Milton Public Library Board

December 11, 2014 by
Filed under: Uncategorized 

One of my joys is being a Trustee on the Milton Public Library Board.   We receive outstanding value from our libraries in Milton which provides both online and physical material that is loaned out to residents as well as programs for both adults and children.  Any time you visit our library you’ll usually see it fairly full with people using public internet access, studying, taking part in programs or just reading and signing out different material.

Recently a study on the economic impact that Milton Public Library (MPL) has was released highlighting how Milton’s libraries economically benefit the town.

The Library Board is different from other committees or boards of the town in that we have the Ontario PLA (Public Library Act)  which is legislation governing how libraries are managed in the province.  Under the PLA,  libraries in Ontario must be operated under the management and control of a public library board. The board has the authority to formulate policies concerning the operations and services of the public library.  The municipality appoints members (mainly local residents through an interview vetting process) to the board for the same term as council.

Trustees on Public Library Boards are tasked with providing a comprehensive and efficient public library service that reflects the unique needs of the community.    MPL board is broken up into several sub committees to handle different governance and policy responsibilities.     Based on the work load involved, boards of comparable municipalities have on average 9 to 11 members.     Library Board Trustee positions are unpaid volunteer positions.  Most boards have council member appointments that usually consist of 2 councillors per board.   A large board like Mississauga, has 2 councillors and 9 residents while a small one like Halton Hills has 2 councillors and 7 residents.     In Milton we’ve kept the board at the lower size level, with 2 councillors and 7 residents.

A staff report (see page 7 of report) has been issued today for Town Council approval on Monday that would (in my opinion) dramatically change the library board composition going from 7 residents and 2 councillors to a new make up of 3 residents and 3 councillors.   It would change the dynamic of the board giving it less resident involvement and more Town Council control.   It would also mean changing the work load currently done by 9 to 6, keeping in mind that historically the council appointments to the board didn’t sit on the sub-committees (i.e. larger responsibilities/hours done by local resident trustee members).  Historically in Milton, the 7 resident members of the board consisted of a couple members from our halton school systems that were directly recommended by our schools.   The report is quiet on whether or not in the change from 7 to 3 milton resident board members, if we eliminate the school’s involvement in the board appointments, or if instead we reduce the non-school resident involvement.

I’m not currently in favour of this report’s recommendations in regards to MPL.   I feel it would reduce transparency, resident engagement and lower the overall effectiveness of the board and would result in a poorer overall library system in town with less value for our tax dollars.   It would not save any money fiscally (trustees are unpaid).  It would not result in any improvements to our libraries.   It would give local residents less input and say in how our library system is governed and give politicians more direct control.

The Town of Milton likes to say we promote “an engaged population that contributes to matters of civic interest…”   I don’t see how lowering public input into the governance of Milton Public Library board and increasing direct town control would promote that philosophy.

p.s. the above are my own thoughts and opinions, I am not able to speak on behalf of MPL or Town Council or the Town of Milton.

Comments

One Comment on Milton Public Library Board

  1. Jan Mowbray on Thu, 11th Dec 2014 8:17 pm
  2. Hi Rick,
    Shame on the town.
    In addition to the work load mentioned above, there is also MPL’s membership in the Southern Ontario Library Association( SOLS) and attendance by a library board member on behalf of MPL at SOLS meetings.
    I would also mentiuon that the library undergoes more direct scrutiny than any other department at the town – the library board has a finance committee, CEO evaluation committee, advocacy committee, contract negotiation committee, etc. No other town department has anything else like that.

    Having been on council 2 terms (2003-2010) and hearing the constant request for transparency, this current proposal boggles the mind in that, no matter what is the pretext is for this new format, it will NOT result in more transparency. Quite the opposite, in fact. Councillors, at least in my experience, have a huge work load – so it won’t be the councillors who take on the extra work load at the library. And it will be work overload for the volunteer members. And it will be the community as a whole that loses as well as the library staff and the town as a whole.

    That library board members are volunteers – how will cutting/slashing the board result in better accountability, and savings to the town? There is something going on here and we’re not getting the whole picture. Shame on the town.

    It also looks like the intent of this change is to set a price on participation in library programs. A library is the hub of a community. You don’t have to have a pocket full of money to participate in a program at the library. The town has user fees for everything but the library remains the one place where we all participate at the same level.

    I see young parents with their children in various programs, immigrants in English conversation groups, young people pursuing after school studies, others looking for jobs or ways to improve their skills, older people participating in computer courses – sure there are courses offered across Milton – but these people come to the library to be part of the larger community.

    Rick, I don’t know if you’ve posted the economic benefit the library offers to the town of Milton but I would suggest that the Library offers more direct value than any other sector.
    Thanks for your post.

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