August 6, 2020

TO THE EDITOR:

On Monday, May 20, 2019, the Carteret County Commissioners voted unanimously to withdraw the Carteret County Libraries from the Craven-Pamlico-Carteret Regional Library system. The purpose of this letter is to inform local citizens of the repercussions of this decision to our county and, in particular, to Newport Public Library, and to correct the misinformation that is being circulated about this change.

The citizens should know where their money is spent and we do not believe they are at all aware of the financial ramifications of this withdrawal from the CPC regional system. For instance, Newport Library operated with one full-time position and 6 part-time positions. Now several of the positions are full-time with paid benefits. How is this cost effective? The CPC region operated under one director, housed in New Bern, who supervised all 10 branches. Now the new director of the “Carteret County Libraries,” whose salary is approximately $70,000 (or more) per year, re-quires an “Assistant Director” with a salary of $44,351 per year to manage only 5 branches. It appears the commissioners had the wool pulled over their eyes on this one.

A new online catalog system was purchased, (a much less user-friendly one, according to our patrons), and books are now shipped through UPS, rather than one paid courier position delivering to all branches. How is that cost effective?

A new scheduling software was purchased and employees are required to use it to see what hours they work, whereas a simple paper calendar worked just fine for us. How is this cost effective? This withdrawal is costing Carteret County much more than remaining members of a 3-county system. Seems this would have been evident if a cost assessment had been done.

As to how this decision affected the former staff, at Newport Library, out of a staff of seven, none are left; five not able to “re-apply” and two gone through no choice of their own. In effect, we lost our jobs because of the county takeover. Had we stayed with the library after July 1, we were required to reapply and interview for our jobs. (This was justified by telling us that we weren’t “reap-plying for our jobs because our jobs did not exist anymore”.) The positions we held all these years are gone, revised and rewritten in some kind of governmental jargon. We were offered only two options: full-time at 40 hours per week or part-time at “19 hours or less,” with no guarantee of set hours per week and no benefits. (We had been working 24 hours per week, earning sick leave, annual leave and retirement.) For various personal reasons, most of us could only work part-time hours; therefore, full-time was not a feasible choice but less than 19 hours a week was certainly not a livable option either. As those were the only choices, we could not reapply. We were told by the new director that 19 hours would Never be guaranteed; part-time employees would never know how many hours a week would be of-fered to them and would have to travel to work in all five branches.

In essence, we would be reduced to the status of a substitute. This has depersonalized the whole system; there will no longer be a loyalty to one branch and the community it serves.

For those of us who had been with the library 15-20 years or more, this was a no-win situation and totally disregarded our years of service. We had hoped our town council would take us over so we could remain in the region, but they let us go. We then hoped the town council would at least attempt to negotiate arrangements to keep the current staff on, with a guaranteed 19 hours per week and a permanent position at Newport. Had the county offered to help us out, with even a small portion of the funds they give to Webb Library, it would have been a viable option. We made it clear we were willing to take the cut in hours and give up our benefits. That was not offered either, so we are out.

According to various sources, the new Carteret County Libraries system is not user friendly at all. At Newport Public Library, we always maintained close relation-ships with our patrons; we knew what they liked, who was reading what series and what book they needed next. We catered to them on a personal level as a small-town library should; we knew their favorite authors so we knew which books to buy.

The new county procedure is to order books at a central location, no longer on a branch-by-branch basis, so the interests and needs of the patrons are not being honored as they were in the past.

In addition, for our final weeks of employment at Newport Library, we were required to pull hundreds of books off the shelves to be sold online. With a small book budget, we had worked for years to create the collection we had and now it has been decimated. When this procedure was questioned, we were told the county will just “buy a new copy.” An-other cost-effective measure?

Just as the whole system is being devalued, so are the older book titles that never truly age and always become “new” again for each generation. The tale being told by new administration when questioned about this waste of books is that only books that were “damaged or moldy” were weeded out. Those of us who actually pulled the titles know the real truth. The company they were mailed to in order to be sold online does not accept damaged books. The criteria used to remove these titles was antithetical to what a library is supposed to be and the explanations given to justify this book purge are false.

No matter what was stated in a previous article in the Carteret News-Times -- we believe the expression was a “win-win” situation -- the patrons have been adversely affected by this change. For ex-ample, patrons can no longer drop in on a Monday, needing a book from New Bern and have it in their hands the next day through the courier service. The books will come by UPS from all over the state through the NC Cardinal system.

There is now a processing staff hired by Carteret County, another added cost; this staff was formerly housed in New Bern and paid by the region. (Sadly, that staff lost their jobs due to our county pulling out.) The new system de-personalizes patron relationships, making the library a business in-stead of a service and from what we have been told, it is, indeed, a mess.

Carteret County readers must now pay yearly fees to use the Craven-Pamlico Library, unless they are government employees or own property in those counties.

Patrons have been calling former staff at home to voice their unhappiness with the new system.

The county took over July 1, 2020 and they have wasted no time in taking the Newport Library apart. It has been virtually emptied, apparently with the Covid virus being the justification. For years, a handprint quilt made by the children had hung on the wall. It has been removed. Our beloved former mayor, the late Derryl Garner, had a special chair presented to him by the citizens of Newport and dedicated to the children’s library, with the under-standing that it would be located there permanently. It has been removed. Apparently, nothing of the history of this small-town library is of any value to this new organization.

When asked about throwing away all the toys, decorative items, etc. in the children’s room, the answer was “there is plenty of county money, we will just buy new”.

When told a certain book has been checked out 20 times and that it should be kept, the answer was “well, if it was used that much, don’t you deserve a new copy?” Evidently, all of a sudden, Carteret County is rolling in money. If an attempt is made to ruin the beautiful mural painted by late local artist Larry Burge, as has been rumored, we would hope and expect the Newport citizens to be up in arms. What a slap in the face to those who worked so very hard many years ago to create this library.

Perhaps in the future, the county commissioners might make the effort to study all sides of an is-sue, the human factor as well as the financial, before casting their vote. Make no mistake, those of us who love our library will re-member it November 3 when we cast ours.

CONCERNED CITIZENS for NEWPORT LIBRARY

(12) comments

mpjeep

If only there might have been a clue this would happen.

Sleepwalker

Bout right...government will fix something until it’s broke.

Osprey

We were told by the County that Carteret was contributing a disproportionate share of funding in the tri-county system. Your letter mentions the new full time employees receive benefits as did the former part time employees receive benefits. How is that costing more ? Using UPS seems to be a reasonable alternative than a paid courier and software for things like scheduling is more efficient than "paper" scheduling. It was said that by withdrawing from the Craven-Pamlico-Carteret would be beneficial for Carteret County. If you could provide real financial comparisons in addition to the personal gripes that would help support your position. We would like to know the whole story.

In response to Mr./Ms. “Osprey”,

We are not sure who the “we” refers to in your letter…perhaps a commissioner or member of a library board? Our county was not contributing a “disproportionate share of funding” and what we did give enabled us to be a member of a regional system that benefitted the libraries and the patrons they served. There was nothing gained, and no money saved by pulling out of a successful membership that has been in existence since 1962 and had been renewed until October 2022. It would be extremely interesting for All of us in this county to know exactly who instigated this change and why they thought it was advantageous to our library system. From what we have heard, it was more a matter of personality conflicts, management disputes and wounded egos than it was an astute business decision.

Sadly, the commissioners fell for it and here we are.

Concerning employee benefits, your remark is unclear. As you appear to be involved in local

government or business, you know that part time employees earn benefits at a lesser percentage than full time; therefore, the full time positions with paid benefits, including medical, cost much more than part time positions earning leave at a prorated amount with no medical. So, it was more cost efficient for Newport to have a staff with only one full time employee and 6 part time employees and it worked out fine for all involved.

The pay rate for the courier is not known to us, but that part time salary plus a regional vehicle shared and maintained by three counties is less than shipping books from all over the state. If this county no longer has a copy of the book you need, it must be shipped. We have already heard that it takes as long as a week to receive materials. In addition, since this county no longer has access to the regional courier staff and vehicle, some type of arrangement must be made for items transferred between branches. Another cost.

As to your comment on scheduling software, since we are no longer employees, we cannot attest to which system is being used or the cost of it. We just have enough common sense to know that typing up a weekly schedule on a piece of typing paper and posting it on an office shelf does not take a village.

It’s a fairly simple process and quite cost efficient. Necessary revisions were made with a Pencil. The reason for the software is because staff are now treated as subs and must travel to different branches,

so there had to be a more complex way to move them around. Our understanding was that you would log on, see the entire county schedule for a two-week period and sign up for the hours that would fit your availability. Hence our statement in the original letter regarding no branch loyalty. You become an expendable item, simply filling an empty slot, rather than daily serving your own community friends and patrons.

We’re not sure who convinced you that Carteret County was paying too much for their regional

membership or that it would be beneficial for us to pull out of it, but someone pulled the wool over your eyes. As to “providing real financial comparisons”, being part time staff members, we were not privy to the inner details of it all. In fact, it was pretty much swept under the rug. We were assured that our jobs would not change…that we would never know the difference if the county pulled out. It was an underhanded move; in fact, it was almost May before we even knew how things would end, whether we would be reimbursed for accrued leave or any other pertinent details. We were kept in the dark. So, we cannot include the specific financials you requested, but we do have paper copies to back up anything stated in the previous letter. We can tell you the “whole story” as We know it; we were not included in meetings involving the original decision or in any real discussion of the actual numbers. There is a Freedom of Information Act; we suggest you take advantage of your rights.

As to “personal gripes”, we were under the impression that this was an editorial page where complaints could be voiced if said complaints could not be shared with the public in any other format. Each commissioner received a personal copy of our letter three weeks ago, a few hours before their scheduled meeting. At the urging of many of our patrons, who felt the commissioners would not act on it, we have shared it with the public.

We did not feel the necessity of “supporting our position”. Our position was made perfectly clear in the original letter. Most of the responses were positive, in this newspaper as well as on social media. We simply chose to reply to yours to set the record straight. Thank you for your response and apparent interest in our situation.

Concerned Citizens for Newport Library

Osprey

Facts and figures are a critical part of the story. Your reply only reiterates your personal gripes.

beachmami13

I use the Newport Library regularly and agree wholeheartedly with the opinion writer. It's amazing that Carteret County is suddenly saying they have lots of $$, yet there are many, many changes that indicate otherwise, in addition to the bulk of the money being spent so unwisely and in a manner that the local people are feeling like they are being taken advantage of. Why must we fight so hard just to have the government spend our tax money wisely? Why must we fight so hard to remind the government of promises made that weren't kept? I recently talked to a friend who has a business near the BP. He reminded me of the long ago promise to extend the sidewalk from Newport El to Newport Middle. Yet another promise that was unkept by our government. Why is the government spending money so freely when there are so many underserved areas of the county (think - DownEast library) and areas of society that truly need the funding.

We need some sort of sidewalk/boardwalk down Nine Foot for all of the worker bees who have to live in the trailers in order to afford to "serve" the vacationers and second home owners. They walk up and down Nine Foot, often with children.

Then, don't get me started on the needs of Down East and 101, largely ignored by the county, as well as the true need for more funding to social services to the poor and low end service workers who are being pushed out by the increasing housing prices, such as extended subsidized housing & childcare, in-house residential programs for those struggling with substance/alcohol issues, expanded help for the many, many, many homeless who live in this area.

When we are constantly hearing about million dollar buildings, playgrounds, and now replacement of books that were probably perfectly fine, I have to wonder why the county doesn't address the deeper social issues.

Do those in power want the service workers to hide out in their trailers and just accept the status quo? Are they expected to just accept the breadcrumbs given to them and never complain that the county is pandering to the wealthy second home owners and vacationers? What about us people in the middle? Are we supposed to just accept increasingly shameless spending on the part of the county?

neversawathing

Carteret County Public Library in Beaufort has been much more to me & my family than just a lending post. Coming from a family who treasures books, loves the written word, we are now thoroughly shaken by what has taken place recently with the local library system. Have you ever heard the old saw If it an't broke, then don't fix it!" That axiom still applies today---the only trouble is someone with some sort of power did attempt to put their fix on our wonderful library system & now, it is surely broken. The website is NOT friendly, in fact, I detest it. When I returned a book to the book holder per library instructions, it was then promptly lost. After several calls & being adamant that I did return it, the book was "discovered" on a shelf somewhere after being quarantined. I find that one of life's little pleasures of searching for & reading a book has now been tainted if not utterly destroyed by people who may have never used the library system at all. I am appalled--but I perhaps I should also say that I am downright disgusted with the way this once wonderful library system has been corrupted. Either repair it, return it to its once noble position, or shut it down. As it is now, it is totally worthless. Any one seeking political office could handlily win an election by taking on the idiots who have befouled & besmirched the beauty of what we have had until a few months ago.

Gladys Canby

If only folks would dig a little deeper. One would find that The Library Director created a eerily similar situation in her last position. Beginning with misleading folks into thinking she was prepared to be a leader. But also: shady financial situations, including extensive travel; nepotism, she literally moved her friend from another state to fill a newly vacant spot; failure to model professionalism, including not reporting for duty on time. The Director decimated local history room resources. She changed the hours and policies without consulting the community or staff. Long time, valued staff members were forced to retire early. Staff was treated as if they were not worthy of being in the same room as her, literally, they were discouraged from being in her presence. Divisions were created between the departments. Staff who dare speak contrary to her were retaliated against, including forced “therapy”. She created a hostile environment, and more than a dozen employees left under her “leadership”. I guess you could say she does what she wants. But the question should be, for how long?

neversawathing

This reminds me of the "official" who ordered the gorgeous azaleas be cut down at the Beaufort CourtHouse, then went to Wilmington, the heart of azalea country, & did the same thing! Who vets these people?!!!

JoLeVa

Firstly, please accept my apologies in advance. Reading this Op Ed and feeling the pain that your library staff and patrons are feeling, I am in deep regrets that I did not speak out sooner. I should have sent out emails and letters to your county's Library Board of Trustees, County Commissioners, and library staff who carry the wait of their community on their shoulders when word got out she would be leaving us for a position in your county. When Leslie Mason came through the Caldwell County Public Library, segregation and discrimination followed. It is no surprise similar events have taken place where you are and where she landed. There is no coincidences here.

Firstly, Mason hired two supervisors who instill fear in their employees on a regular basis, who prefer employees to be robotic rather than human, and who allow some staff members to climb the latter of success while crushing others from achieving their higher, professional goals at CCPL. Discrimination was a barrier for many and those who loved the patrons they served, who loved their jobs, ended up leaving because the immense pain and frustration they took home to their families on a daily basis from working in a psychologically unsound work environment Lesley Mason and the others FOSTERED. I am included in this and now that I am away from these supervisors who still work at CCPL, my quality of life has grown exponentially. This is just one example of the type of mismanagement we saw at CCPL under Mason as the library director.

Once upon a time, the children's' room was open to all patrons regardless of need and ability. However, this changed upon Mason's arrival. Adults and teens with disabilities were no longer allowed to participate in the room whatsoever, even if they were with their helpers and caregivers. Patrons with disabilities were not allowed to sit and read in the room (only allowed to get their materials and pretty much leave from their), they were not allowed to turn in summer reading challenges, and were obviously not allowed to participate in any programming not designated for their "age group". This in itself became a major barrier for folks with IDD's to come and enjoy their time at the CCPL.Yes, the library soon became a segregated place after Mason got the job.

In 2017, Lesley Mason initiated a Seed Library program that I became the seedkeeper of in 2019. Master Gardeners, North Carolina State Extension, and the library were all co-founders of this incredibly unique service to our community. Over my tenure as seedkeeper of our seed library, our members grew from 50 folks in 2018 to about 300 members/users by the end of 2019! On our most successful "Community Seed Packaging Day" event, a large group of folks came out to help package the very seeds that Caldwellians would plant in their Spring and Summer 2020 gardens. Since I was the event organizer and have done much research on intergenerational library programming, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Master Gardeners, children, teens, and even new residents of Caldwell county showed up to package over 3,500 seed packets in a four hour time span. This was a beautiful sight to see, so much diversity in one room! This was the type of programming our library was missing. But according to Mason, this type of programming was deemed "unsuccessful" and unworthy of time and resources.

In the end, Mason created the seed library and many other programs out of a shallow effort to fill the lines on her resume. We know this because when it came down to any sort of implementation and evaluation of the program, Mason was simply absent and ended up being a detriment to those programs. Thus, it is not a surprise that library changes under Mason have created a mess. With enough complaints and letters from others who have experienced such chaos, I am hopeful that your county commissioners will act according.

JoLeVa

To add to the comment above, though Mason told me that the seed library numbers did not reflect on any success of the program and that the program would not last, Lesley Mason boasted of its success in The Lenoir News Topic when she was last interviewed regarding her experience as the Director of the Caldwell County Public Library. The irony is REAL!!!

https://newstopicnews.com/news/48128/seed-library-sprouts-new-branch/

https://newstopicnews.com/news/47923/caldwell-library-director-leaving/

Greenjeannie12

To the citizens of Carteret county, employees and patrons, let me say how sorry I am you’re now going through this. As a now former employee of CCPL, the issues addressed are very familiar to what our own county suffered through. The director who we rarely saw, came in as a “mover and a shaker” but those moves clearly didn’t shake things the right way for everyone. Our schedules were made exactly as your new schedules, no guarantees of hours (especially if you made a sidestep you were unaware of) my hours were cut drastically for no reason from 19 to sometimes 4 or 8. How could I possibly support a family on that, especially when I was already giving up family time to be there in the hopes of earning a full time position. When a new employee was hired for a department that was full, employees were forced to move departments and make new schedules work that simply didn’t. When I made it clear I was looking for full time employment every move I made to move ahead there was blocked. Rules were overlooked for certain staff and patrons but not others. Friendships were discouraged, as it promoted “cliques”, we were subject to having jobs stripped, changed and being moved as if we were all objects and it was known we were all disposable. While the NC Cardinal system was ok for our location, it was not always user friendly for patrons and as staff we witnessed a lot of hang ups and freezes. A new item to circulate was introduced frequently and released without proper training of how each department should handle it (like making it clear what the check out requirements were and cataloging it correctly) I could go on and on but I hope enough citizens and members of your community read this and see that new isn’t always better and I hope you stand up for your small town roots and hold on to what you can.

Welcome to the discussion.

As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to edit or remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal/abusive/condescending attacks on other users or goading them. The same applies to trolling, the use of multiple aliases, or just generally being a jerk. Enforcement of this policy is at the sole discretion of the site administrators and repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without warning.