Farmington Voice 2021 watchlist: Farmington Community Library

Farmington Community Library started the year with a new director and closed out 2020 emerging from a controversial staff furlough.

This is one of 2020’s cliffhangers, stories that promise major developments in the coming year.

Riti Grover
Riti Grover (contributed)

Director Riti Grover’s first day of work was January 2. Barely two months later, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Michigan, she closed both the Farmington and Farmington Hills libraries just ahead of a March 16 state-wide order that closed entertainment and fitness facilities.

During an April 23 special meeting, library trustees authorized Grover to furlough all but essential employees. The move affected 80 percent of staff and sparked some community outrage.

Library trustees voted to continue benefits and accrued time off for the 82 employees affected, but offered no guarantee of re-employment. Recalls began as the library started curbside service in July and re-opened buildings – which closed again in November.

Grover said she notified all remaining staff members of their employment status by November 20. By then, more than a dozen had resigned.

As part of a strategic planning process, trustees hired consultant Cynthia Pepper to conduct a community survey and interview staff and community leaders for a “service module assessment.” Pepper is also working with Grover on new job descriptions and staff reorganization.

Trustees in October approved a 90-day contract with MBM Technology Solutions to oversee information technology (IT) systems. The Troy-based firm conducted an audit, which Grover said identified system vulnerabilities and resulted in the termination of three IT staff members.

Restore the Farmington Community Library, a grassroots group, organized over the summer. They’ve lobbied for a return to full staffing, rallied supporters to attend board meetings, and circulated a petition to oust trustee Bill Largent, who has been a strong advocate for the furlough. The Restore Facebook page currently has more than 1,200 followers.

In addition to a new director, the library board welcomed three new trustees: Danette Duron Willner, representing Farmington Hills, and Megan Stryd and Michele Kelly, representing Farmington.

In 2021:

Libraries will continue to offer curbside service until further notice. Hours starting January 4 are Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. When COVID-19 numbers decline, expect a phased return to building access.

Major building projects will include elevator replacements at the Farmington Hills library. Front doors are also being replaced, and there’s talk of adding a curbside service window.

Expect to see full community survey results that have been the subject of multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Trustees agreed to cover the $680 price tag that Grover said was the result of having an attorney redact patrons’ personal information from responses.


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