BRATTLEBORO -- The Rockingham Free Public Library Board of Trustees unanimously approved at Tuesday's meeting all people recommended to the search committee tasked with whittling down the list of candidates to replace terminated Library Director Célina Houlné.
The committee is comprised of Trustee Chairwoman Janice Mitchell-Love, Library Trustees Laura Senes and Pat Fowler, Bellows Falls Middle School Principal Heidi Lucas-Moccia, Barbara Ternes of Parks Place, the Rev. Torin Brooks of Faith Christian Church, Amy Howlett of the Vermont Department of Libraries and village resident David Gould as well as a library staff member to be named later. Alternates listed were resident Cathy Bergmann, J & H Hardware Store Manager Jeremy Haskins and an employee from Chroma Technology.
All seven trustees present voted in the affirmative, though Fowler was not there.
Mitchell-Love said there are 19 viable candidates for the job and the search committee will help weed out the less-desirable applicants before the remaining few are interviewed. She said at a previous meeting every applicant has a post-graduate degree and nearly all of them have a Master's of Library Sciences.
Houlné was fired in a controversial vote by the board in September and bitterness about the decision continues to rise to the surface between the trustees at most public meetings, including the one held Tuesday. Trustee Elayne Clift objected to the fact that Mitchell-Love's initial list of search committee candidates made no mention of a librarian. Mitchell-Love and Trustee Hope Brissette said Howlett is meant to bring the professional library perspective to the committee and it wouldn't make sense for a librarian to have a say in picking his or her next boss. Trustee Carolyn Frisa suggested having two library employees (one full-time and one part-time) sit in as non-voting members of the search committee in order to provide beneficial input.
"They are very familiar with what the needs of this library are," she said.
Mitchell-Love mentioned she would like all library staff members to contribute to the process by drafting some specific interview questions for each applicant. She said the questions will be due next week. Trustee Ray Massucco chimed in to say he supports Frisa's suggestion and he said no one is more qualified to sit on a search committee than a member of the library's staff. He added that he has never known a search committee that did not include employees of the concerned entity, and Mitchell-Love mentioned she has never been on a search committee in which some members were, essentially, choosing their future boss. She, therefore, suggested limiting the number of staff to one because having too many members on a search committee can make it difficult "to get anything done."
Clift said she did not understand any resistance to having a staff member on the search committee.
"I can't imagine doing this without the staff," she said.
Mitchell-Love said adding too many library staff members would mean having to cut members of the public and she reminded Clift the library belongs to the entire community. Clift shot back that she is fully aware of that fact and merely wanted some library insiders on the search committee.
Gould, sitting the second row of seats at Tuesday's meeting, asked if someone would head the search committee and Mitchell-Love told him there will be a facilitator, though it is not yet known who it will be.
Arnold Clift, husband of Elayne Clift, raised his hand and said he would like to see all applications from people vying for the job of library director. He said it is his right and presented Mitchell-Love with a public records request for the documents. Mitchell-Love told the man she is not sure he has the right to see the applications and will check with the trustees' legal counsel.
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