MLCL Board approves Plum Creek agreement

MARSHALL – A possible resolution may be on the horizon for conflicts between the Marshall-Lyon County Library and the Plum Creek regional library system. But members of the Marshall-Lyon County Library Board were careful not to be overly optimistic on Monday; the members of the Plum Creek Board of Directors still have to weigh in, they said.

At their regular meeting, MLCL Board members unanimously approved the terms of a proposed agreement with Plum Creek, which was the result of negotiation sessions with a state mediator. The next step for the proposal will be a vote by members of the Plum Creek Board on June 18.

If the Plum Creek board approves the agreement, MLCL would be able to stay in the regional system, which provides interlibrary loan and other sharing services to its members.

MLCL has been at an impasse with Plum Creek for about a year, over a variety of issues MLCL board members say affect the level of autonomy that individual Plum Creek member libraries have. However, the particular question that led the Plum Creek governing board to stop MLCL’s interlibrary loan service last year was how long member libraries should be allowed to keep new materials before lending them out to non-local patrons.

Over the past several weeks, Plum Creek administrators and a group of area library representatives including staff and library board members have been trying to work things out, with the help of a state mediator.

MLCL Board Chairman Will Thomas presented the proposed agreement that came from those mediation sessions. The terms of the agreement include the possibility of member libraries to hold new materials for a 30-day browsing period, if it is “technically feasible” for Plum Creek’s computer catalog system to do so. The agreement also calls for the catalog system to allow member libraries to fill local reader requests first, before requests from other libraries.

The agreement terms also confirm that Plum Creek member libraries can set their own policies for purchasing materials and make their own staffing decisions, unless otherwise specified in the Plum Creek joint powers agreement or state statute.

Board members said they were happy that the protections in the agreement weren’t just focused on MLCL.

“This applies to all the libraries in Plum Creek,” said board member Jennie Hulsizer.

Thomas said the agreement terms weren’t completely finished, either.

“There are some things that are yet to happen, like (developing) conflict resolution policies,” Thomas said. “The mediator has presented this all along as the first step in restoring some of the working relationships in Plum Creek.”

The agreement terms call for MLCL and Plum Creek to work with the state Office of Conflict and Dispute Resolution to develop conflict resolution policies, including steps a member library can take if it is “strongly opposed” to a Plum Creek board decision.

The agreement terms say a draft of those resolution policies must be finalized by Oct. 31.

MLCL board members voted to approve the terms of the agreement. However, board member Charlie Sanow cautioned that the matter wasn’t over unless the Plum Creek board also approved the terms. “Right now, I’m not sure we have that many votes,” he said. “But, that can change.”

Sanow said he would continue to reach out to other Plum Creek board members and try to rebuild trust.