Library board expansion proposal met by opposition

Aug 8 2013 - 12:18am

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OGDEN -- Contention has broken out over a proposal to expand the Weber County Library Board to nine members.

For two weeks, the county commission has had the issue on its agenda, but postponed a decision on the move that would add two members to the current seven-member board. Commissioners Kerry Gibson and Matthew Bell are both in favor of having nine members. Commissioner Jan Zogmaister, who also serves on the library board, is not in favor of raising the number of members.

"I believe that seven is a good number. We have excellent attendance and participation, and it is in keeping with the rest of the state, because there is no other library board in Utah with nine members," Zogmaister said. "I do not see the need to expand something that is working so well, and I hope that by attending the next meeting, the other commissioners will see that it is adequate and agree."

Bell said he believes adding new members might add perspective to the board, and he cites the large number of applicants for member positions as a reason for expanding it.

"State law says you can have five, seven or nine members. There are probably 12 or 14 applicants already. Nothing's happened yet, but it's still on the agenda," Bell said.

Library board member Kathleen Herndon, who has been on the board since 2010, does not share the opinion that having a large number of applicants should be taken as a sign of support for raising the number of members.

"At the last board meeting, we reviewed the applications and some were dated quite a number of years ago. We had to ask: Is this person still interested?" Herndon said. "Even though we narrowed down the list to three and had a thorough conversation about each one, I do not understand why they would like to add two new members. Getting a variety of opinion is fine, and I respect the commission, but I do not know what would be accomplished with two more people."

The names of the three potential finalists have not been disclosed.

Lynnda Wangsgard, the library director who oversaw voter passage of a $45 million bonding package in June, expressed ambivalence about the possible change.

"I do not have a strong feeling one way or another. Even the state library board has seven people. From an administrative point of view, what matters about the board is that they are engaged, qualified and not single-issue people," Wangsgard said.

Evelyn Bertilson, who is president of the Friends of the Library and regularly attends the monthly board meetings, believes that the idea to add more members to the board is a deliberate attempt to divide opinion and stall progress for the library system.

"Two of the commissioners, Gibson and Bell, have spoken quite openly about reducing the amount of money they want spent," Bertilson said. "Throughout this campaign, well-positioned people have worked against the library interests. If this is an attempt to politicize the board, change the scope of the building projects or limit intellectual freedom in any way, we Friends are against appointing more members."

All three commissioners are expected to attend the next library board meeting Aug. 20. A vote on whether to add two more members will likely take place soon after.

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