The Jones Library Personnel, Planning and Policy (PPP) committee met on August 12 via Zoom. The packet materials can be found here. Attending were Trustee President Austin Sarat, Trustee Chris Hoffman, Director Sharon Sharry, and Head of Special Collections Cyndi Harbeson
The goals of the meeting were to discuss the following plans and send them to the full Board of Trustees for approval at their August 26 meeting at 4:30 p.m.
1) deaccess 25% of the Jones Library’s Fine Art Collection, gathered since the library was established over a century ago;
2) analyze plans for the full opening of the Jones Library System on September 7,including changing hours at the Jones Library and the North Amherst Library;
3) begin Director Sharon Sharry’s annual evaluation process, using the same forms and procedures as in the past.
No public comment was on the agenda.
Upon request of the trustees, Cyndi Harbeson developed an extensive list of items in the library’s Fine Arts Collection that could be sold, given to other institutions, or thrown out. Many items donated since the establishment of the library were not “accessed” properly: the library did not record information about their provenance or origin, monetary value, or connection to Amherst. Harbeson said that it is costing money to store the items.
She estimated that the list, which was presented to the Trustees in May 2021, represents 25% of the entire Fine Arts Collection and includes ceramics, dolls, footwear, furniture, lighting, rugs, textiles, toys, weapons, and other miscellaneous items. No oil paintings in the collection are on the deaccession list. See pp. 25–58 here.
After she assembled this data, the Trustees then asked Harbeson to form a committee of experts to advise them. The distinguished committee consisted of Mike Kelly, Head of Special Collections at Amherst College; Julie Bartlett Nelson, Archivist at Forbes Library; Jennifer Tuleja, Library Director at The MacDuffie School; and Jane Wald, Executive Director of the Emily Dickinson Museum.
The committee met in June and concurred with Harbeson’s assessment that most of these items should be: (1) transferred to a more appropriate institution; (2) consigned to public auction; or (3) discarded, as a last resort, if in poor condition or with no monetary or historic value. Some items, such as furniture and oriental rugs, might be kept if they could be used in the future.
Kelly explained, “Non-book and non-manuscript objects are always a challenge for archivists, but should be subject to the same standards for research value, condition, and provenance that we apply when assessing books and manuscripts for potential accession. The lack of provenance information for many of the items under consideration is a major concern; much of the meaning and significance of objects is lost without clear information on where the object came from and how it came to be in the collections at the Jones.”
The library’s PPP committee voted to recommend deaccession of these items to the full Board at its next meeting.
Plans for Fully Opening the System
The Jones Library System will open with full hours on September 7. Most of the discussion of the proposal revolved around the change in hours at the Jones and the North Amherst Library (see here p. 38).
Fall hours will resume with some changes. The downtown Jones will add Monday morning hours. To do so, it will close earlier on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The library will also close each day at a quarter past the hour (5:15 or 8:15 p.m.) so that after patrons leave the building, staff will be paid for the time spent securing the building’s closure, which has not been the case in the past.
The biggest changes in hours will be at the North Amherst Library, which Sharry said is an attempt to make them easier to remember and to honor staff suggestions. Suggested hours are Monday and Wednesday, 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m
Sarat wanted more specific data, remarking, “I don’t want patrons to say we weren’t asked.” Sharry said that she would gather more information before the next board meeting.
Munson hours will remain the same.
Proposed capacities for meeting rooms were also discussed, but were not in the packet. Sharry said she would like less than full capacity in the Woodbury and Amherst rooms. Sarat asked how the capacities were established and asked her to “look again” before the full board meeting.
Director’s Annual Evaluation
Hoffman, who oversees the director’s annual evaluation process, commented, “I haven’t looked at this closely but it’s probably the same [process].” Sarat asked about the timeline and mode, whether online or paper. Hoffman said that the timeline needs to be decided and that he prefers online because “it’s easier to cut and paste.” (See the forms pp. 39-52 here).