During a meeting June 18, the Jackson County Public Library Board of Trustees put additional money in accounting and attorney budget line items and approved a four-percent raise for library staff – their first pay increase since 2012.

While working on the 2020 budget, Library Director John Faria prepared four different proposals for the board to review. One proposal, proposal B, included the four-percent raise for the staff. That proposal, however, also increased the attorney line item from $1,000 to $6,000 per year and the line item for the accountant from $2,000 to $20,000 per year, something that was requested by the board. The increase would allow funds to be in the budget and be used only if necessary.

Faria noted no other public library in West Virginia has a lawyer included in their budget.

In the two years that he has been with the library, Faria said he has uncovered some problems regarding the way previous directors handled library funds. Faria said he has worked closely with the West Virginia Library Commission to ensure best practices, while correcting the mistakes of those before him. A few of the issues discovered included the mishandling of both levy and endowment funds, he said.

Faria’s findings have caused some tension between paid staff, including himself, and the board members. Faria said the budget increases requested by the board are taking away from other important areas, including staff compensation, as well as programs and resources that benefit the public. For example, Faria said he had to make cuts to children’s literature and the adult fiction section to make room for the board’s increases.

Last year, the budget was cut in several areas, which left the library running out of supplies, in some cases, several months prior to the end of the fiscal year, he said.

At the meeting, Faria presented a plan that he said was the result of many hours of research and collaboration with the WVLC. Faria said he believed this plan would be a better usage of the library finances.

Faria’s suggestions were as follows:

• Keep the library’s attorney on retainer, but no longer require him to attend board meetings or be included on e-mails or other such communications unless involving a legal matter.

• Fill the vacant 30 hour position with a bookkeeper/library clerk allowing a starting pay of $10 per hour resulting in savings for the library since up to two-thirds of the salary as well as retirement and benefits will be paid with the Grant-in-Aid from the WVLC. Start transitioning from the use of Certified Public Accountants.

• Change the 25-hour position in Ravenswood to a 30-hour position, thus allowing Ravenswood to continue to maintain a high level of public service.

• Increase the pay for the staff by four percent, since no one has had a raise since 2012. Faria said now is the time to do this, since voters will decide on a new levy in November 2020, and, at this time, there is an estimated $20,000 increase in levy revenue in the fiscal year 2020.

• Consider setting aside funds for technological upgrades to the library, starting with the website.

• Begin working on the Reading Garden by setting aside capital funds.

• Consider setting aside capital funds for the Bookmobile, which would serve those in rural areas that may not be able to make it in to the city locations. This would include funds in the upcoming levy.

• Start using the endowment funds properly. At the present time, there is a total of $526,693 in endowment funds that can be used accordingly.

• Begin using the fund balance properly.

• Should a bookkeeper be hired, the library would contact James Bates, CPA, and request him to do an audit compilation review for a lesser fee.

When presented with these recommendations, the president of the board, Tandi Martin, stated she would like to have them included with the meeting minutes, but she felt no need for further discussion of the budget. Martin stated the board had a lengthy discussion at the previous month’s meeting.

Regarding the current accountant leaving at the end of the month, Martin recommended using Calculated Business Solutions for payroll and other monetary issues until a more permanent solution was in place.

Martin made a motion to accept proposal B, including the raises as well as the increases in both the accounting and attorney line items.

During a public comment portion of the meeting, two members of the public stepped up to voice their concerns and show support for Faria.

Faria joined the Jackson County team almost two years ago. Prior to Faria’s arrival, the libraries were in limbo and used an interim director.

Doris Waybright was the first person to address the group. Waybright’s daughter has worked for the Ripley library for many years, and her late husband was on the Jackson County Commission.

“I have been to several of your meetings, and my husband was on the county commission for 12 years, and I also attended some of his meetings,” Waybright said.

In all her years of being involved with official meetings, Waybright said she has never experienced anything like the raised voices and conflict that occurred at the previous Board of Trustees meeting.

“I have heard a lot of disagreements, but there was never any shouting like I heard at the last library board meeting,” she said.

Waybright said she understands previous directors cost the library money, and this was something the board later discovered as well; however, she feels Faria is nothing like previous directors.

Waybright said although Faria is not from West Virginia, when he came to Jackson County, he read everything he could about the area and its history.

Waybright continued to say she feels that Faria is doing a great job, and the board needs to focus more on the employees and consider their views of what goes on in the library.

“I know you have trouble with your money, everybody does,” Waybright said. “I think the employees should come first.”

Maxine Landfried was the second to speak. She was on the library board for six years from 1989-1995. Landfried expressed that when she was on the board, there was no levy.

“I didn’t know anything about this controversy,” Landfried said. “We didn’t have a levy; we didn’t have any money. You’ve got the levy, and here you are pinching pennies. This shouldn’t be. You should be able to budget it somehow.”

Landfried said she believes Faria’s recommendations should carry more weight with the board.

“For the six years I was on the board, we never had a lawyer at a meeting. We never had a county commissioner at a meeting. We had to go to them,” Landfried said. “We were told our job as a board member was to hire a director. The director ran the library, not the board members.”

Landfried questioned who was in charge of the library finances. Faria replied that the board has the ultimate or final responsibility for the finances and endowments.

Other items discussed:

• There is currently a vacancy on the Board of Trustees. Faria recommended Suzi McGinley for the board approval. He said McGinley had worked with, as well as in, the library and knows the ins-and-outs associated with its needs, as well as the needs of the staff and the community.

Martin quickly declined the recommendation and, instead, suggested Lois Beam as the officer to fill the position. Library Attorney Kevin Harris suggested an executive session to discuss the situation.

Following the executive session, the board recommended Lois Beam to the Jackson County Commission for final approval.

• Faria presented a letter to the board that was compiled by the staff at both Ripley and Ravenswood library branches, addressing their concerns regarding the board’s questioning of Faria as the director.

The following is an excerpt from the staff letter:

“Compared to his predecessor, John has continually made an effort to work with us, to keep us in the loop concerning our library, our careers, and how to fix the mess that was previously made. He has listened to us, he has fought for us, and he has made it unwaveringly clear that he is on the side of this library.”

Randolph said, typically at a meeting, when the public has comments regarding a situation, they would sign up to address the board, instead of sending a lengthy letter. He noted only two people had signed the form to speak, and neither one had a part in writing the letter.

“We don’t even know the content of this, and I just think it needed to be presented to us prior to the board meeting,” Martin said. “I’m not going to read it.”

Ravenswood branch manager Angela Howard said she hoped board members would read the letter.

“Speaking for myself and the employees at the Ripley and Ravenswood libraries, it’s fine if you want to take them home and digest them and whatever. If you don’t want to read them publicly, that’s completely up to you,” Howard said. “I was just following the direction of, I believe, the Library Commission.”

Martin recommended that the board members take the letter with them to read at another time and, if action is necessary, it would happen at a later time. She noted the letter would be accepted into the minutes, but would not be discussed any further at the evening’s meeting.

The library Board of Trustees is a group of volunteer citizens who look after the business and management side of Jackson County Public Libraries, which includes the Ravenswood and Ripley Branches.

Current library board members include president Tandi Martin, Cora Jones, Jane Cogar, Paul Francis, and Marquita McIntyre. Each month, the Board of Trustees along with Faria, meet in a public forum to review necessary information and make any critical decisions that need to be made.

Those in attendance for the June 18 meeting were board members Martin, Jones, and Cogar, Faria, Howard, attorney Kevin Harris, and Mike Randolph of the Jackson County Commission. Several members of the public were also in attendance as well as a few of the library staff members.

Library staff pens letter to board

Editor’s Note: Staff members of the Jackson County Public Libraries recently penned a letter to the Board of Trustees. The letter was entered into the public record. A copy of the letter was provided to the newspaper and is being published here for our readers:

“Members of the Board,

It has been brought to our attention that John’s integrity as a director is in question, and the following is our response.

Compared to his predecessors, John has continually made an effort to work with us, to keep us in the loop concerning our library, our careers, and how to fix the mess that was previously made. He has listened to us, he has fought for us, and he has made it unwaveringly clear that he is on the side of this library. He has, time and again, shown us through clear action that he believes in us and our abilities. John has given each of us encouragement in furthering our library careers by making us aware of the WVLC’s training courses, on top of taking training courses himself. This can not only benefit our libraries, but our entire community, as well.

It is absolutely absurd that anyone would question our director, especially when there is a vast amount of proof that his being here has launched this small town library system into an entirely different caliber of community engagement. We, as a system, have become more in sync, we have grown stronger with our own communities; library engagement has significantly grown, outreach has broadened, and collection development has become significantly more centered on patrons, their needs, and even their wants. John has spent countless hours going over our budget, invoices, orders for both libraries, and weeding through the parts of our collection that has long gone without major updates - the non-fiction section. On top of that, he also uses input from staff on what periodicals, books, movies, and even donations would be useful, go out the most amongst the myriad of patrons who frequent our libraries, do well in our book sales, and so much more.

Not only does he care about our library, he has also become very involved in our community. From day one, John sought out local committees and clubs to join, dove into our history (both local and state,) and asked many questions about our small towns and their people. He has become a member of this community, and without a doubt, he cares about how we as a library can change our communities for the better, starting with himself. This reflects a willingness to change into our communities, to welcome strangers, much as we do every July 4th for our Biggest Small Town Celebration. It also perfectly demonstrates what we all love about libraries the most - fill are free and welcome to learn, enjoy, and entertain, question, and discuss here. This is the type of atmosphere every library strives for, so that their communities can grow into a pristine reflection of selflessness, hard work, and above all, kindness. We have seen this in John, and welcome you to join us more often so that you may see it, as well.

We are embarrassed that we felt it necessary to write a letter like this; however we also felt that it must be made clear - John Faria belongs in The Jackson County Public Library system as its Director. You, the board, must understand that most of us have ever worked with a director who gave this library a real goal, set its staff up to succeed in fantastic ways, and actually listened when we had concerns or problems. Without any doubt, we must tell you that John has been a main factor into the growth and development we all have seen in the last few years from this library system, as well as our communities. We ask that you please listen to us, as your actions, words, and decisions directly affect us here.

We all work tirelessly, getting what feels like nothing done in our short work weeks, with minimum pay, and even minimal budgeting; all because we love our libraries. However, we are tired, stressed to an almost breaking point, and at this point, just want to be heard. It is a major struggle, fitting all of our duties into a small batch of time, and some of us have even had to pick up second and third jobs, while others scrape by in the most depressing of ways. John has watched each one of us struggle, and has voiced his concerns for all of us, as well as our careers and the place we call our second home. He is, without a doubt, trying to do what is right by our library system, and our staff. We ask that you work with the director who has been open, honest, and gone out of his way to include you, where directors of the past have not so that you can be more involved in your local libraries by asking for what we need, and helping us reach our goals. It not only strengthens our libraries, but our communities, as well.

Sincerely,

The staff of Jackson County Public Library"