MARSHALL - Mediation sessions between representatives of the Marshall-Lyon County Library and the Plum Creek regional library system kicked off this week. Members of the MLCL Board said they were among the people who met with a member of the state Bureau of Mediation Services at the Murray County Government Center in Slayton.
While MLCL board members didn't get into much detail about what was discussed with the mediator, they did share their thoughts on the process during a regular board meeting on Monday afternoon. Board members' reactions to the session were mixed, although board member Jennie Hulsizer voiced some hope that mediation could find some common ground between the two groups.
MLCL and Plum Creek have been at odds for several months about issues including sharing policies for new library materials. MLCL board members maintain that the conflict is about more than that, ultimately coming down to how much autonomy Plum Creek member libraries have to set their own policies.
At the MLCL board meeting, chairman Will Thomas said six board members were present at the mediation session, as well as representatives from the city of Marshall, Plum Creek board members and administrators, and staff from Plum Creek member libraries. Participants in the session were asked to identify needs to be addressed and possible options for solving those problems, he said.
A second mediation session will be held May 28, and in the meantime the mediator will be calling together smaller groups of people to work on individual issues, Thomas said.
"I'm really hoping the small groups (the mediator) is going to pull together in the next few weeks can come up with something," Thomas said.
Otherwise, he thought it didn't seem like there was much movement toward a middle ground.
Board members Gwen Sturrock and Glenda Vizecky also said they were uncertain how things would turn out at this point. There was plenty of frustration being directed at MLCL, as well as some solid differences of opinion on what made for a reasonable sharing policy for library materials, they said.
Board member Charlie Sanow said although there were some good discussions at the session, he thought MLCL was in "a very serious situation" both inside and outside of mediation.
"Are we going to get a lot? I hope we get back in (to Plum Creek)," Sanow said.
MLCL board members opted for mediation instead of acting on some proposed compromises with Plum Creek that Sanow had presented to the board in March, he said. Sanow said some Plum Creek board members were also upset at being asked to defer discussing a possible extension for MLCL's Plum Creek membership until after mediation had taken place. He said the perception was that Plum Creek members were being told they couldn't have an opinion on the issue.
However, board member Jennie Hulsizer disagreed with some of Sanow's perceptions of the mediation session. She said she thought the mediator was doing a good job of getting productive comments from participants. There was still a chance for a reasonable compromise, she said.
"People are hearing one another," Hulsizer said of the process. "I hope it will help us all."