Monday, July 2, 2012

Close Encounters of the Personnel Policy Kind: Should a Director's Relatives Be Eligible to Work at the Library?

Or any other staff members' relatives for that matter?

5 former Lebanon Public Library employees suing director, board over firings   (Indianapolis Star, 6/7/2012)

Excerpt:    Five former employees of a Boone County library say they were fired for complaining that the library director's son, who also works there, falsified his time card. 

The former employees filed a wrongful termination suit against the Lebanon Public Library's director, Kay Martin, and board of trustees. The lawsuit claims the five were fired after they raised concerns to the board about Chase Martin, the director's son, who they say submitted a time card with hours he had not worked.

Here's what I consider to be appropriate and well-crafted policy language from the Ann Arbor District Library regarding the......

During my 22 years as Director at the Middleton Public Library, we followed an unwritten version of this policy guideline, i.e., the specific language was not included in the library's Personnel Policy.  We had a number of instances when family members worked at the library at the same time.

Here are 2 examples
  • A mother and her 3 teenaged, homeschooled children worked as Pages for number of years, their schedule of hours frequently overlapping.  All four were excellent workers, and, as a result, their employment had a clearly positive effect on the working environment, especially during storytime mornings.  (Now that I think about it, having siblings work at the Middleton Public Library, either overlapping or "in sequence", was not an uncommon occurrence.)
  • The Circulation department supervisors hired the son of a  Library Assistant I to work as a Page.  At that time -- and I think it's still the case -- LAI's did not have any direct supervisory responsibilities.  (Taking a look at the flip side, though, I can see, depending upon the personalities involved, how it might be disruptive to the working environment if the child of another LAI applied for a job but was not hired. Worse, not even invited for an interview.)

More along the Lebanon storyline.....

When my younger son was in middle school, he expressed a strong interest in working as a page at the Middleton Public Library.  I discouraged the idea.

"Even though I wouldn't hire or supervise you, I'm not really comfortable with the idea," I said.  "And I'm not sure if it would pass the 'smell test'".

At which point I had to explain to him what the "smell test" is.

Undeterred, he kept pushing, not wanting to apply without my approval to do so.  Finally, I told him I'd take the specific issue -- i.e, should Eddie Nelson, son of Library Director Paul Nelson, be eligible to apply for a position at the library -- to the board of trustees for their advisement.  In other words, I didn't offer any language to revise the Personnel Policy.   The board determined, informally and unanimously, that it was best not to open this door, much to Eddie's disappointment.

But now he's working at the circulation desk of UW-Madison Memorial Library. would you characterize my approach to this issue?





J DeB said...

I remember when I announced to my kids that I was resigning from the library to work at DPI. After a brief moment of gloom, my oldest perked up and remarked "Now I can finally get a page job!"

Anonymous said...

Most cities have polices that state that relatives cannot be direct supervisors for good reason. Even if the library is a separate entity, it is a good guideline to follow. I do however, wonder why the library board was not paying attention.