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Library board wants to drop graduate degree requirement for director job

In a 3-2 vote, the Campbell County Public Library Board has proposed revising the requirements for the position of executive director of the library to distance itself further from the American Library Association as it works to replace Terri Lesley, whom the board fired July 28.

Campbell County Human Resources Director Brandy Elder explains Aug. 1 the process of getting a new director. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — In a 3–2 vote, the Campbell County Public Library Board has proposed revising the requirements for the position of executive director of the library to distance itself further from the American Library Association as it works to replace Terri Lesley, whom the board fired July 28.

Campbell County commissioners will need to decide whether to approve the changes, Human Resources Executive Director Brandy Elder said.

Under the library board’s proposal, the director would no longer need to have a graduate degree. A graduate degree is now “preferred.” An undergraduate degree is still required. Degrees must be from an accredited college or university. The mention of “American Library Association” in the job description was also tentatively dropped. A successful candidate could have a graduate degree and nine years of experience in business management or a related field.

While most Campbell County department director roles require graduate degrees, two don’t, Elder said. One of those is Road and Bridge, which requires an undergraduate degree but not a master’s degree.

Elder said that the director needs to have at least nine years of relevant experience for the position to remain in the current pay range. If the position drops below the pay range, it will no longer be “executive director.” The personnel committee would need to get involved.

Board members Darcie Lyon and Charlie Anderson voted against the changes.

Lyon said she’s concerned that employees who report to a supervisor who is not required to have at least the same level of education will be resentful.

“I think it needs to be a graduate degree. If it has to be, if it’s in another field, like business or whatever, I can live with that, but I don’t think it should be an undergraduate degree for this position,” she said. “Because every department it seems like has a graduate degree for that person and it’s not right to put an undergraduate to stay because we want something different to be undergraduate when the standard for our county is graduate.”

Lyon said that when she asked a couple of people who work in the county regarding dropping the requirement, they said they would be very offended.

Anderson said he would like Elder to find out what other Wyoming libraries require in terms of qualifications for their directors. He wants to see a quality library and a reasonable list of requirements for the position.

Former chair Sage Bear said that while she’s not opposed to having a new director who has library experience, she wants the board to have the latitude to hire more candidates.

Anderson asked what the board’s litmus test would be to determine the influence of the ALA on a candidate.

In June, the board approved, in a 3–2 vote, revisions to its collection development policy, culminating a line-by-line review of the document that began in January. They eliminated references to the American Library Association and the addition of a Policy for Protecting Children from Harmful, Sexually Explicit Material in Areas Designated for Minors.

Elder said that the board needs to focus on hiring a new director. Until a director — not simply an interim director — is hired, the board’s new collection development policy can’t go into effect.

In the past, interim leadership has gone one of two directions, she said. A leader in the department takes the role, with limited capability, or another county employee who’s at the director level splits the time or assists the department. The board would typically discuss interest in the candidate during executive session and speak through human resources or the board chair to determine whether the candidate is willing and able, depending on that person’s current workload and board. The director would work with library staff to assess staff needs. The interim director merely approves purchase orders and time cards and assists staff. They oversee the operation. Other entities, like human resources, get involved if employees need to be hired or terminated.

Elder said Campbell County commissioners would need to approve the candidate, and the candidate would need to agree to take the position before a board vote.

Vicki Swenson said in public comment that as a former educator who once had to teach science despite no background in science, she would like the board to examine what coursework is required for a master’s degree in library science and would be helpful for the position and look for candidates who have completed such coursework.

Coursework requirements for a masters in library and information science degree from The University of Washington Information School — which ranked in the top five library science programs, according to both CollegeRank.net and U.S. News & World Report — includes a “conceptual and theoretical base of knowledge on how information is organized, stored, searched, and used, along with important technological, policy, pedagogical, research, management, and design concepts.”

A list of library classes the university offers is available here.

Students must also take one course regarding social and ethical issues to understand “the historical commitment of libraries and the information industry to information access, literacy/digital skills, intellectual freedom and confidentiality, as well as future-focused application in order to eliminate historical barriers and information inequities facing communities.”

“Social and ethical issues are inherent in all interactions between individuals, groups, and organizations, and are central to librarianship, as well as the information technology sectors,” the website said. “While no single course can address the full spectrum of social/ethical issues, and recognizing that contextual information and theory are necessary to build a solid foundation, these courses are intended to give students applied experiences to examine their personal values and learn to navigate potential conflicts between those values and the institutions and communities in which they will live and work.”

Here’s the current job description for the library’s executive director:

The job description for this position and other Campbell County ones are available here.

According to the library’s organizational chart, the executive director has seven direct reports:

The board fired Terri Lesley July 28.

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