ROUSING THE RABBLE: Members should demand more of library board

The annual general meeting (AGM) of the Grand Forks Public Library Association (GFPLA) was an example of how apathetic the membership has become about investment of tax dollars in an essential service for the region.

The meeting was completed in less than an hour.

As the governing body, the board of trustees of the GFPLA oversees the expenditure of more than one-third of a million dollars that comes mainly from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB). Area C pays 40 per cent, Area D pays 26 per cent and the City of Grand Forks pays 34 per cent; the city also provides and maintains the library building.

In 2010, taxpayers from the three jurisdictions provided $289,756 and the provincial government paid a grant of $48,853. The allocation from the RDKB for 2011 will be $293,032. Total revenues including grants in 2010 were $384,622.

A taxpayer-supported service that spent $380,182 in 2010 was deserving of much more scrutiny from association members than it got. An estimated one per cent of the total membership (cardholders) attended the AGM, listened to reports and asked a few questions.

The board of trustees receives no oversight from its funding bodies and the RDKB requires only a budget submission in the fall and spring.

An information package for participants contained a review of the financial position of the library, a one-page strategic plan for 2010-2015, minutes of the 2010 AGM, annual reports from the board chair, director, programming and outreach co-ordinator and the Friends of the Library, and a history of the GFPLA.

Without having had the printed material in advance of the meeting to read and digest, participants could not possibly be full participants in the meeting.

One of the most significant handouts was the strategic plan for the operation of the library from 2010-2015, but it was not discussed.

Strategic planning determines where an organization is going over a period of three to five years, how it’s going to get there and how it’s going to know it got there.

A plan should be explicit about what will be done, how it will be done and when it will be done

Available funds should be spent on key priorities.

However, two expenditures in 2011, a drop-off and pick-up service at Christina Lake at a cost of $7,000 to $10,000 and the employment of a professional labour relations consultant at a potential cost of $15,000 are not mentioned.

Three priorities are listed for the period from 2010 to 2015. They are: “To create a comfortable and inviting space for members of our community; to increase the library’s visibility in the community and to serve members of our community outside the library building.”

If the plan is followed, library customers can look forward to some form of renovations “to maximize on collection, reading and computer space,” the creation and maintenance of “an effective promotions program,” and the development and maintenance of “an effective outreach program.”

The detail on the form that these initiatives will take is missing.

Strategic planning for the next three to five years has not been done in a manner that gives GFPLA members a clear idea of where the library is going.

They now deserve to get the detail they should have received at the AGM in a manner that enables them to gain a sense of ownership of what to look forward to in 2011 and beyond.

Planning consultants remind their clients that a failure to plan is a plan to fail. A wise board will heed that advice as it begins a new year of governance.

– Roy Ronaghan is a columnist for the Grand Forks Gazette