Library Board approves appeal procedures as part of new process

By SARA HALL

The Board of Library Trustees this week approved appeal procedures and an application form as part of a new process of appealing the library director’s decision on resource materials to the board.

On Tuesday (Jan. 16), board members approved an application for appeal of the evaluation of library resources to the board and a procedures document outlining the process and terms for an appeal, Library Services Director Melissa Hartson confirmed on Wednesday (Jan. 17) in an email to Stu News Newport. They also amended the library’s collection development policy, which incorporates both the approved application and procedures.

The Collection Development Ad Hoc Subcommittee was reinstated at the November 20 Library Board meeting “for the purpose of developing an appeals process associated with any unresolved concerns regarding the decision rendered for a patron’s request for evaluation of library resources,” the staff report reads.

Hartson explained that, following the discussion on Tuesday, the board decided to make some modifications to the procedures the subcommittee recommended in provisions two and three (related to the timeframe of the process and incorporating the board hearing) and added a new provision (related to multiple appeals of the same material).

Many members of the public presented their views on the draft procedures during Tuesday’s meeting, Library Board Chair Paul Watkins said in an email to Stu News Newport. The input was robust, he noted.

The board suggested a number of changes and crafted language in response to the helpful feedback and comments from both the public and board members, he explained.

“We believe the newly adopted procedures are comprehensive, fair, and provide the public with the opportunity to appropriately participate in the process should appeals be forthcoming,” Watkins said.

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The Library Board this week approved appeal procedures and an application form to appeal the library director’s decision on resource materials to the board

According to the city’s collection development policy, the board’s intent is that the library provides a contemporary and relevant collection of resources in order to meet the needs of the entire community. Selection is based on merit of the work, value of the work within the collection, and the needs and interests of the community. The objective is to give consideration to specific types of material; materials for specific age groups; materials for special interests of patrons and to differing formats of materials.

“The library seeks to provide breadth and depth within the collection, various points of view and differing formats. The library endeavors to balance materials of permanent value with those of current interest. Materials are selected based on their content as a whole, not on selected excerpts. Race, nationality, or political, social, moral, or religious views of an author will not affect the selection of materials,” the document states.

The collection development policy also notes that selection of materials is the responsibility of the library services director, who operates within the framework of polices as determined by the Library Board.

Patrons with concerns about specific library resources are given a copy of the policy and asked to fill out a form to request an evaluation of the material. Library staff conducts an assessment and forwards their recommendation to the library director, who makes a decision and responds to the patron.

Recently, many of the evaluation requests address the age appropriateness of certain books in the library’s children’s collection, Watkins explained.

Prior to Tuesday’s action, the policy stated that the request and the response would be presented to the board at the subsequent meeting and allowed for “any unresolved concerns” to be referred to the board for a final resolution. The subcommittee noted that an appeals application and associated procedures will serve as the means to initiate the referral to the board for the final review.

The last appeal of a director’s decision was in 2004, Watkins said, but given the current interest in the age appropriateness issue they believe that patron appeals may be filed.

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This week, the board approved the subcommittee’s recommendation that when an evaluation is requested the director’s decision be presented to the board at their next meeting and, if the requester disagrees with the decision, they can file an appeal to the board.

The new process provides an appeal application and outlines the procedures for the appeal.

Board members amended the subcommittee’s suggested procedures so that the completed appeal form must be received by the director within 14 days from the date of the board’s meeting at which the director’s decision is presented. If not within that timeframe, the decision shall be final and unappealable. Also, if the appeal form is not completed as required by its terms, the appeal will be deemed incomplete and the director’s decision shall be final.

They also agreed to make a similar change to another provision in the process so that, following receipt of a completed appeal form, the director will schedule a date, time and location of a hearing by the board to consider the appeal, and will make a reasonable effort to schedule the hearing within 60 calendar days from the date of the board meeting when the decision was presented.

A provision that was recommended and was not modified notes that library staff and the appellant will present their positions to the board subject to time limitations imposed by the board in its sole and absolute discretion. Members of the public will have the opportunity to comment at the hearing, also subject to time limitations.

Also on Tuesday, the board added a new provision that explains “if there are multiple appeals of the same subject item, all appeals of that item will be consolidated into a single appeal.” Members of the public will be provided with an opportunity to be heard on the subject.

After hearing the presentations and public comment, the board will take action on a final resolution (even if the appellant is absent) or may opt to take additional time to make a decision.

The document outlining the process also states that, notwithstanding anything to the contrary set forth in the appeal procedures or otherwise in the collection development policy, the board’s decision as to a specific resource (whether the item be a book, magazine, newspaper, audiovisual resource, content of a library program, or other resource) shall be final and not subject to additional appeal for four years.

The city attorney’s office also reviewed the appeal application and procedures, according to the staff report.

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Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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