A “special” meeting of the Great Neck Library Board of Trustees was called to order by new President Rebecca Miller on Monday, Feb. 4. Motion number one, as read by Trustee Barry Smith, was to accept library Director Denise Corcoran’s resignation. Accepting the resignation was an item held over from the agenda of the previous board meeting on Jan. 29.
The second item on the agenda was the announcement of the board’s intention to form a Director Search Committee. No details were discussed. A resident in attendance asked if people who had served on the previous Director Search Committee would be eligible to sit on this committee. The board did not have an answer.
As a further order of business, the board voted to put the library’s assistant director, Tracy Van Dyne, in a temporary position as acting director. The trustees were questioned about the difference between an acting director and an interim director, and the attorney to the board weighed in but trustees and residents alike could not pin down the sameness or difference between the two words.
During the discussion of electing Van Dyne as acting director, Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar pointed out that this is not an emergency.
“You’re not giving this enough thought,” she said to the trustees. She also told the board that she was told by the director of the Nassau Library System (NLS) retired library directors in Nassau County and on Long Island with years of experience make themselves available to help out libraries in transition. One of them might be willing to come for six months as a consultant to run the library while the director search is going on.
Michael Fuller, a former trustee, asked if the director position was so onerous that this job was too difficult to handle. This question was answered with a discussion about the controversial issue of the library board’s reputation for micromanaging library directors, including Corcoran. According to Fuller, Corcoran ran an estimated 22 branches in Queens, but for some reason can’t run the Great Neck Library. The overall opinion of the public is that Corcoran was a very lovely director and the community is sad to see her go.
The board also entertained its own suggestion that the library hire an outside consultant to come in and analyze and see structural problems within the library. After hearing the public’s opinions on this, the board voted three to six and the motion for a request for proposal (RFP) did not pass.
Another issue raised by the public was the inadequate education of the library trustees about their role. Miller responded that the trustees will be re-educated on what their roles are, though she did not specify how. Gilliar offered the information that one of the services provided by NLS is a training course for trustees. Later she said that since the Great Neck Library refuses to pay its annual dues to NLS, we would have to check with NLS to find out if the training program is still available to the Great Neck Library trustees.
According to Marietta DiCamillo, a former trustee, when the trustees sit down and deliberate at a board meeting, only then they are trustees. Outside their official functions, they are residents.
The short public meeting was preceded by a long executive session that lasted one hour and 15 minutes.
Board members are volunteers who must abide by a set of bylaws and guidelines. They are entrusted with millions of dollars in funds and decision-making that affects many lives. There is a “Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State.” There also is a Board Policy Manual for the Library. Boundaries expected of Board of Trustees members have not been adhered to at the Great Neck Library. This has been occurring for many, many years, and continues. We look to the new Board to right the wrongs that have been done, and move forward with professionalism, integrity, transparency and accountability. It is time for community members and the stellar staff who has been undervalued and disrespected to take back their Library. Unite, stand up and speak up for what is right. Whose Library is this?