Trustees hold strong with controversial decision, lawsuit envisioned

How do we repair community trust in community institutions? The staff at Rockingham Free Public Library remain fantastic, and the people of Bellows Falls remain vibrant and dynamic. If we can take away something positive in all of this, it’s that Friends groups are important, and it’s inspiring to see the former head of the Friends group as a new Trustee here. St. J Athenaeum tried to get Friends on the Board and failed, so good job on that front, Rockingham Friends! Celina will be missed, and we’re sure that she has a successful, continued career ahead of her. We’ll be watching for any legal developments moving forward.

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Rockingham Free Public Library hold hearing appealing termination of fired library director


We Did It! Vermont Secretary of Education: “we agree”

Here’s an update from the Vermont School Library Association:

This is an important message about the public hearings that start today for the Vermont State Education Quality Standards.  Judy received a message yesterday from Secretary of Education Armando Vilaseca.  He stated that the language that we have proposed for the new standards will be included in the new document.  Here are his exact words:

“I wanted to make sure that the librarians that you all come in contact with understand that we agree that the current language of not including librarians in the initial rules was not correct. We(AOE) also agree with the language suggestions you and others made at our meeting.”

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This means that we no longer need librarians and library advocates to state our argument or plea to add wording to the Vermont Quality Education Standards.

If you do choose to come out and support school librarians in Vermont at the upcoming public hearings, here’s a supportive script:

My name is _____ and I work at _____School.  I am representing the ___ librarians, ___ teachers, ___ parents and ___ community members that are here tonight.  We would like tothank you for providing these important Education Quality Standards for the students in Vermont schools and for accepting the language that Vermont school librarians have suggested be included in the standards.  We are happy that you have acknowledged our contributions to the Vermont education and we will continue to celebrate the good work we do with the students in our schools.  Thank you.

Please keep it short and positive!  

The Vermont School Library Association Needs Your Help!

Please spread the word and attend one or more of three public hearings about the proposed Vermont Education Quality Standards…. which does not include librarians or school libraries in education standards. This oversight could trigger layoffs and budgets cuts for school libraries, which would negatively impact the critical thinking skills of our students and the future  of our economy.

The Vermont Library Association supports the Vermont School Library Association in the necessity of school libraries and school librarians to achieving student success.

These are the public hearing times and locations:

Public Hearings
October 8, 2013 at 6:00 pm
Brattleboro Union High School – Multipurpose Room
131 Fairground Road
Brattleboro, VT 05301

October 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm
Lake Region Union High School – Multipurpose Room
317 Lake Region Road
Orleans, VT 05860

October 21, 2013 at 4:00 pm
Champlain Valley Union High School – Room 140
369 CVU Road
Hinesburg, VT 05461

To provide written public comment, please submit to:

Mail: Jill Remick, VT-AOE, 120 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05620
Email: jill.remick@state.vt.us
Fax: (802) 828-3140 Attention: Jill Remick

New Updates in Rockingham

“Closing the building and moving the library’s services elsewhere will cost more than it could ever possibly save.”


There is also this recent article in The Commons.

Protests amid Corrective Action Plan in Rockingham

“Closing the building and moving the library’s services elsewhere will cost more than it could ever possibly save.”


Open Communication for the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum


Rockingham Free Public Library closes under intense public scrutiny


What’s Up in Rockingham?

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The Rockingham Free Public Library has been under renovation for over a year now, paid for by a bond that was approved by taxpayers. At the end of 2012, it was discovered that Baybutt construction company hadn’t been paying subcontractors and lied about having a performance bond, so the renovations stalled, Baybutt’s owners filed for bankruptcy, and over $300,000 was lost. The Rockingham Selectboard took the project away from the Library trustees and negotiated new contracts to finish the project. As a result, the renovation project that the community voted for was scaled back considerably, but the project continues.  

New contracts signed by the Selectboard keep the Library functioning in the building; that plan is included in the costs and schedule that architects, contractors, and the community voted for.

At the most recent Finance Committee meeting, the discussion focused on how to cut staff so that funds from the operating budget can be reallocated to the renovation project – with an interest in closing the Library and laying off staff. These are public documents that can be requested. At a special board meeting on May 1 that only 6 of 9 trustees attended, library trustees voted 4-2 to close the building and limited discussion to two scenarios for library services:

  • close completely with some programs continuing elsewhere

  • move Library operations to a temporary, accessible facility with reduced services

This was not acceptable to the staff, the public, other members of the Board, and the Town Selectboard. At a May 6 Library Board meeting, the Chair refused to revisit the issue of closing the Library when requested by other members of the Board and the public. The Chair and Vice-Chair of the Board dismissed public input entirely.

The actual dysfunction of the Rockingham Free Public Library Board and what’s going on lies with three people: Chair Janice “Jan” Mitchell-Love, Vice-Chair Deborah “Deb” Wright, and Hope Brissette.  Since the renovation project derailed, three members of the Board have been attempting to undermine the roles and duties of the Library Director. They’ve insisted she isn’t needed to attend Board committee meetings to inform them about the Library or that they need to inform her about what the Board is doing.

The May 6th Library Board meeting is available to watch online and is an eye-opening example of what is going on.

(http://www.fact8.com/e107_plugins/media_library/media_library.php?127.8040)

The Chair and Vice-Chair dominate the discussion and abuse a misunderstanding of meeting rules among other Board members to prevent any discussion that challenges their decision. You’ll also observe Jan and Deb belittle and criticize Library Director Célina Houlne throughout the meeting.

The library trustees’ abuse of open meeting laws, dominating meetings, and insulting the Director are part of a bigger problem that Célina has been facing. There is concern that their intention is to remove her as the Director. This would not be an action based on actual job performance: she has carefully administered the Library budget and is in no danger of over-spending; the staff is a well-functioning team; community support for the Library is very strong because of the high quality of Library service; she has worked hard to repair the relationship between the Library and the Town; and Library operations have continued throughout the renovation project.

The Attorney General is investigating this Board for open meeting law violations.

When it comes to the renovation, keeping the Library open is already planned for, will not cost the Library additional money, or change the renovation schedule. Allowing the Director and the staff to work out a schedule, as they have for previous closures, would mean that no one will be laid-off and the community will have access to highly skilled professional Library service.

The Town Selectboard issued a non-binding resolution condemning the Library Trustees decision to close the building on May 7:

“Whereas the Rockingham Selectboard considers the library an intricate part of our community, whereas there is no suitable place for a temporary library for two months, it is the opinion of this meeting that the library should not be shut down during renovation. The Selectmen consider this decision to be detrimental to the children of this community and to the taxpayers.”

**RuLU believes that quality library services are worth fighting for and steps up to advocate for communities and library staff when library services are threatened. We believe library trustees need to be held accountable to the communities they serve and that library trustees have a responsibility to ensure that libraries receive the necessary funding and support to effectively serve their communities. **

Keep the library open, complete the renovations. Open libraries, open minds, open meetings. What good is a renovated library without the people that make the library?

May Day in Montpelier

Rural Librarians Unite stands in solidarity with The Vermont Workers’ Center on May Day. Please join us May 1, 2013. 11:30 am on the State House lawn, and stand for rural libraries! We’ll be there, with the glasses and librarian signs. Join us!

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Since 2009, The Vermont Workers’ Center been coming together on May 1st in Montpelier to demonstrate a vision for human rights. May 1st helped workers win on healthcare as a human right and beat back the discriminatory Brock-Sears Amendment. It’s helped advance the Put People First campaign and build one movement for people and the planet. This year’s May 1st imagines the different and better world we are fighting for by featuring health screening clinics, live music, kids’ activities, art, food, and raising our voices to Put People First!

We’ll gather at 11:30 am on the State House lawn. Say “I’ll be there” by registering here: http://bit.ly/16kNOMt

Make sure to let us know what you need to be able to participate and if you can volunteer to make this year’s May 1st a success.

Many organizations are joining us to make this event a true movement building opportunity. Contact kate (at) workerscenter (dot) org if you are interested in finding out more.

May Day facebook event page