more applicants than available seats, some people will go away disappointed.  That’s a given.

But the current process is not fair to those who are not politically connected.

The last library board meeting was somewhat sparsely attended; by my recollection there were seven (out of 12) members in attendance.  One of the newer members noted that there were some folks she’s rarely seen and wanted to know if there was any recall procedure for those who show up infrequently (or never).

It’s not the City Council’s responsibility to know whether someone’s going to show up at a meeting in four years’ time, but we need to make sure that those who are appointed to serve on the library board understand the time commitment necessary.

Six years is a long time to serve on a board, and folks shouldn’t apply if they can’t commit to six years of meetings and advocacy.

Surely in a city of 180,000 there are twelve people who can make this kind of commitment with enthusiasm and energy.

Whether or not those are the twelve people who get appointed is another story…

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