The Hays Public Library Board of Directors did not publicly offer reasons for the departure of its director last month but took initial steps to search for his replacement during its regular meeting Wednesday.
Discussion of the upcoming search indicated concern over differences between the board and the former director in interpretation of policies, especially through the last half of the year.
James Agee’s resignation was announced Dec. 14, and he left immediately.
“I’ve heard a lot over the last six months about specific issues, about complaints and concerns and traits that didn’t work very well,” said board chair Katherine Wolfe.
She declined after the meeting to specify those concerns.
Prior to discussion about the director search, the board went into a 10-minute executive session to discuss non-elected personnel with Financial Administrator Patty Rohr.
When the board later reconvened and discussed the search for a new director, Wolfe emphasized the need to clarify personnel policies and draft a clear job description before a new director is in place.
The board needs to learn from its mistakes, she said.
“I want to make sure we don’t repeat what we did, so I want to be really clear on what we want,” she said.
“Mostly the relationship between the board and the director is not clearly spelled out in terms of how to address certain things. So we need to be looking at policies,” she said.
Wolfe said she wants to be able to hand a new director proper policies to work under “… and not the policies as they are right now because there’s holes and there’s some confusion and there’s some things that are completely lacking.
“The policies need to be figured out before we get a new director to come in so that we’re not doing what we just did, which was trying to backfill and fix things as they blow up,” she said.
Wolfe tasked the board with reviewing personnel policies and the job description used in the previous director search, and note the holes and any questions to discuss at the board’s Jan. 24 meeting.
Doing so also will make board members more familiar with the policies, Wolfe said.
“That’s part of the problem I will admit that I had over the last couple of years was unless you’re familiar with the policies, if somebody steps outside that policy, you won’t know it,” she said.
“So we’ll need to be completely familiar with the policies as much as possible so that if somebody is stepping outside of them, we know it.”
Board members acknowledged inexperience might have led to what was called several times “a mistake,” and talked about how to conduct this search differently.
“None of us had ever hired a director of the library,” board treasurer David Goodlett said.
Prior to Agee’s hiring in August 2016, Eric Norris was named director in 2010. He took over from Melanie Miller, who had been director since 1982.
“One of the things we did wrong was we didn’t pay enough, and we didn’t advertise appropriately,” Wolfe said.
While the library’s personnel policy states the director’s salary is dependent on qualifications, the Central Kansas Library System’s 2016 Salary Survey lists the director’s hourly salary at $28 to $29.
The personnel policy further lists the director receives 96 hours of sick leave, which includes 24 hours of personal leave, and 120 hours vacation after one year of employment. Pro-rated amounts of sick leave and vacation can be given after a six-month probationary period.
Rohr outlined for Hays Mayor James Meier, who was attending his first meeting as ex-officio member, how the board advertised the previous search.
It first was advertised through local media, then at the state level, she said.
“When we didn’t have much response there, we went through ALA Joblist,” at a cost of approximately $375, Rohr said. “But it was for a short period of time, and that’s how we got the two candidates.”
Goodlett clarified the American Library Association listing resulted in two finalists, as other candidates had applied for the job.
“It was an insufficient applicant pool,” Goodlett said.
Goodlett also said the previous director search was a “chaotic situation” due to an incomplete administration team. At the time of Norris’ resignation, the adult librarian position was open and Kansas Room librarian Marissa Lamer had started the job only a few months before.
The board gave no timeline for completing the search.