Council OKs updated library policies, bylaws

1 month ago Fremont Tribune

The Fremont City Council approved on Tuesday, Feb. 14, updates and some changes to the Keene Memorial Library policy manual and the Keene Memorial Library Advisory Board bylaws, adding a new policy to relocate books if a parent of a young child complains about material.

The council also approved a clarification to the library policy manual, making a change in the wording so that the bylaws were in agreement with the city’s Municipal Code in regard to what entity has the final authority over a library board decision.

Two items were on the agenda: an approval of the library advisory board bylaws from August of 2021 and approval of the updated library policy manual.

Keene Memorial Library Director Laura England-Biggs spoke to the council on both issues, as did Keene Memorial Library Advisory Board President Linda McClain.

England-Biggs said due to a transition in leadership at the library, the advisory board’s bylaws had not been properly presented to the Fremont City Council in 2021 for approval, which was required to make the bylaws valid. She blamed herself for the hiccup.

“That is on me,” England-Biggs admitted.

The library bylaws were approved by the library's advisory board in August 2021, but because of the lack of a council vote at the time, were not official. The changes to the bylaws included, England-Biggs noted, “cleaning up of language,” and some other minor tweaks.

One element that was altered two years ago was the process for hiring of a library director, which Ward 2 Council Member Glen Ellis questioned the reason for.

“Why are we changing that,” Ellis asked. “I am concerned you reviewed this and it goes against the municipal code. Shouldn’t we have the municipal code as the foundation?”

City Administrator Jody Sanders clarified the change for Ellis, telling the council member that the library director is a hired city employee, not an appointed personnel position. Sanders said this change in the bylaws clarified that the library administrator will go through the same process other hired staff at the city do.

Ellis then asked, “If we want a new library director, where do we go?”

Sanders did not reply.

The other issue before the council was an agenda item seeking the approval of the library policy manual which, after lengthy discussion, was approved in a 7-1 vote with two changes. Newly appointed Ward 1 Council Member Tad Dinkins voted no on the library policy manual.

During her presentation, England-Biggs detailed the changes in the library’s policy manual one by one.

“What you see is a cumulative amount of a lot of work to update library policies,” England-Biggs said.

Among the changes she noted were an updated library mission statement for the time period of 2022 through 2027; the change to youth volunteers being in ninth grade or higher; the removal and ending of fines and late return fees; the insertion of a “bedbug” policy; and the addition of an appeal process to the Keene Memorial Library Advisory Board for complainants who disagree with the library director’s decision on a contested material complaint form.

That appeals process element of the library policy was slightly amended after comments from Ward 4 Council Member Sally Ganem, who requested that the wording in the policy, which stated the library advisory board’s decision was final, be amended to match the city’s municipal code, which gives final authority to the city council.

“The decision of the (library) board is final, that is the part that needs to be changed,” Ganem told city staff and England-Biggs, referring to section 15.4.8 of the library policy manual.

England-Biggs admitted the wording in the policy manual did not match the city’s municipal code, stating, “There is a section in conflict with the municipal code.”

With the amended wording, the city council is officially listed in the library policy as being able to overrule a library advisory board's decision.

City Attorney Travis Jacott then spoke, confirming that, “the city council has final review,” when it comes to a library board decision.

One addition to the library’s policy manual -- which was new -- was a recommended amendment to the policy by Ward 1 Council Member Paul Von Behren.

In regard to the current appeal of the keeping of “Sex is a Funny Word” in the library, Von Behren told attendees he had read the book and in his opinion, “it is pretty clear by the definition of obscenity, this book does not meet it.”

“The thing that is being overlooked is parental control,” Von Behren added. “I asked about removing objectionable material from the children’s section (to the adult section).”

Von Behren said he spoke with library officials for an hour during a recent meeting he requested. He described several proposals he made to the library officials – whom he did not name – including altering the display policy as well as creating a parental advisory committee, which he claims library officials told him was a, “slippery slope.”

Von Behren’s proposal, which was approved in a 7-1 vote to be added to library policy.

That new policy creates a new method in which the parent or legal guardian of a child user of the library, only if the child is age 11 years old or younger, can file a written request to the library director requesting that a book or other library material be relocated from the children’s section to the adult section of the library. The book would then be relocated, not fully removed from the library.

Multiple emails over two days by The Fremont Tribune sent to England-Biggs and McClain seeking clarification of the new policy introduced by Von Behren and how it may be implemented were not returned as of press time on Thursday, Feb. 16.











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