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Library Patrons: “Love The Books… Not The Board”

by Maureen Lester

Nyack, July 24 — If you’re on the board at the Nyack Library you must expect that those who contact you will be expressing dissent.  Non-users and users who are happy with the way things stand will not be willing to write, will write few letters of thanks, and definitely will not be willing to sit through an extremely tedious and sometimes incomprehensible three hour board meeting last night.

Over the past few months blame has been heaped on those in disagreement with current library policies and procedures.  It has been suggested that the Nyack Library is not the place for research and that such users should go elsewhere.  Other complaints have been dismissed as coming from those ignorant of the changes coming to the library of the 21st century or simply as aberrant complainers who do not like change.  The library serves all its people no matter their needs.  Isn’t it strange that the library’s extremely high caliber staff always responds in an open and encouraging way  but that this same openness and responsiveness has been so slow to come to the administration and the board?  To a person, those who have recently spoken up in disagreement, all say they love the Nyack Library.  Their criticisms should not be dismissed but welcomed as evidence of an engaged public.  They certainly do not need to be demonized or responded to in a critical and dismissive way.

The current library board format of allowing a user to address the board defies the openness and transparency required of true communication.  One leaves the meeting having expressed one’s views, but there is no back and forth discussion or ability to expand the discussion to real depth. Then everything seems to drop into a black hole. Though the board may be considering what has been said, there is no communication and if any response is forthcoming it is not divulged until it actually happens.

An organization thrives when it focuses on the needs and convenience of the users rather than of the institution or the providers. And this has been my complaint about the Nyack library of today. It has been focused far too heavily on the idea and theory of a library rather than on the actual use and convenience of its tax-paying users.

My hope is that a movement to correct this imbalance is now underway.  We’ll see.

Maureen Lester Lester lives in Nyack, NY.

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Illustration: Nyack Library by Bill Batson


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