Library Trustees Tell Executive Director He Has Their Support

Library Executive Director Floyd Council with library trustee Kimberly Richardson (Source: Jackie Romine Walburn)

Members of the Birmingham Public Library board of trustees told embattled Executive Director Floyd Council that he has their support during Tuesday evening’s board meeting.

Board members have met several times in the past few weeks to discuss Council’s performance after employee complaints about his leadership went public. Board members met in closed session for an hour Tuesday evening, the third time they’ve done so in the past month.

“Mr. Council has gone above and beyond during the last weeks and months,” trustee Kimberly Richardson said after the executive session. “He lost his mother recently and yet he’s been here through it all. He has our support.”

Richardson then addressed Council, who she’d earlier questioned about security changes and internal communications concerns revealed in an employee survey, and said, “I want you to know you have our support.”

“Leadership is not for the faint of heart,” Council said during his director’s report. “But, I don’t walk according to what people say about me. But this is not just about me; it’s about what we can do together.”

Board President James Sullivan said after the meeting that Council’s official six-month evaluation is pending and he remains on probationary status for a year, as all library employees do after being hired.

Sullivan also said that a summary of the results of an employee survey completed by many of the library system’s 257 employees is being prepared and will be shared with the public online. That survey, conducted in early April, showed low morale in the library system and concerns about recent security changes enacted by Council and about internal communications.

Safety was one of the issues mentioned by a large number of employees, Richardson said, “especially with changes including the removal of a security desk in the library’s lobby.”

“Morale continues to be low, and 33 percent of employees said they didn’t know how to share grievances, and internal communications was an issue, too,” said Richardson, who chaired the long-range planning committee that reviews progress on the board’s three-year strategic plan.

Committee members in a meeting last week urged Council to communicate regularly with all employees, including weekly written communications. They urged him to join staff meetings at the library’s 19 branches and to resume library-specific employee orientations. Quarterly employee meetings were also urged.

Security and Safety

The board spent the most time Tuesday discussing security and safety concerns with Council as they reviewed and approved a working draft of a security operations plan being developed by staff members.

Based on survey comments, Richardson said, some employees “have lost the sense of safety. We do not want our employees not feeling safe at work.”

Trustees also want an emergency response plan to be part of the security plan. Council said the city of Birmingham is developing an emergency response plan for all city offices and operations, which the library is expected to adopt.

New Board Members

Tuesday’s board meeting began not with the discussion about Council, but with the swearing in of two new trustees recently appointed by the Birmingham City Council.

Birmingham Municipal Court Judge Chuck Price swore in new trustees Wardine Alexander, a long-time Birmingham City School board member, and Sherri Nielson, who was executive administrative assistant to former Mayor William Bell. They replace trustees Dori Sims, who had served since 2010, and Gwendolyn B. Guster Welch, a former board president who had served on the board since 2002.

Sullivan also was sworn in as president of the board and Gwendolyn R. Amamoo as vice president.