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October 2023

A Little Context/Post-Meeting(s) Analysis


Whew. That was a LOT.

I'm not going to go into a detailed recap of what happened at both meetings. You can read that HERE and HERE. What I will say is that the situation highlighted a couple of ongoing problems for me.

FIRST, the meeting confirmed what we suspected - that LPL administration is moving books to the adult section of the library. At the meeting, Interim Director Sarah Monroe confirmed this fact, though she claimed it was because adults mostly check them out, so they thought moving them to the adult section just made sense. No mention was made of any complaints received. I informed them (board and admin) that I would be filing reconsideration requests on every book I find that should be shelved in young adults. This is unconscionable.

SECOND, it was clear at the meeting that, President or not, Robert Judge is still running these meetings. When I spoke during public comment on the election of officers, Daniel Kelly, about to be elected President, made it clear he would be, "relying on my boy here," pointing to Judge, to help him, and throughout the meeting Judge repeatedly told Kelly what to do, interrupted him, and yeah, basically ran the meeting by proxy. It was pretty blatant.

One interesting thing that happened in the days following the meeting, however - the AG's office handed down an opinion regarding the implementation of Act 436, formerly SB7. In anticipation of that law passing, the board changed our Collection Development policy in February (and left behind a mess). The AG was asked for the opinion by the board in St. Tammany Parish, who wanted guidance on whether or not the law required them to keep books under review sequestered. The opinion came down unequivocal - NO. Not only that, but the AG is saying that 1) Librarians do not have to do a full review of their collections to determine if every book has sexually explicit content 2) Only materials challenged by individuals who are card holders for that library need to be reviewed or 3) materials deemed in need of review can be reviewed by library boards themselves. 

We're still working through the full implications of this for Lafayette, but I'm hopeful this will help us in the end.


Regular Board of Control Meeting

16 October 2023

Agenda HERE

Proposed Changes to Exam Proctoring Policy HERE

Speaker Forms HERE

There are several items of interest on this month's board agenda. First up are changes to the exam proctoring policy. Last year the board voted to end the free reciprocal borrowing agreement Lafayette Parish had with other systems in the Bayouland Co-Op, imposing a new $20 fine for anyone wanting a card at LPL who didn't either own property, work, or go to school here.

These new proposed changes look to extend that restriction to exam proctoring, a service the library offers for patrons who are taking online classes. Language mentioning how patrons can obtain a card through the Bayouland agreement is to be stricken from the exam proctoring policy, leaving the policy to state that only library card users may take advantage of the service.

As we said at the time, the library has taken in very little money from the imposition of the new fee, but what hasn't been calculated are the patrons and their sales tax dollars lost because people no longer make the drive to come here to use our libraries. Removing this language is one more reminder that LPL has been systematically stripped of programs that made it a regional hub for learning and community. This is yet another service that poorer families in neighboring parishes will no longer be able to take advantage of.

The second thing on the agenda is the election of officers. During last month's meeting, despite numerous comments from the public praising James Thomas' turn as interim board president after Robert Judge resigned, the board voted to install Daniel Kelly as president for the final month of Judge's unexpired term. Even though the two meetings Thomas presided over were calm, ordered, and well-run, and Kelly had to be prompted on how to make a motion to purchase land for the NE library during one of them, the conservatives on the board are so obsessed with keeping Judge's firm hand on the meeting proceedings that they will almost certainly vote in Kelly over Thomas again. 

THIS is why I insisted that Judge must go, and circulated the petition demanding the council remove him. With Kelly at the helm, having little to no knowledge of parliamentary procedure and firmly under Judge's influence, we'll have Robert Judge 2.0 for another year. He and Armbruster will set the agenda each month, and they will, de facto, run the meetings. You'll note that the before and after prayers, which Judge instituted during his presidency, have returned under Kelly. 

Other items that bear mentioning during the "Any Other" comment section:

1) Tomorrow is the Parish Council meeting, where council members will be voting on whether to override Mayor Guillory's veto of their vote to adjust the millage for the library. In June, the Board of Control voted to recommend the council NOT roll up the millage, which makes zero sense of you consider that they are supposed to be ADVOCATES for the library. It might be a good idea to remind them of this fact, and encourage them to attend the council meeting on Tuesday to encourage the veto override.

2) Books on puberty have been moved to the adult section of our libraries. This was done on the complaint of a patron, supposedly, but without any reconsideration request or using any of the policies we have in place, including the new collection development policy or Act 436. Now, kids who want to find books about their changing bodies will have to go up several flights of stairs, and may have to have parental permission to do so. These books should be IMMEDIATELY returned to the sections they were removed from until a reconsideration request is filed individually and the process is seen through.

Overriding Guillory's Veto

In a last minute election appeal to the uber-conservative, anti-tax members of his base, Mayor Josh Guillory has vetoed the bipartisan roll-up of the library millage that passed the Parish Council in September with support from four of the five council members. The adjustment, made on the advice of tax assessor Conrad Comeaux, would provide the library with approximately $250,000 more of much needed financial cushioning in a budget so tight you can hear it squeak as you turn the pages. Anything - a large hurricane, an unexpected economic downturn that affects property taxes, you name it - and the system that is now barely in the black will be plunged right back into the red, giving those like Josh Carlson (who, alone on the council, was ADAMANT that the library alone should be left out of the roll-up - does he have a GRUDGE against the library?) the excuse to shut down the Northeast Library project for lack of operating capital. We can't let that happen.

Please contact your parish councilman and ask them to override Guillory's veto when they meet again on October 17. The Northeast Library project should not constantly be in jeopardy of cancellation because of budgetary issues.

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