MARSHALL - It was a difficult decision, they said. But faced with the possibility of further disruptions to library service in Lyon County, and the prospect of major funding reductions, members of the Marshall-Lyon County Library Board voted Monday to remain part of the Plum Creek Regional Library system.
The decision should restore full lending service to MLCL patrons, but it also specifically requires the library to comply with all Plum Creek policies.
At a special meeting Monday, board members voted 6-2 to accept a resolution which members of the Plum Creek governing board approved last week. The resolution allows MLCL to remain part of the regional system, provided it abides by all current and future policies passed by the Plum Creek board.
MLCL board members Will Thomas and Glenda Vizecky cast the two votes against accepting the resolution. Before the meeting was adjourned, Thomas also said he was tendering his immediate resignation as library board chairman.
Last week, a large majority of the Plum Creek governing board voted to reject a proposed mediation agreement between MLCL and Plum Creek. Instead, the Plum Creek board voted to offer MLCL continued membership in the regional system, provided the library complies with all current and future Plum Creek policies.
State mediation sessions had come about as part of ongoing disagreements between the two groups. About a year ago, Plum Creek stopped interlibrary loan service to MLCL, saying the library wasn't in compliance with Plum Creek's sharing policies for new books and library materials. MLCL board members maintained that the bigger issue was whether Plum Creek member libraries' autonomy was being protected.
Members of the public attending Monday's MLCL meeting included Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes and Lyon County Board Chairman Rick Anderson. Both officials had taken part in MLCL and Plum Creek's talks with a state mediator and had attended the Plum Creek board meeting when last week's vote was held.
"It was very surprising to me," that the Plum Creek board overwhelmingly rejected the mediation agreement, Byrnes said. "I thought we had productive sessions."
Anderson said he had gone into mediation with little history on the conflicts between MLCL and Plum Creek, and was also surprised to see the regional board's reaction last week.
"I still think there is a way to work this out," Anderson said, but he thought it would mean staying in the Plum Creek system.
MLCL board member Tom Runholt said he was frustrated about the situation between MLCL and Plum Creek. Runholt thanked Plum Creek board member and Lyon County Commissioner Charlie Sanow for the work he had done to try and repair relationships with other Plum Creek members in the past few months. However, he said, "We have been pushed into a decision that has an impact on our autonomy."
Runholt said he was in favor of rejecting Plum Creek's proposal, but he acknowledged it would be hard for MLCL to survive as an independent library without strong financial support from Lyon County or the city of Marshall.
Byrnes and Lyon County commissioners said that likely wouldn't happen, at least not on the level the library needs in order to function. Sanow said Lyon County is required by state law to pay $218,000 a year to one or more Plum Creek member libraries in the county, as a minimum maintenance of effort. Sanow said the county wasn't likely to start spending double that amount to support an independent Marshall-Lyon County library, too.
If the county no longer funded MLCL, Byrnes said, it was also unlikely that the city of Marshall could afford to make up the difference. In addition, not being part of a regional library system means that the Marshall library would lose access to state interlibrary loan services and Legacy funding.
MLCL would also be temporarily left without a computer catalog and book checkout system. Library Director Holly Martin Huffman said MLCL had options to install its own system, although they would take a little time to implement.
Sanow said he thought MLCL board members' actions were partly to blame for the mediation agreement's poor reception.
"There was so much animosity built up (against MLCL) over the last three years," Sanow said. Sanow said his impression from talking to other Plum Creek board members and staff was that they thought the mediation agreement would only provide a further platform for MLCL to fight with Plum Creek. He added that MLCL representatives may have made things worse by voicing objections to Plum Creek Director Mark Ranum's proposed 2015 salary, before the vote on the mediation agreement.
"You don't go starting fights you know you can't win," Sanow said.
MLCL board member and Marshall City Council member Jennie Hulsizer said the library patrons who have contacted her about the situation care most about their access to library services.
"That's the way I'm going to vote today," Hulsizer said.
A motion by Runholt to reject the offer from Plum Creek failed 1-7. A motion to accept the offer passed 6-2.