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Library system director challenges two board members’ evaluations

Joe Rector, library system director, said parts of the evaluations by Joan Morris, a Stutsman County commissioner who is an appointed member to the library board, and board member Gail Martin were incorrect.

Joe Rector, director of the James River Valley Library System, file photo Tom LaVenture / The Sun
Joe Rector, director of the James River Valley Library System, said parts of the evaluations by Joan Morris, a Stutsman County commissioner who is an appointed member to the library board, and board member Gail Martin were incorrect. He said Morris and Martin put much of the blame for his alleged poor performance on the library board.
Tom LaVenture / The Jamestown Sun file photo

The James River Valley Library System Board of Directors unanimously approved Wednesday, Jan. 12, adding all board members' evaluations of the library system director and his response to two of them to the minutes of the meeting.

Joe Rector, library system director, said parts of the evaluations by Joan Morris, a Stutsman County commissioner who is an appointed member to the library board, and board member Gail Martin were incorrect. He said Morris and Martin put much of the blame for his alleged poor performance on the library board.

Discussion at the Wednesday meeting centered on the board's annual evaluation of Rector's performance. Rector challenged the evaluations of Morris and Martin, saying some comments on their evaluations are inaccurate.

Rector said Morris and Martin acknowledged that their evaluations of him also focused on the library board.

“I believe much of the negativity in these evaluations actually comes from my faithfulness in following the will of the majority of the library board,” he said. “So I must ask who was being evaluated - me or the board? If the board was being evaluated, then I’ve been wronged, and the board needs to make it right.”

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Martin said Rector’s challenge is to remove her evaluation.

“I think your response to the evaluations is fine,” she said. “The fact that you are asking to pull it is not acceptable.”

Rector said he is accused of failing to communicate the letter of support from the City Council to the library board. He said he emailed the letter of support to the board on Jan. 8, 2021, and presented the letter at the Jan. 11, 2021, board meeting.

Morris said she was not aware that the library board was emailed a letter of support from Mayor Dwaine Heinrich that said the city of Jamestown is “pleased to support the library’s plan to begin saving money for the future improvement and/or relocation of the Stutsman County Library with the understanding that this is not an authorization to proceed; but rather our support for the library’s plan to save up money for possible expansion/relocation in the future.”

“I was not aware that the board was emailed the letter of support, so I apologize for that,” Morris said.

Rector said Morris was a recipient of the email sent on Jan. 8, 2021, and at the library board meeting on Jan. 11, 2021.

Rector said he is accused of establishing the building committee too soon. Rector said he was instructed by the library board to establish the building committee.

“The fact that he put together a building committee prior to the space needs assessment was a waste of several people’s time,” Martin wrote.

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Rector said he is accused of false testimony to the Stutsman County Commission when he spoke about the impacts of reducing the library system's budget at the commission's meeting in August. He said the person interviewing him and board member Pam Phillips made some assumptions that he or Phillips did not push back on because they did not know the extent of possible budget cuts and couldn’t speculate what the library board would decide regarding the impact of the cuts upon bookmobile service. The county commission reduced the library’s budget by $60,000 in August.

Rector said his testimony was correct and the library didn’t engage in bookmobile fearmongering. He said people were understandably worried by having the existence of the Stutsman County Library questioned.

Morris wrote in the evaluation that Rector “appears to believe that all funding decisions should not be questioned by the funding sources, such as the City and County.”

“Indicating to the general public and others that the library Board had been ‘summoned’ to a county meeting for budget discussions,” Morris wrote in the evaluation. “The county is supplying a large amount of taxpayer funds and has a responsibility to ensure that these funds are being spent wisely. … Funded agencies are routinely asked to appear before the county commission.”

She also wrote that there were personal verbal attacks against a county commissioner and Rector or a board member did not correct the radio interviewer on assumptions about bookmobile services being cut if the county commission cut the library system’s budget, which led to misinformation concerning the bookmobile funding and operations.

Morris said she can bring audio of the radio interview to the next meeting where it was “blatantly” said the “bookmobile was going to be closed.”

“I have always said the bookmobile was not on the table,” she said. “To say that this was inaccurate, I believe is not true. The other thing is is you did engage in bookmobile fearmongering, I believe that you did. I believe when you told the county commission that you had nothing to do with the fact that people were worried about the bookmobile, I believe that that was a false statement. That is not only me saying that, I believe it is other members of the county commission.”

Rector said he is accused of ignoring the will of the voters from 2008. He said the voters voted on a measure that said, “Shall Stutsman County establish and maintain joining library services with Jamestown City,” and, “Shall Jamestown City establish and maintain joint library services with Stutsman County?” He said nothing in the voted measure says one library or two.

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“He continues to feel that a small survey of people that want to keep Alfred Dickey open trumps the 2008 vote to consolidate the two libraries where the county by 66% and the city by 75% voted to do just that,” Martin wrote.

Martin said the 2008 vote was meant to consolidate the finances of the city and county libraries, which Rector said is a nonfactual statement that was put in the evaluation. Morris said consolidation means a consolidation of services.

Rector said he is accused of falsely stating on his self-evaluation that his job was threatened after a disagreement about property during a library board meeting in May. He said after that board meeting, Morris and Martin asked Jay Nitschke, board president, for a drink at Jonny B’s Brickhouse and that is when his job was threatened.

“Jay told me she said, ‘Joe is the finest person to lead (the library) into the future,' for which I’m thankful,” Rector said.

Rector asked Nitschke if his job was threatened during the gathering at Jonny B’s Brickhouse.

“I don’t know if threatened is the correct word,” she said. “There was discussion of whether you were the right man to lead us forward.”

Martin wrote that she was concerned that Rector had said his job was threatened at a county commission meeting and on his self-evaluation.

“Why does disagreement with the board equal ‘job being threatened,’” she wrote. “As a board member attending all of the meetings, this type of discussion never took place. We need, as a board, to be able to communicate disagreements with the director without him feeling threatened.”

The board also approved in a 4-2 split vote to endorse the reply presented by Rector. Morris and Martin were opposed. Robert Hoekstra did not vote because he was not present at previous meetings since he was just appointed Dec. 6 to serve on the board.

Rector said he would like to see a resolution that states that the five inaccuracies that he presented are what the majority of the library board feels were incorrect as well.

“I think that the majority of the board needs to recognize that these five things were not correct and that it was not correct to essentially evaluate the board and not evaluate the library director.”

Phillips said she read Morris’ and Martin’s evaluations of Rector.

“I looked at that as being something that we need to discuss as a board and make sure we don’t do those things again and move forward as a board,” she said.

Library board members talked about holding a retreat.

“I have been saying for some time that we need to have a meeting where we sit down and discuss what is the board supposed to be doing, what are our goals, what should be our accomplishments, what is it as a board we are supposed to do,” Nitschke said. “I don’t think we have clear directions for a lot of things. My hope is as we move forward … that we get clear directives as to what it is we need to accomplish and what it is we want to accomplish.”

In other business, Rector announced a public meeting about a space needs study from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17.

The library board also:

  • unanimously approved phase three of the library system’s reopening plans. Computer sessions will increase from 30 minutes to 45 minutes, staff will sanitize usage areas instead of having an extra staff member doing that and opening the meeting room to the public. 
  • elected its board officers, which include Phillips as president, Hoekstra as vice president, Charlotte Freeberg as secretary and Emaline Roorda as treasurer.
  • heard a report from Rector that the library system had 3,322 patrons in December and 35,572 patrons in 2021. He said before the coronavirus pandemic, the library system had about 70,000 patrons a year.
  • heard a report from Rector about HOOPLA, which is a digital media service offered by public libraries that allows patrons to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows, according to HOOPLA’s website. He said the library system uses OverDrive. Rector said he would like to bring a plan to see how using HOOPLA can be afforded.
Related Topics: JAMESTOWN
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