MARSHALL - Members of the Marshall-Lyon County Library Board have changed their minds on an offer to stay part of the Plum Creek Library System. The library board's decision, made in a vote at a special meeting Monday afternoon, once more raises questions about the library's future.
However, one thing is now certain: As of today, MLCL will be operating as an independent library. While this means the library will remain open, patrons will not have access to interlibrary loans from Plum Creek, or to the state interlibrary loan system, said acting MLCL Board President Gwen Sturrock.
A statement released by the library board Monday evening said its actions rescinded a June 23 decision to remain part of Plum Creek. Withdrawing from Plum Creek was the only way to maintain local control over the library's collections and long-range plans, the statement said.
At the June 18 meeting of the Plum Creek Governing Board, a large majority of board members had voted to reject terms proposed by a state mediator to address policy disputes between MLCL and Plum Creek.
Instead of the mediation agreement, the Plum Creek Board approved a resolution offering MLCL continued membership in the regional library system, provided the library abides by all current and future Plum Creek policies.
Monday's special MLCL board meeting had a larger audience than usual, including Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes, City Administrator Ben Martig, Lyon County Board Chairman Rick Anderson, members of the Marshall City Council and Lyon County Board, and both Marshall City Attorney Dennis Simpson and Lyon County Attorney Rick Maes.
The only item on the MLCL board's agenda on Monday was to consider rescinding the vote to accept Plum Creek's offer. MLCL board member and Lyon County Commissioner Charlie Sanow voiced objections to the agenda at the start of the meeting. Sanow said the board's earlier acceptance of the Plum Creek offer entered MLCL into a contractual agreement, and rescinding the vote might not be legal.
MLCL board member Will Thomas disagreed, saying the offer had not been formally communicated to MLCL or formally accepted yet.
Thomas made a motion to rescind the board's earlier vote, which was seconded by MLCL board member Steve Klein.
"The reasons for this action are some of the same ones I've tried to articulate recently," Thomas said. He said there appeared to be "a growing gap" between the Plum Creek board's views and MLCL's views of how to best serve library patrons. He said concerns about preserving local autonomy at the library came up again after the board's June 23 vote, when Plum Creek Director Mark Ranum sent out a response e-mail to Plum Creek board members.
Part of Ranum's e-mail said Plum Creek staff "will be working throughout the next month with MLCL staff to insure all policies are fully implemented and to support any workflow efficiencies we can assist with in Marshall."
Thomas said he thought MLCL could still provide quality service as an independent library, and he had heard expressions of support from library patrons.
"I would disagree with almost everything Will said," Sanow said. Sanow said the library patrons he hears from are upset about not having interlibrary loan services. And, he said, because of Lyon County's existing legal and financial commitments to both Plum Creek and MLCL, leaving the regional system would be costly for taxpayers.
At the June 23 MLCL meeting, county board members said they thought it unlikely that Lyon County could support funding both Plum Creek member libraries and MLCL. Marshall city officials said the city likely couldn't afford to make up the difference if Lyon County pulled its funding.
Sanow said he thought the conflict between the two library boards "has been driven by a few people."
"I don't see Plum Creek as being 100 percent at fault," he said. "I can't support this."
Sanow said if the board voted to rescind its earlier decision, he would ask the Lyon County Attorney to start working on separating the library from Lyon County.
"There has not been any agenda on the board to leave Plum Creek," Thomas said. The MLCL board has pulled back from making a decision to leave several times and was willing to commit to mediation, he said.
Board members voted 6-1 in favor of rescinding the decision to stay with Plum Creek. Sanow cast the dissenting vote. The board then voted unanimously to form an ad hoc committee composed of board members and library staff to work out MLCL's transition to an independent library.
Sturrock said there are many questions and details the committee will have to address going forward, including questions of library funding and the task of implementing an independent computer catalog system. Sturrock said there are still options for MLCL to exist as an independent library, which the MLCL board didn't consider at its last meeting.
The library will still be open, Sturrock said. "It's probably not going to look any different to patrons."