Survey Finds Low Morale at the Library; Board Expects Another Executive Session May 8 to Discuss Executive Director

Birmingham Public Library (Source: Encyclopedia of Alabama)

May 2, 2018 – Members of a Birmingham Public Library committee told the system’s new executive director Wednesday that morale in the system is low and employees are concerned about internal communications and security.

The committee members advised embattled Executive Director Floyd Council to resume employee orientations and communicate more with all library employees, not just managers.

The advice came after an employee morale survey was conducted last month. Members of the Long-Range Planning Committee who met Wednesday discussed highlights of that survey with Council.

This is the third meeting of a library board group to discuss Council since complaints about his leadership went public.

The library’s board of trustees is meeting again Tuesday, May 8, at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the six-month performance review for Council, who was appointed in mid-November.

Board attorney Veronica Merritt said she expects to advise the trustees go into executive session to have that discussion because of employee privacy and legal considerations.

If they do, it will be the third executive session conducted to discuss issues surrounding Council. The board went into a closed-door executive session April 10 to discuss the issues, and the Personnel Committee followed suit two days later. Normally, all board and committee meetings for the library are open to the public.

Merritt said the Personnel Committee’s executive session ended with a list of recommendations and action items to be taken to the full board May 8.

Richardson said all library employees are subject to a one-year probationary period, with evaluations being made at the six-month mark. As executive director, Council is the only employee who reports directly to the board of trustees. Richardson said the last executive director, Angela Fisher Hall, was terminated after her one-year probationary evaluation in 2016.

 Highlights of the Survey

Long-Range Planning Committee Chairman Kimberly Richardson and members Willie Davis III, Eunice Rogers and Gwendolyn Amamoo discussed highlights of the employee survey’s results with Council on Wednesday during a two-hour committee session. The committee is charged with monitoring progress toward meeting goals of the board’s strategic plan, including employee surveys.

“Overall, low morale was an issue” in the 2018 survey, as it was in a 2016 employee survey, Richardson said. “It’s something that needs more attention,” she said, noting that library employees worked more than a year without appointed leadership.

More than a third of employees surveyed said they did not know the library’s process for complaints or grievances, Richardson said. She also noted employee concerns about internal communication and security in light of recent changes. The trustees advised resuming employee orientations and communicating about the security changes, which included removing a security desk at the library entrance.

Trustees urged Council to consider regular written communications to all employees and to not depend on regional managers or others to communicate top-down.

“It’d be a good idea to step in to staff meetings just to talk, listen and meet staff,” Davis told Council.

“All employees need to hear the same message, not just at the top,” Amamoo said. “Otherwise, it could be perceived that you do not want to deal with people under a certain level. Send a few paragraphs out every Friday. Make sure you are communicating with all employees.”

“Err on the side of overcommunication,” Richardson advised.

While the employee survey was already planned as part of the strategic plan, the executive sessions followed criticisms of Council in comments posted on a March 22 Iron City Ink article. The comments have since been removed by the publisher.

Selected by the trustees after a 16-month search following the departure of Hall, Council most recently worked in administration at the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System.