Public Forum for July 25

To the editor:

Dear Lyon County Commissioners:

I attended the commissioners’ meeting Wednesday evening and several inconsistencies in the various statements made puzzle me:

1. Mark Ranum, the director of the Plum Creek regional library system, as well as several area librarians adamantly stated that Plum Creek has never interfered in local library policies including the amount of time an area library may hold new books for the use of local patrons before making them available for distribution through the Plum Creek system.

2. One year ago, Plum Creek disenfranchised MLCL because MLCL insisted on holding new books for several weeks before making them available for distribution through the Plum Creek system. How can both of these statements be true?

3. Commissioner Sanow has worked many hours to resolve the differences between Plum Creek and MLCL and he is very angry that MLCL did not agree to make new books immediately available for distribution through the Plum Creek system as recently required by Plum Creek. If it had, Plum Creek would never have cut off services to MLCL. He thinks MLCL has made a ridiculous mountain out of a molehill. But Plum Creek repeatedly state at the meeting that it does not dictate such local policies. I don’t get it?

4. Take note that MLCL did not “leave” Plum Creek; Plum Creek disconnected MLCL from its system.

5. For many years, MLCL has had a policy of retaining new books so that the taxpayers who paid for them have the first opportunity to borrow them. When and why did this policy become unacceptable to Plum Creek? Who made the decision that all distribution policies have to be uniform?

6. At Wednesday’s meeting the state librarian said it is “very common” for libraries to have different policies regarding the amount of time new books are held before distribution to the regional system. She also stated that the Mnlink inter-library loan system has no problem at all with these differences and makes no attempt to make the holding systems uniform.

7. The state librarian stated that Minnesota law requires counties to play a formulated amount to “the regional library system to which the county library belongs.” But does MLCL “belong” to the Plum Creek system if Plum Creek will not provide it with services? This is a legal question which has not been answered. If MLCL no longer belongs to the Plum Creek system, it would appear there is no responsibility to make payments to Plum Creek.

8. The differences between MLCL and Plum Creek (and there are several) were addressed by a state mediator after lengthy negotiations involving representative from both parties. The mediator made a proposal which completely satisfied neither party. The MLCL board voted to accept the mediator’s proposal. The Plum Creek board rejected the mediator’s proposal.

9. Several members of the Plum Creek board stated that the reason for their rejection of the mediator’s proposal was language regarding the establishment of a conflict resolution process which in the future could be used by local libraries and regional library systems when differences arise. The Plum Creek board interpreted this language to mean the Marshall-Lyon County Library planned to have future, never-ending conflicts with Plum Creek. How they arrived at this interpretation I have no idea. It makes no sense.

10 The state librarian said there is presently no conflict resolution process in place and because there are differences between local libraries and their regional library systems, a conflict resolution policy is needed.

11. According to Mark Ranum, director of the Plum Creek system, after Plum Creek rejected the mediator’s proposal, he offered to reintroduce services to MLCL if MLCL would sign an agreement to abide by “all present and future policies of Plum Creek,” policies which several times during the meeting he denied existed.

12. MLCL rejected Mr. Ranum’s offer and thus we find ourselves at the present juncture.

Of course it’s very unfortunate that this issue of local autonomy has become such a big problem. Plum Creek’s decision to punish MLCL for withholding new books from regional distributions for several weeks has inconvenienced many patrons who depend on inter-library loans. The ruckus has caused bad feelings on both sides. But before you blame the Marshall-Lyon County Library, review the timeline I’ve set forth and ask yourself who is making a mountain out of a molehill.

Anne LaPorte