Just the Facts

Library board trustees review FRL procedure changes

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Deena Bouknight

The June 4 Macon County Public Library Trustee meeting opened with a welcome to the newest member, Kay Rowland. A native of the Nantahala community, she introduced herself to the rest of the board and to attendees by sharing, “I married my high school sweetheart, Joey, and we have two children and three beautiful granddaughters whom we adore. Some of my past work history with children include Macon Program for Progress, children’s church ministry, and numerous activities and functions within the Nantahala School.”

She added, “Since I am currently semi-retired, I now have extra time to serve the community that I love. I would like to thank the Macon County Board of Commissioners for appointing me to this position so that I can make a positive difference. I look forward to working with the board members and staff to make library improvements, encourage community involvement, and promote public transparency moving forward. I would like to thank everyone that has worked so hard for our new Nantahala Library-Community Building. I plan to be of any assistance that Ms. Crosby, the librarian, may need to make the library a wonderful place for all of our community to enjoy for years to come.”

TRUSTEES LINDA Tyler, Debbie Tallent and Bill Dyar are pictured. Tyler, who has served as a Macon County Public Library Trustee for two and a half years, is now the new chairperson, replacing Bill Dyar who has served as chair for three years.

Rowland joined on June 4 a panel of eight other trustees representing Macon County. Another change was that trustee Linda Tyler, who has served for two and a half years, became the new chairperson, replacing Bill Dyar, who has been the chairperson for the last three years. 

The June 4 meeting was the last for Wood Lovell, who rolls off the board in July. 

“Bill Dyar has done a magnificent job with all the [library] issues,” said Lovell. “He has been on top of everything. He’s kept the board together. If I ever thought that the folks at the [libraries] didn’t work before this, I can tell you that Tracy [Fitzmaurice] and Abby [Hardison] and all the other people under them are professional, hard workers and very dedicated. Library directors don’t get the credit they deserve.” 

TRUSTEE WOOD Lovell attended his last meet
ing this month as his rotation on the trustee board ends in July.

Approximately 20 people attended the meeting that has, over the last few years, seen participation of up to 100 or more due to controversial issues relating primarily to the library exhibiting books in the children’s sections that contain sexually explicit language and images. No such displays have occurred recently.

Noted one of the trustees, Leah Gaston, after the meeting, “Many patrons are thankful the Macon County Library staff is maintaining social and political neutrality to avoid controversy. Just as the UNC Board of Governors recently revised policy to ensure that N.C. state universities remain institutionally neutral on controversies of the day, our public libraries and public schools should follow the same principle and remain neutral as tax-funded entities.” 

Public comments and transparency

At every library trustee meeting, County Librarian Abby Hardison presents an extensive report on past and future programs, opportunities, and more, for adults and children. Upon completion of her report, the discussion turned to transparency between the public and the Fontana Regional Library System, under which the Macon County libraries fall. One aspect of being transparent focused on public comments, which have been relegated for the last several months to write-ins instead of in-person.    

Fontana Regional Library (FRL) Executive Director Tracy Fitzmaurice read a draft of new procedures regarding public comment at library meetings, about which the FRL board will meet and vote on July 9:

  1. Public comments are only permitted during the 30-minute time period designated in the meeting agenda.
  2. If the board believes more time is warranted for public comment, it can choose to extend the overall time period, with a motion and a second vote by the board.
  3. In order to participate in the public comment period, sign-up before the meeting begins is required.
  4. People who sign up for public comment must reside in one of the counties served by FRL (Jackson, Macon, or Swain).
  5. Time to speak is limited to three minutes and time may not be yielded by another speaker. A speaker is only allowed to sign up for one, three-minute period per public comment period.
  6. Groups wishing to comment must select one representative to present the group’s view.
  7. The chairperson is the designated spokesperson for the board. As spokesperson, the chairperson will call names from the sign-in sheet in the order they are listed.
  8. All speakers are to address their remarks to the board members, not to the members of the public.
  9. Demonstrations (clapping, cheering, booing) are not allowed.
  10. The chairperson and board shall not engage in dialogue with the speakers, and there shall be no debate.
  11. Personnel issues cannot be discussed in open session.
  12. Additional agenda items will not be added after public comment, and there is no guarantee that suggestions brought forth by the public during the comment session will be addressed by the board at a future meeting. The board may refer any matter of public comment to the library director, county librarian, or branch librarian.

Further, Trustee Diann Catlin suggested that each meeting’s agenda and minutes be shared with the public. 

“What we are trying to do is let the public know where we are on issues,” she said. “Attendees are not just here to get cold in a room; they are here to learn. Our purpose as a board is to let people know what we’re doing and through the minutes is a way to do that.”

Trustee Justin Bohner concurred. “Often times during the meeting there is confusion and a sense of being lost on the part of the public because they have no clue what’s being spoken about and where the conversation is going.” 

“It’s no fun to go to a two-hour meeting and not know what we’re talking about,” agreed Lovell. “We need not only the agenda when people come in but also some information about what we will be talking about … anything that may help the public.” 

Hardison responded that posting and offering printed agendas is possible. 

Other ways suggested to keep the public informed included posting online an audio or video recording of a meeting’s proceedings, so that anyone who cannot attend can still listen to or watch the meeting. 

“Many other boards in our county [take these steps] and it greatly assists in transparency within the community,” said Bohner. 

“It’s something to consider, look at, discuss, and research,” said Tyler. 

Fitzmaurice ended with, “I can research some costs.”

The next public FRL board meeting is Tuesday, July 9, at 4 p.m., at the Macon County Public Library.

Blood pressure-related materials and education offered free

Branch Librarian Abby Hardison expressed at the board of trustees meeting on June 4 that she was “super excited” about the fact that all the libraries in the Fontana Regional Library System now have blood pressure monitor kits available to check out. 

Due to the American Heart Association’s “Libraries with a Heart Program,” blood pressure kits are available for two-week check-outs and are provided by Angel Medical Center. The kits include detailed and clear instructions on how to properly measure and log blood pressure.

Hardison pointed out that the “Libraries with a Heart” initiative has also helped to “inspire future programming with Angel Medical Center.” For example, at the Macon County Public Library on July 10 at 4:30 p.m. is a program called “The Stroke Story,” which offers information about stroke treatments and what to expect on the road to recovery. 

“Macon County Public Library and Angel Medical Center staff are currently working on expanding this partnership to support the health and wellness of Macon County residents with more informative programs in the future, and additional technology to assist with telehealth visits,” said Hardison. “Empowering the community with the tools to improve health outcomes is an important goal for the library, and with partners like the American Heart Association and Angel Medical Center, this goal becomes more achievable.”

Anyone interested in reserving a “Libraries with a Heart” blood pressure kit can call or visit at any Fontana Regional Library system library. Call (828) 524-3600 with any questions.