Library Committees Confront Missing Director Goals, Seek Better Accounting Software

Photo: flckr.com. Creative Commons

Highlights Of The February Meetings of Jones Library Personnel, Policy And Planning Committee, Budget Committee, and Investment Committee

Personnel, Policy and Planning Committee Meeting, Feb. 8, 2022
A change in leadership, a communication gap and absence of previous meeting minutes contributed to the apparent failure of the Jones Library Personnel, Policy and Planning (PPP) Committee to establish performance evaluation goals for the Library Director for the coming fiscal year.

According to the Board of Trustees Policy for Annual Evaluation of Library Director, each September the PPP Committee is charged with drafting proposed Director goals for the coming year for presentation to the Board.  However, the PPP Committee last met in August 2021, and no minutes of that meeting have surfaced.  Chris Hoffman, previous chair of the PPP Committee did not seek re-election to the Board of Trustees in November, leaving new PPP chair, Tamson Ely, uncertain as to what revised FY23 performance goals should be proposed to the Board.

“Did Chris see these, but you just never got to approve them, or you just didn’t have any PPP meetings?” asked Ely.  “Yeah, I don’t think we had the meetings,” replied Director Sharon Sharry.

The issue was resolved by Ely and new committee member Farah Ameen voting to adopt the previous year’s goals without change.

Sharry reported that the Jones Library is joining the town in raising part-time workers’ wages. All part-time library staff except shelvers will be earning at least $15 per hour.

Asked about the status of the North Amherst Library renovation project, Sharry said that she didn’t believe construction would be able to start in March as originally planned.  “I don’t think [the town] is ready with the bid documents yet,” she explained.

When construction begins, North Amherst Library staff and the most popular parts of its collection will move to the Munson Library building in South Amherst for a period of three to six months.  The Community Room at the Munson may be needed to accommodate the additional materials.

Budget Committee meeting, Feb. 8, 2022
The Budget Committee heard Director Sharry describe the town’s January 27 Budget Coordinating Group (BCG) meeting where she represented the library.  She reported that little was decided as the amount of state aid coming to the schools and town is still up in the air.

Committee Chair Bob Pam explained that the BCG was formed because in the past, “there used to be a lot of conflict between the library, school and town representatives as to who would get the most and who would push the hardest to get stuff.”  The BCG was created to “smooth over all those conflicts,” he said.

Library Business Manager John Shannon reported that he is looking into a replacement for the library’s accounting software.  He is currently using an old unsupported desktop version of QuickBooks and is considering moving to a cloud-based version that will provide better reporting capabilities.  A more up-to-date edition of the desktop version of QuickBooks is also an option.  Pam recommended that Library auditors be consulted about potential problems when migrating accounting data to a new system.

Does the town recognize that we will be providing the net proceeds and not the gross proceeds each year? I don’t believe that the document that we signed is quite that clear.

Bob Pam, Jone Library Trustees Treasurer

Trustee committee member Lee Edwards mentioned that the Capital Campaign Committee of the Friends of the Jones Library is looking at hiring a campaign administrator to “do the dirty work” in the effort to raise money for the library renovation/expansion project.  Pam observed that the campaign administrator’s salary would offset the amount of funds raised for the library project and asked, “Does the town recognize that we will be providing the net proceeds and not the gross proceeds each year? I don’t believe that the document that we signed is quite that clear.”

After discussion the Committee concluded that the town could only be expecting net and not gross proceeds from the capital campaign.  Satisfied, Pam related a lesson he learned from working for many years for New York City in a highly political environment.  “You can oppose me, just don’t surprise me,” he advised.

Investment Committee meeting, Feb. 9, 2022
Trustee Bob Pam was elected chair and led the group in approving minutes to nine past Investment Committee meetings, going back to 2014.

Investment Advisor Dan Voss of Vanguard presented a quarterly update on the library’s investments.  Recent market volatility has reduced the library’s portfolio value from a recent record high of $10.7 million to a current value of $10.3 million.

For the first time in two years, the primary risk to Vanguard’s economic forecast is no longer considered to be COVID-19 but has been replaced by uncertainty in federal policy.  Portfolio performance will be dependent on the Federal Reserve’s ability to rein in inflation.  Vanguard’s current thinking is that inflation will recede from its current 7.5% rate to 3% by year end, and they predict it will settle back to a rate of  around 2% going forward.

Trustee and committee member Austin Sarat asked what the library pays to Vanguard in management fees.  Pam estimated the fee rate to be about 0.25% of portfolio value, which comes out to about $25,000 per annum.  Sarat asked that the exact management expense figure be added to future quarterly investment reports.

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