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Library staff resignations prompt call for probe

Special meeting wanted to explain situation

The Burns Lake Public Library board has scheduled a Sept. 11 meeting as reports circulate of a communications failure between staffers and the board.

A petition has also been circulating, seeking answers as two why two employees have resigned and a third went on leave.

“I firmly believe that a failure to communicate in a sensitive, meaningful and positive way is largely responsible for the current crisis,” says Michael Riis-Christianson, a former library trustee and current Village of Burns Lake councillor who expressed his concerns in a letter to the editor published in the Aug. 15 issue of the Lakes District News.

Close to 80 people signed the petition which was presented to the board Aug. 13, he said.

Christianson said he knows the affected employees well, calling them dedicated to the library and its services.

“The fact that two of these employees felt they had no recourse but to resign, and the third had to take leave, clearly indicates there is a serious problem at the Burns Lake Public Library,” Riis-Christianson said.

He said that the board must address all concerns as ultimately it is responsible to library association members as well as to the local governments who finance its operations.

“People are clearly upset about what has happened, and concerned about the organization’s future,” Riis-Christianson added.

“You can’t lose all your experienced staff and expect the organization and the services it provides to be unaffected.”

Tensions between the board and staffers have been growing for the past six months and when suggestions were made to seek outside assistance, the board rejected the prospect, Riss-Christianson added.

“I firmly believe that if the board had acted promptly, the situation could be been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction and no one would have felt the need to resign,” he said.

In response, library board president Hilda Earl acknowledged that three staff members have left, presenting some challenges.

A former staffer, Sharlene Turner, has been hired as acting director, Earl said.

“She was a great asset to the library for several years, and we are delighted to welcome her back on Aug. 21. We are in the process of hiring two other new staff members to replace those who are leaving and who have left.”

And as to any changes planned, Earl said for the moment the board is focusing its energy on filling the vacant positions and “making sure our library services are maintained to the high standard our patrons are used to.”

As for the Sept. 11 board meeting, Earl said it agenda is in development and agenda topics aren’t yet known.

“We are planning a public consultation event at a date to be decided in early October to engage our community in helping us plan the future of our library,” she said.