List of library accomplishments ‘paints a very different picture’

Farmington Community Library Board of Trustees President Jim White and Vice President Bill Largent recently submitted a letter to Farmington Hills city council members that recaps progress made toward establishing “the library of the future.”

Largent referenced the letter during Monday’s city council meeting, after officials heard several comments criticizing the library board and a survey that’s part of a system-wide assessment. The letter, he said, “paints a very different picture than you’ve heard at the last couple of meetings.”

Library staff members and some supporters have panned the board’s April decision to furlough about 80 percent of employees after the library closed due to COVID-19 concerns. Comments made during board meetings have noted a resulting drop in services that has Farmington lagging behind neighboring systems.

Largent said 80 percent of staff will be back this week.

‘Grab and go’, online tutoring

The letter mentioned that the library will soon move from curbside service to “grab and go”, with patrons picking up materials inside the buildings. The library is also preparing to support students as they start the school year:

“With the likelihood that school this year will be remote or some hybrid version, President White is working closely with Director (Riti) Grover to assure that every student has a library card and increased access to online tutoring services through tools such as Tutor.com, which could be a great help for parents and kids.”

There are planned changes to the library’s website, improvements to IT security, and a two-year facilities plan to address between $1.5 million and $2 million in needed repairs, including an immediate, $230,000 upgrade to elevators at the Farmington Hills library.

In addition, new financial and human resources software systems have been implemented. Previously, one staff member handled accounting, finance, human resources, and payroll.

Working with Farmington Hills-based Gale, the library will be the first in Michigan to use “Gale Engage” along with “Gale Community Insight” to analyze how patrons use the library. The data would be used in marketing and outreach initiatives.

Largent also said the work listed in the email has been accomplished in an environment hostile to board members and director Riti Grover, who started work in January. He said she has fielded phone calls from patrons, been verbally attacked in staff meetings, and has received a dozen Freedom of Information Act requests from staff members.

Recommends appointment

Noting the Farmington Hills library board vacancy, Largent urged council members to appoint Joy Montgomery. The Farmington appointee resigned in May when she moved to Farmington Hills.

“As former vice president and, by extension, chair of the personnel committee, she is well versed on staffing and associated legal issues,” he said.

Appointing Montgomery,”creates a unified board and continues the positive momentum that has been building since the arrival of Director Grover,” Largent added.

Barnett said council members have been “inundated” with questions and concerns about the library. She said officials are listening to everyone and will take all comments into consideration.

The next scheduled library Board of Trustees meeting is Thursday, August 13, at 6 p.m. Participation information and an agenda will be posted at farmlib.org.

Clarification: The word “some” was inadvertently omitted from this sentence in the original version of this post: “Library staff members and some supporters have panned the board’s April decision to furlough about 80 percent of employees after the library closed due to COVID-19 concerns.”

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